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Southern Colorado history for sale
Photo courtesy: Temple Aaron Facebook

By Joshua Pilkington

Trinidad’s Temple Aaron, one of the oldest temples west of the Mississippi, remains for sale

The building that once served as Colorado’s longest continuously operating synagogue in its original location is for sale. The Temple Aaron building in Trinidad closed last year after being in operation for 127 years. Though now for sale, there are hopes the building will be preserved, regardless of whom the buyer is.

In February Colorado Preservation, Inc. added the Temple Aaron building to its list of endangered historic places in Colorado. Though the list cannot obligate preservation of the privately-owned building, the action of adding the Temple Aaron building to the list, does bring and awareness, advocacy and technical assistance to the temple.

According to Colorado Preservation Inc., “Temple Aaron is not only architecturally significant but also important for its role in the cultural history of Trinidad. Jewish merchants, who served as traders along the Santa Fe Trail, began locating in Trinidad in 1867, becoming prominent members of the community.”

Isaac Hamilton Rapp designed and built the temple in 1889 in what is now known as El Corazon de Trinidad National Historic District. It was designed as a place of worship for Congregation Aaron, which was organized in 1883 as a Reform congregation.

“The congregation immediately began planning for the construction of a synagogue, selecting a lot high on a hill in a well-established residential area,” according to the CPI. “Prominent regional architect Isaac Hamilton Rapp incorporated eclectic Turkish and Moorish elements into its design.”

The cornerstone of the temple was laid on June 17, 1889 and the congregation of approximately 50-male members began to use the temple regularly. The first full-time Rabbi of the temple, Leopold Freudenthal, served until 1916.

As Trinidad prospered, so too did Temple Aaron well into the beginning of the 20th century. The decline of the coal industry in the area, however, soon led to Jewish merchants to move elsewhere as farming and ranching became the economic focus.

“Temple Aaron closed its doors ending a chapter in its 127-year history with the Jewish community,” according to the CPI. “A dwindling congregation and mounting costs for insurance, maintenance, and necessary repairs were factors that led to the closure.”

Colorado Preservation, Inc. is the current easement holder on the property and has had a vested interest in the building over the years. Though the building is for sale, the congregation has voiced that it would like to see the building be used in the same vein of the Jewish traditions that preceded its sale. The building still retains some of the fixtures that were part of its original construction including the original stained glass windows as well as its hand-carved pulpit, which arrived to the temple by wagon train.

The building is currently listed for $395,000 and though its owners could alter it significantly, there are some existing façade restrictions due to its history. The decision to sale the building came from the Rubin family who had managed Temple Aaron and its congregation for over 30 years prior to its closing. They cited rising insurance costs and the approximate sum of $50,000 annually to sustain the building forced them to seek out a buyer.

In its 20 years, the Colorado’s Most Endangered Places program through Colorado Preservation, Inc. has highlighted 113 historic sites – 41 of which have been saved – in 49 of Colorado’s 64 counties.

“The success of the Endangered Places Program is a result of the dedicated efforts of concerned citizens, legislators, local governments, commercial businesses, organizations, and foundations,” according to CPI. “Colorado Preservation, Inc. is honored to list 41 resources as saved thanks to the tireless dedication and efforts of individuals whose continuous efforts push the projects forward.”





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