History of the Old Stone Church at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church of Steamboat Springs
Excerpt from the Steamboat Springs Register of Historic Places
From modest beginnings, churches and church-life have played a significant role in the development of the Steamboat Springs community. The construction of churches were vital community events in frontier Colorado. Schools and churches were usually the first public buildings constructed, signifying the importance of religion and education in these communities.
Places of worship often served another purpose: housing social events for the community, a tradition that continues to this day. The Episcopal denomination in the area can trace its history to the 1890s, when the first ministry was organized in Steamboat Springs. Bishops traveled by wagon or horseback to hold occasional services for Steamboat Springs Episcopalians in various locations including The Welcome Inn, courthouse, Methodist Church, and the Masonic Hall. For almost 90 years, even after the congregation had its own place of worship, the church was served by circuit riders. These itinerant vicars provided services in Steamboat Springs, Grand Lake, Craig, Hahns Peak, and Kremmling.
In the 1890s, extensive coal fields were discovered in Routt County, and the population quickly grew in response. Devoted to developing a community and planning for future growth, in 1897 the Episcopalians worked with their bishop to purchase lots on the corner of 9th and Oak Streets in the original addition to Steamboat Springs.
By 1910, the people of St. Paul’s were ready to build their own church. The project cost $3,000, all of which was raised by the devoted parishioners. The Women’s Guild raised money for construction by selling cookbooks with business advertisements. Native sandstone from the Steamboat Town and Quarry Company on Emerald Mountain was donated to the cause. Art E. Gumprecht, a prolific craftsman and stonemason whose work greatly influenced the character of Steamboat Springs, was awarded the contract for the building in 1913. He was expected to complete the project in 90 days. Ultimately, the stone church accommodated 85 persons, about half the capacity planned for in the original design due to lack of sufficient funding. The church was consecrated on Dec. 7, 1913.
A two-story addition to the original church was built in 1959 by Kellogg and Sayre, Associated Architects of Denver. The addition also used stone from the Emerald Mountain quarry. The stone was recovered from Mt. Harris, a coal company town west of Steamboat Springs that was auctioned and razed in 1958 when the mine closed. Architectural drawings reveal the last few feet of the original stone church on the north side were removed to accommodate the addition. The cross section of the addition added a foyer, study and restroom with the parish hall and fireplace located in the rear. The second-floor added area for two bedrooms, a living room, and a kitchen.
Reminiscent of the early pioneer spirit that generated the resources to build the original stone church, the parish community realized the need for a new church that would accommodate the expanding number of worshipers stemming from exponential population growth in Steamboat Springs and the Yampa Valley in the late 1990s. After three years of fundraising and planning, another addition to the east of the original church was completed in 2002, tripling the size of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. The new sanctuary was designed by Austin, Texas-based architect Arthur Andersson. It is connected to the Old Stone Church to the west and the Lowell Whiteman Primary School to the east. The primary school was constructed in 2000 on blocks 9 and 10, land owned by St. Paul’s. The school was renamed the Emerald Mountain School in 2012. These two buildings do not contribute to the historic designation of the Old Stone Church but are complementary to its design.
About Art Gumprecht:
Art Gumprecht was a prominent local carpenter/contractor in Steamboat Springs from 1912, when his name first appeared in the area’s newspapers, until his death in 1959. He built everything from commercial buildings to schoolhouses and barns. During construction season, he worked on buildings. During the winter, Gumprecht crafted the windows, doors, and built-in furniture for home interiors and store display fixtures from his workshop on Yampa street.