Westminster University building

On the east side of US36 that runs between Boulder and Denver, is a large, hulking building that you can just see above the suburban sprawl of car lots and muffler shops.  This massive stone building is currently a Christian school but in its early life it was home to a Presbyterian college called Westminster University.

Built in 1893, the red sandstone structure sits atop Crown Point and commands a panoramic view to the west.  Long before the Boulder-Denver turnpike was built, this grand building was isolated on the rolling prairie and must have been an impressive, if not imposing, sight.

The original design of the building was by architect E. B. Gregory, but the money and guiding force behing the project, New York philanthropist Henry Mayhem, asked the famous Stanford White of McKim, Mead and White, to redesign the structure.  It does have some of the romantic, sculptural quality of other works of White, but it is a far cry from his usually cool, classical compositions.  Utilizing the local sandstone may have pushed White into a design more Richardsonian than his usual Beaux-Arts style.  The main entrance of the building is directly under the tallest tower and has a curious, curving drum as its base that circles around asymmetrically to the east.

Westminster University sketch 02
Westminster University sketch 02

Henry Mayham choose the site and purchased the surrounding land and construction on the building began on June 6, 1892.  The construction of the building started and stopped a few times as a direct result of the boom-and-bust silver mining economy and the building wasn't completed and occupied until 1908.  (Stanford White was famously killed by a jealous husband in 1906, so this building, like so many others, was completed after his early death at age 53.)

Stanford White
Stanford White

After closing during WWI, the building went through a couple of owners, including use as a chicken coop, and since 1920 has been owned and operated  by the Belleview Schools/Pillar of Fire organization.  The building looks to be in excellent condition and let's hope their careful stewardship carries through a long future.

( much of the info above can be found in Justin Price's survey of the property and historical context:  http://www.ci.westminster.co.us/Portals/0/Repository/Documents/ExploreWestminster/Pillar%20of%20Fire%20Survey%20Report%20(add%20appendices).pdf)

Westminster University sketch 01
Westminster University sketch 01