Art Review

Temple Micah

I'm sure that anyone who travels down the South Monaco Parkway as it skirts the fashionable Crestmoor neighborhood has noticed the dramatic — if a bit tumbledown — expressionist-style church (pictured) that occupies a two-acre site just north of the Ellsworth Avenue intersection.

As long as I can remember, the church has been badly maintained, with the landscaping long dead and the lawn nothing more than mowed weeds. The building itself is equally forlorn, with the paint peeling and the mortar joints eroding. I walked up to the front doors the other day and discovered that the windows hadn't been carried out in frosted glass, as I'd thought — they were simply filthy.

When the church was new, it was a very different story. In fact, the great Denver modernist, the late Eugene Sternberg, designed it in 1959 as the reformed Jewish synagogue Temple Micah, which is now at 2600 Leyden Street. Sternberg created two triangulated wings set at an angle to one another and noted at the time that they represented solidity and equilibrium, which he saw as the perfect metaphors for this congregation. The sanctuary was consecrated in 1961, but things went bad fairly quickly. By 1978, membership was dwindling and the congregation sold Temple Micah to Mount Gilead Baptist Church. The church occupied the building until very recently and is responsible for its poor upkeep.

People who pay attention to the city's legal news may recall that the pastor of Mount Gilead, the Reverend Acen Phillips, is currently being investigated for alleged insurance fraud. In what may or may not be a related development, Mount Gilead is being sold to a development firm, Alpert-Eisen, which aims to close on the property this fall and then tear down the dramatic structure.

Alpert-Eisen wants to replace it with a half-dozen mid-rise towers comprising retail downstairs and condos on the upper floors. Many residents of Crestmoor oppose the project, but the Denver City Council and the Hickenlooper administration always favor developers over neighbors, so I think we'd need a miracle to get things turned around.