The Board of Directors of Temple Aaron of Trinidad, Colorado is proud to announce that the Temple is now officially a National Historic Landmark as of December 13, 2023, The attainment of this status is the result of a multiyear effort by the Temple Aaron community and its supporters. The Temple is one of only 16 buildings to obtain NHL status this year, There are approximately 2600 buildings with this status in the entire country. NHLs are some of the nation’s most historically important buildings and sites, and are chosen for their historical, archeological, architectural, and cultural significance.
“It’s important that the places we deem nationally significant represent the historical and natural diversity of the American experience,” said Chuck Sams, Director of the National Park Service, which administers the NHL and NNL programs. “These new landmarks further illustrate and expand our country’s collective heritage and splendor.” See the full National Park Service press release HERE
After a rigorous nomination and review process, Temple Aaron was deemed to have national historic significance based on three criteria: 1) its association with the westward migration of Jewish families and individuals from Europe between 1840-1924; 2) the leadership role of Temple Aaron’s founders in the civic life of the community and in its economic growth, in addition to its spiritual or religious life; and 3) the architectural importance of the physical building.
Temple Aaron was constructed in 1889 and will celebrate its 135th birthday in 2024. It is the oldest continuously operating synagogue in Colorado and the entire Mountain West, and the second oldest west of the Mississippi River. Trinidad, located approximately 200 miles south of Denver, had a small but thriving Jewish community for generations. In 2016, however, with its resources dwindling and its congregation having shrunk to near zero, the building was put up for sale and almost fell out of Jewish hands forever. Fortunately, a small group of dedicated individuals, including Boulder’s own David London, were determined not to let that happen. Thanks to their efforts and those of a growing number of people, the building has been saved and needed repairs have been made. Holidays and life cycle events have since been held at Temple Aaron with increasing frequency, and a vibrant online community with the Temple as its keystone has also taken shape.
Designation as an NHL adds important recognition and momentum for Temple Aaron’s historic preservation and congregation building efforts. Since 2016, with your help, we have achieved a number of milestones. We celebrated the Temple’s 130th anniversary in 2019 with a fabulous three-day, multidisciplinary gala and celebration. Our “Turn Up the Heat” campaign succeeded in replacing the temple’s boiler, and in 2021 Temple Aaron secured grants from the History Colorado State Historical Fund for emergency roof repairs. We launched a membership campaign in 2021, and the temple now has over 80 member families.
Temple Aaron owes a debt of gratitude to Colorado Preservation, Inc. (CPI), who sponsored the NHL nomination under the guidance of National Park Service Golden Region staff. Working tirelessly to preserve important sites throughout Colorado, CPI has been instrumental in shepherding Temple Aaron’s application process from start to finish. Temple Aaron sincerely thanks CPI for its dedication and hard work, and is grateful to all the supporters who contributed to the NHL process with their time, talents, and financial contributions.
A celebration of this momentous achievement will be planned (date to be announced). All will be invited to attend, at which time a bronze plaque marking the NHL designation will be placed on the synagogue’s exterior.
If you would like to read Temple Aaron’s nomination manuscript, you can click HERE. The application includes dozens of photos and incredible details about the temple’s rich history.