Denver Council 539 was instituted November 18, 1900, and is the oldest Council in the Western part of the United States. The Council was initiated by a Degree Team from Chicago and headed by the Supreme Knight James A. Flaherty. Denver Council 539’s first Grand Knight was John H. Reddin (1900-1903). Brother Reddin later became a member of the Supreme Board of Directors, and served in that capacity for 33 years until failing health forced him to relinquish that position.
Not satisfied to be the “Mother Council of the West,” Reddin and his Degree Team headed by J.K. Mullen chartered a private train in 1901 and traveled west from Denver to Leadville to Salt Lake City, Los Angeles and San Francisco and up the coast to Seattle and Tacoma, Washington, and back down the Pacific Coast as far south as Mexico City, and then back to Denver, through New Mexico and Arizona, founding councils all along the route. This Degree Team became known as the foremost Ceremonial Team in the country.
In 1903, Reddin became the founder of and composed the Ritual for the Fourth Degree of the Knights of Columbus, the patriotic degree of the Knights, continuing as the Supreme Master of the Fourth Degree until his death on December 30, 1940 at the age of 82.
There is some question over where the first actual meetings of the newly organized Council 539 were held, but from 1907 until 1910 the meetings were held in the Fraternal Union Building. When the Fraternal Union Building was torn down in 1910, Denver Council 539 and the Knights of Columbus Building Association had already made plans for and completed construction of, the Knights of Columbus Club at 1409 Glenarm Place. Built at a cost of $80,000, the building contained a basement used for storage and the heating plant; a ground floor, which was leased to Denver business concerns; a second floor, which was rented to many of the Catholic doctors of the area.
On the third floor were offices, clubroom, library and smaller meeting rooms. The fourth floor was the Council’s Chambers and a place where meetings , dances, and other large social gatherings were held. The fifth floor (actually a half-floor) was used for storage and certain functions of the Council. When members of the council voted to sell the building and move “up on the hill,” the property was sold for $100,000. This action was taken in 1919 when John J. Morrissey was Grand Knight. This first home of Denver Council 539 was demolished to a one floor structure in the last months of 1964.
Also in 1919, a new corporation was formed. This corporation was named “THE KNIGHTS OF COLUMBUS HOME OF DENVER.” The first order of business for the new non-profit corporation was the purchase of the home and 10 lots at 16th and Grant Street. This property housed the Fletcher Mansion, one of the fine old mansions on the hill. The newspaper praised this three-story home as “a marvel of perfection, inside and out.” It included 5 bathrooms finished in Italian marble. The building also contained a bowling alley in the basement and a 30-foot swimming pool. Indirect hot water had been installed and it was so rigged that by substituting ammonia for the water, the rooms could be made as cool as desired during hot weather. There was also a large carriage house on the property.
In 1928, when John J. Sullivan was Grand Knight, a major renovation was undertaken to create the large meeting hall. The Hall was to extend from the old residence portion of the building, south to the former carriage house, and was to be one of the finest and most spacious halls in the city. This portion of the structure stands to this date, and was used for Bingo, dances and other social occasions. The Hall is still rentable by calling the Hall Manager at 303-861-2419.
This large hall saw much use during World War II. It was used for USO dances and other parties to entertain servicemen during this period. Every night the hall was lined with cots so that service personnel could get a good night’s sleep. The Knights were commended many times for their community involvement and help to the services during the war. By 1950, the Denver Council had grown to be one of the largest in the United States.
Even with the large hall, many events were so large that they had to be conducted in downtown hotels. This may be one of the reasons that other Councils started to spring up. In 1950 alone, the Welby, North Denver and Littleton Councils were formed and many other councils were formed until 1990 when the Denver Metro Chapter of the Knights had 20 member Councils.
In 1962 it was decided to erect a new Council Home. At a Stockholder’s Meeting on April 9, 1962, construction was formally approved. John Milan was the architect and the contract for the building was awarded to Robertson Construction Company. Groundbreaking occurred on July 13, 1962, with completion expected in early 1963. The official dedication took place on May 11, 1963, just after demolition of the old building to make room for a parking lot. Formal Blessing was given by Archbishop Urban J. Vehr. Grand Knight William Dresler and Board President John Hinterreiter placed the cornerstone. Also present were Supreme Director George Turner and State Deputy Thomas Hagerty. An open house followed from 3:30 pm -6:00 pm. A Dedication Dance was held that evening from 9:00 pm – 1:00 am.
The building changed very little between 1963 and 1990, except for a Handicapped Ramp that was erected in 1989. The grounds and building remain the same as in 1963. We applaud the foresight of our Brothers of the Past who have given us so much to be thankful for. I hope that future Knights will continue the dedication and unselfish work that made our facilities as fine as they are.
Written in March, 1990
by Thomas J. Grady, Jr.
Board President from 1989-1990
minor tense changes by Stephen Sweeney to reflect past events 12/21/2010
For more information on the history of the Knights of Columbus visit the Supreme Website.