Completed in 1893, All Souls Unitarian Church—now known as All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church—stands at 730 North Tejon Street in Colorado Springs. Located close to the Colorado College campus, the church is notable for its distinctive Shingle architectural style and its association with the establishment of the Unitarian and Universalist communities in Colorado Springs.
Unitarians in Colorado Springs
Colorado Springs founder William Jackson Palmer envisioned the city as a genteel, upper-class, temperance-friendly haven. Churches soon proliferated across the young city, designed by prominent architects and constructed using the best available materials. The Unitarian Church’s official presence in Colorado Springs dates to August 9, 1874, when ordained Universalist minister Eliza Tupper Wilkes organized the city’s first Unitarian congregation. The Colorado Springs Company donated a lot on Cascade Avenue near Bijou Street, and the Unitarian congregation quickly funded the construction of Unity Hall. When Wilkes resigned her position, she was replaced by Reverend R. E. Wood, who promptly resigned in May 1879 because of his inability to cope with the altitude.
In 1890 Reverend Samuel Eliot came to Colorado Springs through an exchange program and motivated the Unitarians to reorganize, which they did on February 25, 1891. They initially held services in a variety of places around Colorado Springs—including Odd Fellows Hall, Weber Hall, and the old Presbyterian Church—until they procured a site at the southwest corner of Dale and Tejon Streets. Architect Walter F. Douglas’s plans were chosen for a new building and the Reverend W. R. G. Mellen, the new congregation’s pastor, laid All Souls’ cornerstone on July 2, 1892. The building was officially dedicated in January 1893, reportedly one of the first Unitarian churches built west of the Mississippi River.
The Shingle Style
All Souls Unitarian Church is the only example of a Shingle style church in Colorado Springs. A popular successor to the once-prominent Queen Anne style, Shingle style first emerged in the 1880s. It is characterized by the prominent use of wooden shingles as wall and roof claddings, usually uninterrupted by cornerboards. Other typical Shingle style features are asymmetrical facades, clustered windows, and broad gabled roofs with long slopes and narrow eaves. While All Souls serves as a functional representation of Shingle style, it also contains several unusual features. The church’s tower starts at the intersection of two rooflines rather than starting at the ground. Furthermore, the tower is square with a bellcast roof rather than circular with a conical roof, as are most towers of the Shingle style.
Description and Additions
Standing one story, All Souls’ eastern elevation features overhanging eaves and paneled vergeboards. The church’s walls are shingle-clad, and photographs from the 1980s show a lighter color than the current dark greens and browns, indicating that the shingles were repainted at least once. All Souls’ northeast corner features a gable-roofed porch with wooden supports resting atop fieldstone sidewalls. Other prominent features include a stone tower at the church’s northeast corner, a small octagonal cupola straddling the north-south roofline, and a larger octagonal dormer with a hipped roof on the western wall. An addition dating to 1984–85 features a stuccoed firewall approaching the southern lot border.
All Souls’ large, fan-shaped great hall currently seats more than 200 people. The “small hall,” formerly a Sunday school classroom, sits to the rear of All Souls’ sanctuary. Both halls retain the building’s 1890s character. Originally, a kitchen stood in the church’s basement and featured a dumbwaiter running parallel to the basement’s fireplace. Ornate metal grates radiated the fireplace heat to congregants suffering from tuberculosis and other conditions. The church retains its original exposed wooden beams, sliding doors between the two halls, and wooden arches delineating the chancel and choir loft. The church also features fifty-six original stained glass windows.
Major alterations to the structure include the 1949 addition of nursery and kindergarten rooms, a powder room, and a women’s restroom. In 1952 a basement for Sunday school classrooms was added; in 1976 the great hall was remodeled; and in 1984–85 Elizabeth Wright Ingraham, Frank Lloyd Wright’s granddaughter, designed an upper story over the basement addition.
Both Unitarianism and Universalism have been active in the United States for nearly 200 years, and have enjoyed a close relationship for much of that time. Due to their similar religious practices and beliefs, the two organizations eventually merged in 1961, forming the Unitarian Universalist Association. All Souls voted to change its official name to “All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church” in May 2002 to acknowledge both denominations and respect the organizational changes made at the national level. The church strives to “affirm the Seven Principles of the Unitarian Universalist Association,” which include “the inherent worth and dignity of every person,” and “acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations.”
All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church was officially listed in the Colorado State Register of Historic Properties in 2007. It received a $10,000 grant from the State Historical Fund in 2009 to conduct a historic structure assessment, as well as an additional grant of more than $200,000 to restore the building’s original stained glass windows in 2012.
All Souls remains an active place of congregation and worship today, holding services every Sunday. The church considers itself a “liberal religious voice in the heart of downtown Colorado Springs,” a city popularly known for conservative Christian groups such as Focus on the Family. All Souls frequently supports rallies for liberal causes, including a 2017 rally held in support of Colorado Springs’s Muslim residents in the wake of President Donald Trump’s attempted travel ban from seven Middle Eastern nations.