HBR Presents Historic Preservation Awards to Ben Gearhart, Charles Moore

By Celeste Benzschawel

What started out as a small group of friends meeting for coffee to chat about neighborhood history soon turned into a nonprofit capable of saving historic buildings from demolition. That group, officially established in 2016, is Historic Berkeley-Regis (HBR).

“(We) all felt this sadness and eagerness and interest in the histories of these buildings that were being lost,” said Marie Edgar, HBR co-founder and co-chair. “We really didn’t have the intention of trying to save things. We thought it was just part of the times.”

According to members, HBR is an active community group studying the history, architecture, and landscapes of the North Denver neighborhood, and is active in preservation. HBR held its annual meeting for members and nonmembers on June 22 where they were able to publicly celebrate achievements that took place during COVID.

The biggest triumph for them was preserving and landmarking the Howard Berkeley Park Chapel on Tennyson and West 46th Avenue with the help of GM Development. Ben Gearhart and Charles Moore, founders of GM Development, were each awarded the John Brisben Walker Award for purchasing and landmarking the building in 2020.

According to an HBR press release, they also won a Community Preservation Award from Historic Denver for their work on The Essex in North Capitol Hill in 2019.

“If it hadn’t been for Ben and Chuck, this chapel and everything else on site would be in a landfill right now, and we would miss all the joy of coming in here and the beauty it gives our lives,” said HBR co-founder and co-chair Laurie Simmons. “It’s really an outstanding legacy that they left to their community.”

Preservation of the church allowed for two new tenants to move in: Redemption Church Denver and Midtown Montessori Academy, an early education campus set to open later this year.

“We really value the partnership we’ve had with Historic Berkeley-Regis. We certainly, obviously, couldn’t have done this without you and we feel fortunate to have that relationship with the community, and hopefully we can do it in future projects down the road,” said Gearhart upon receiving the award.

“(Buying the church) seemed like a pie in the sky deal,” Moore said.

Now that the Berkeley Park Chapel chapter is closed, HBR is returning their focus to restoring the Berkeley Park Bathhouse, a project they took on in 2019. They will be circulating a petition to gather support of the initiative. HBR’s goal with the building is to return it to community use, said board member Tom Simmons.

The project will provide meeting space for community groups and programming, concerts, and a venue for weddings and other special events.

“I hear a lot about the development pressures and the need for more housing in these neighborhoods for everybody these days and we certainly recognize that,” HBR member and speaker Bill Killam said. “But I think that what we also have to recognize is that as more people move in and there’s more houses, we still need schools and we still need churches and we still need public amenities.”

Ultimately, HBR recognizes the need to preserve the buildings and history that make the neighborhood unlike any other.


1 Comment

  1. Thank you Celeste for capturing the true meaning of “Community” in highlighting the success of “working together” to create a successful preservation project. We believe the Community will also succeed in bringing back the Berkeley Bathhouse to be enjoyed by all! Please contact BHR to help on this next important NW SAVE!

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