The History of the Church Shops
The Old Church Shops began life as the Community Church of the Rockies, which housed Estes Park's Presbyterian congregation. The first part, in the southeast corner of the current building, was constructed in 1909, entirely by congregation members. Some of the support structures intrigued engineers during the building's 1982 reconstruction. They said they "didn't know how it worked, but it was bomb-proof". The black and white photo below, courtesy of the Estes Area Historical Museum, shows the building with a crenellated tower. The main floor of the church was eight feet above Elkhorn Avenue, because there was no flood control at the time, and the town just let the spring water run down Elkhorn. The church was built to keep its important areas dry.
The Community Church of the Rockies c. 1910
In 1927, the church expanded, to the north. That section currently houses the Wild Rose Food & Spirits Co. The floor jogs about eight inches higher than the original floor. At that time, the tower was also rebuilt, to have a pointed bell steeple. The Community Church used that section for congregation seating, and the original church became altar, choir stall, etc. The roof line of the first two sections is approximately original, although a fake mansard ceiling inside concealed the height that became the third floor of the current building.
Then and Now photo from the Trail Gazette
The 1954 addition went west, and was a completely different building joined to the original by two covered catwalks. Henry Dannels & Sons was the general contractor. Mr. Dannels son, Bernie, mayor of Estes Park from the mid-80's until 1994, and his son-in-law, Al Sager, both worked on the construction crews. That building was a community center, with an auditorium and stage, and classrooms, and was cement block construction.
In late 1980, the Community Church decided to sell the building. The new church, on Brodie Avenue, has many advantages such as handicapped accessibility, its own parking, and a full glass wall framing the Rockies. The original church building was bought by Snowdance I, and converted in 1982 to a specialty shopping complex.
It opened for Memorial Day, 1982. On July 15, 1982, the Lawn Lake Flood swept down Elkhorn Avenue. Partly because of its original design and tight new front door, it sustained nearly no damage. A picture of the building during its post-re-construction, pre-urban re-newal days is shown below.
One important result of the Lawn Lake Flood was the urban renewal, which began in 1984. Trees, planters, benches, and other pedestrian amenities transformed downtown Estes Park.