Red Cliff, Colorado, has two extant churches, both built over a hundred years ago. Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Catholic Church on Pine Street above the town continues to hold worship services on Sundays.
The building itself has seen many changes since its construction in 1889. The front entry was changed to a side entry, adding some additional storage room. Paneling now covers the interior walls, remodeling changed the sacristy and the pews were replaced by chairs from a hotel at Beaver Creek. Even the original Stations of the Cross were replaced.
Down below on Eagle Street, the Congregational Church (Red Cliff Community Church) has retained more of its original interior. The church community was in existence by 1881 and the building followed in 1889.
It was a Presbyterian Church and is now owned privately. Finding clergy to serve the dwindling congregation has been difficult and, at the moment, no regular services are held there. The foundation has shifted and there are concerns about the building’s long term viability without attention to the structure. The interior, with the addition of carpeting and paint, has a calm austerity and focus.
The hanging light fixtures were originally in the Eagle County Courthouse. When the courthouse was modernized, the old ones were installed in the church. Of particular interest are the piano and organ, which are both in working contion. The Lagonda Piano, New Castle, Indiana, is an upright grand- or cabinet grand piano [the length of the wires qualify it to be a baby grand].
The Story & Clark organ, Chicago, Illinois, came over Mosquito Pass by wagon and then on to Red Cliff. It has carrying handles on both sides. The steel reeds are permanently tuned, with foot pumps working the bellows that force air through the reeds. The stops have paper labels and there are crescendo levers underneath.
In 1890, the population of Red Cliff was 383; by 1940, that had grown to 715, most people working at Gilman for New Jersey Zinc. Churches, businesses and schools thrived. With mines closing and the lumber industry slowing, the town has gradually become a bedroom community for people working elsewhere in the area so that the 2010 population figure is 308. The impact on the churches in the community is just one visible effect of changing lifestyles and demographics. Thanks to Bob Tresize for his encyclopedic knowledge of pianos and organs and to Angela Beck for having the keys to the buildings as we toured.