Old churches gain new tenants
Ross Talbott can become nostalgic talking about the colorful past of the church building at 1116 Cooper Ave. in Glenwood Springs.But he and fellow Baptists who once worshiped there couldn’t see much of a future for a building dating back to an era when congregations were much smaller and many walked rather than drove to Sunday services.The structure is tucked in on a residential street, leaving little room for expansion or parking.”There just isn’t any place to go. You can handle about 70 to 100 people there and you couldn’t park the cars,” Talbott said.Talbott’s congregation now holds services at the Riverside School in New Castle. The New Hope Church has probably 500 members and about 300 in attendance on a given Sunday, he said. The church rented the Glenwood location to Glenwood Springs Baptist Church, and offered to sell it to Glenwood Baptist, but that church had the same concerns about the facility’s limitations.Instead, the property was sold to a group of buyers who are converting the church building for residential use.Elsewhere in Glenwood Springs, other former church buildings also are being sold for other purposes.When St. Stephen’s Catholic Church moved to a new, larger building in town, it sold its downtown Grand Avenue location to Catholic Charities, which is remodeling it for use by several nonprofit agencies.
On South Grand Avenue, EnviroTextiles is moving into the former Immanuel Baptist Church. The church relocated to Rifle. EnviroTextiles is a Glenwood-based firm that does an international wholesale business designing and developing biodegradable textiles from sustainable sources. The company is remodeling several buildings on the premises, some of them log structures, for use as warehousing, offices, showroom space, and employee housing.On Blake Avenue downtown, a Nazarene congregation is trying to sell its small church building and has moved to West Glenwood, said Amy Luetke, the real estate agent working on the sale. As with other local older church properties, parking and size limits restrict the abilities of other congregations to use the site, although one small church has expressed some interest in it, she said.”That property is pretty good-sized but the actual sanctuary is pretty small for what most people are demanding,” she said.”I think most people are interested in just redevelopment of the whole property,” she said.She thinks the high value of real estate downtown also is a factor in what is happening to old church buildings.While there is currently a lot of activity involving outdated Glenwood churches, such activity isn’t new.”It’s happened throughout Glenwood’s history. People, they tend to outgrow their churches, and then they move up,” said Cindy Hines, director of the Frontier Historical Museum in Glenwood.She noted that even the old Catholic church supplanted a previously existing one. The Episcopal church across from Sayre Park used to be located downtown by the Glenwood Springs Branch Library.
Churches sometimes would expand before moving on. Hines remembers when the Immanuel Baptist Church consisted of just one small building. Then it added a school, and even a small gymnasium.From a historical preservation standpoint, Hines has been interested in the future of the downtown Catholic church, which was built from sandstone quarried up the Fryingpan River Valley above Basalt.Meanwhile, the oldest church building in Glenwood continues to be used for its original purpose. The white clapboard Presbyterian church on Cooper Avenue was built in 1886, Hines said. President Harrison visited in the church in 1891.The church recently applied to the city for designation as a local historical landmark, which would be the third such designation in town. The first two went to the Cardiff schoolhouse and Linwood Cemetery, where gunslinger Doc Holliday is believed to be buried.Talbott said the Baptist church on Cooper had some interesting history as well. A distant relative of Talbott’s was the pastor who built the church, and Talbott helped build the foundation while he was still a youth. He said the building contains lumber hauled from Camp Hale above Minturn. Camp Hale was used to train 10th Mountain Division troops during World War II and later was disassembled.”It’s got a little taste of Camp Hale in it,” Talbott said of the church.Talbott said he thinks the biggest concern of congregation members is to try to remain responsible to the people who developed the church and dreamed of ministering to people. The church is committed to continuing that, but in a different location, he said.”A lot of people put a lot into it over the years,” he said. “It’s been a good ministry and served a lot of people.”Sometimes former church buildings are put to uses not too distant from their originally intended ones. Talbott said the Salvation Army operated out of the Cooper building for a while.
Now the Salvation Army will be operating out of the old St. Stephen’s building. All five of the agencies that will be using the building are faith-based, said Tom Ziemann of Catholic Charities. The other four are Catholic Charities, the Lift-Up relief agency, the Feed My Sheep homeless assistance agency, and Congregations and Schools Empowered, a new community organizing group.A group of actors from the Crystal Palace in Aspen had tried to buy the church for use as a dinner theater. The church had a deed restriction on the building prohibiting its use for anything contrary to the church’s mission. The actors were fine with that but their would-be lenders balked over the clause.Barb Filippone, owner of EnviroTextiles, said it was hard for her business to obtain a release of covenants associated with the old Immanuel Baptist Church property. “It took four months and a lot of legal fees,” she said.The process involved getting neighbors to agree to sign off on the multiple uses planned for the land, she said.Filippone had thought for years the old church would be an appropriate location for her business.”It was so meant to be, with the way our company has grown and the blessings that have come to us,” she said.
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