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Smith's Chapel could be Denver's first landmark under new 'cultural significance' criteria

During Denver's Chicano movement, the chapel was a place for the community to meet, support each other and advocate for equal treatment.
Credit: City of Denver

DENVER — In a public hearing Monday night, the Department of Community Planning and Development will ask Denver City Council to support making Smith's Chapel Denver's newest landmark. 

Largely important to the Chicano Movement in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, Smith's Chapel is in La Alma-Lincoln Park, one of Denver's oldest residential neighborhoods.

It was built in 1882 and is the oldest church still standing in the neighborhood and is listed on the Colorado State Register of Historic Properties.

The chapel located at 910 Galapago St. would be Denver's 350 landmark and the first approved under the city's new cultural criteria.

“When the city revised our landmark preservation ordinance last year, being able to preserve places like Smith’s Chapel that are rich in history and meaning was exactly what we hoped for,” said Laura E. Aldrete, the Community Planning and Development executive director.

The Landmark Preservation Ordinance, which outlines how local landmarks are selected and approved, was updated in November 2019 to reflect cultural significance as:

  • Representing an era of culture or heritage that allows an understanding of how past generations used the site;
  • Being a physical attribute of a neighborhood, community, or the city that is a source of pride or cultural understanding; and/or
  • Being associated with social movements, institutions, or patterns of growth or change that contributed significantly to the culture of the neighborhood, community, city, state, or nation.

“The inclusion of cultural criteria in the designation process allows us to go deeper than what the history books reflect, to honor and retain those places that are part of the fabric and evolution of a community,” Aldrete said.

To be considered a landmark, sites must now show importance in two categories: history, architecture, geography and cultural significance. 

>> Learn more about the landmark designation process at the Denver landmark website. 

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