The day after I first read Alan Prendergast’s marvelous story about Philip Van Cise, the fighting DA pictured here, I was at a memorial service at the First Universalist Church just off Colorado Boulevard at Hampden Avenue. I was seated behind Judge Larry Bohning, a member of that church and a man who’d like to see Denver’s new justice center named for Van Cise. I told the judge that I’d just been reading about Van Cise – and after the service, he beckoned for me to follow him down a flight of stairs to the basement.
From a shelf in a crowded corner, he pulled down an object covered with plastic. Unwrapping it, he revealed a child’s chair, one of the Sunday school seats on which members of the Blonger gang were forced to sit when they were rounded up in August 1922 and held in Van Cise’s makeshift jail -- the original First Universalist Church on Colfax.
The congregation left that building and moved south decades ago, but it took its history along. And in addition to that tiny chair that held the butt of a bunco artist, the church has a cache of press clippings commemorating Van Cise’s exploits, as well as period photos showing the religious slogans that hung over those con men imprisoned in the church basement: THE WAY OF THE UNGODLY SHALL PERISH,
But their stories will live on. – Patricia Calhoun
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.