Temple Aaron

Year Listed: 2017
County: Las Animas County
Construction Date: 1889
Threat When Listed: Demolition by Neglect 



Located in the El Corazon de Trinidad National Historic District, Temple Aaron is a prominent visual landmark in Trinidad and the oldest synagogue building in continuous operation in Colorado. Designed by Isaac Hamilton Rapp and built in 1889, 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 as early as 1867 and became prominent members of the community.  By 1874, Trinidad had only two non-Jewish mercantile firms and within ten years Congregation Aaron was organized as a Reform congregation on July 23, 1883.

The congregation immediately began planning for the construction of a synagogue, selecting a lot high on a hill in a well-established residential area.  Prominent regional architect, Isaac Hamilton Rapp, incorporated eclectic Turkish and Moorish elements into its design.  The cornerstone was laid on June 17, 1889 and at the time of it dedication, the congregation included approximately 50 male members.  Leopold Freudenthal served as the first full-time Rabbi until 1916.

Today the building retains its original stained-glass windows as well as its hand-carved pulpit and organ, which were brought to Temple Aaron by wagon train. Colorado Preservation, Inc. currently holds an easement on the property and has been involved in many projects with the building over the years. Today, a small but dedicated group of individuals is working to keep Temple Aaron in Jewish hands. Their goals are to raise funds to maintain, repair, and endow the building, create a 21st century congregation with members from Boulder to Albuquerque and beyond, and hold regularly scheduled religious and secular events. The congregation has reformed with a new regional focus, non-profit incorporation, and has once again been hosting events for special Jewish holidays. A Letter of Intent to submit a full National Landmark application has also been approved by the National Park Service. Other developments include a pending State Historical Fund grant for construction documents pertaining to full roof repairs.

Video courtesy of CBS4: