St. Peter's Catholic Church - 915 12TH ST

 Print Listing Historical Name - St. Peter's Catholic Church
Style - Mid-19th Century/Gothic Revival
Built Year - 1909
State ID - 5WL2578

Description - This Gothic Revival church is a cruciform, two-story brick structure with a composition shingled gable roof, and lower, parapeted cross-gables forming the transept. Roof features include stone crosses located at the peak of each gable-end. The form of the structure is augmented by a three-story square tower located on the southeast corner of the nave, a two-story square tower located on the northeast corner of the nave, and a rectilinear choir with an octagonal second level located on the west facade. A concrete foundation faced with rusticated stone supports blond brick exterior walls with stepped, attached buttresses. Most fenestration is characterized by the use of the pointed, or Gothic, arch and a lintel course incorporating pointed arch drip moldings. The windows of the nave and transepts are stained glass. A rose window graces the east facade above the entrance. The entrance itself is characterized by bronze double doors and an elaborate pointed arch jamb, or door surround.

Historical Background - The St. Peter’s Catholic Church is the third church in Greeley of its denomination. The first and second have been razed. For many years, Greeley Catholics were dependent upon Ft. Collins for services. A regular parish was not established until 1904, just five years before the dedication of St. Peter’s. From 1870 to 1879, mass was offered only twice a year in private homes by area missionaries. After 1879, Father Abel of Ft. Collins and his successors served Greeley Catholics. In 1903, a regular parish was established when Rev. J. A. Bastien was made first resident pastor. The parish grew phenomenally during the next few years, resulting in the need for the present structure. The paucity of Catholics in Greeley during the town’s pioneer period may be explained by two of the founding principles of the Union Colony: temperance and liberal religious ideas. Ownership deeds strictly forbade the consumption or sale of liquor, and town founder Nathan Meeker proposed building a common non-denominational church to serve the religious needs of the colonists. Greeley historian and Union Colony member David Boyd indicated that he was not aware of any Catholics within the group of colonists. Therefore, when the “Unity Church” idea failed, Protestant churches were the first to emerge. By the turn of the century, more Catholics had come to Greeley. Some came from Ireland to Denver, settling in Greeley after helping to construct the Denver-Pacific Railroad in 1870. Others were farmers, ranchers and businesspeople of various national descent. As the official St. Peter’s history states, “In spite of the ill feeling towards Catholics that prevailed in Greeley for many years after its founding by the Union Colony, the body of the faithful continued to grow under the direction of the pastors from Ft. Collins.” In 1890, the State Normal School (now University of Northern Colorado) was established. Because approximately 10% of the students were Catholic and the Church was located near the campus, the two entities enjoyed a beneficial spiritual and educational relationship. After the construction of a sugar beet factory in 1902, and the related increase in sugar beet cultivation, many Spanish-speaking Catholics came to northeastern Colorado from the Southwestern U.S. and Mexico. St. Peter’s official history states that “neither the State nor the Church anticipated or was prepared to cope with the situation.” However, efforts were made to accommodate their needs through the work of Father Froegel, Father Trudel and Father “Dominic” Morera. Spanish masses were held in St. Peter’s as well as various missions throughout northeastern Colorado. In 1941, Archbishop Urban J. Vehr established a new parish for Spanish-speaking Catholics in Greeley. Seven years later, Our Lady of Peace Church was dedicated, with Father Morera as its first pastor. Unfortunately, discrimination may have played a small role in the history of Greeley. However, it should be noted that racism was prevalent in the United States before World War II and not isolated to Greeley or its churches. In a 1997 interview, longtime Weld County resident Henry Carpio discussed relations between Hispanics and whites within the Catholic Church. Mr. Carpio was the first Spanish-speaking person to live in Gill, Colorado. He related how ushers waited at the doors to St. Peter’s Catholic Church and led them to separate seating “on the sides.” The white people sat “in the middle.” According to Mr. Carpio, the impetus for the formation of Our Lady of Peace was racial discrimination. Funds to build the church came entirely from donations. However, It should be noted that interviews with parishioners who attended St. Peter’s since 1909 contradict Mr. Carpio’s recollection. Additionally, the work of the parish priests benefited the spiritual and educational needs of Hispanics in Greeley and throughout Weld County. Father Froegel regularly visited missions in Ault, Gilcrist, and New Raymer, while Father Casey visited missions at Eaton, Keota, Kersey, Johnstown, Milliken, Nunn, Severance, and Windsor.