In every town and city around the country, you are very likely to find several commonalities. Things like a post office, grocery store, and gas station are usually present for the convenience of the residents and visitors of the town. 

Another commonplace in most locales is the cemetery – a place where townspeople may go to remember their lost loved ones. In Wheat Ridge, Colorado (just west of Denver), the Olinger Crown Hill Cemetery contains a very special addition – the Tower of Memories.

The History Of The Tower Of Memories

Whether you are a resident of Wheat Ridge or just visiting, you simply cannot miss the white tower that rises above the entire town on 29th Avenue and Wadsworth Boulevard. 

The Tower of Memories is a 158-feet tall white tower located in the Olinger Crown Hill Mortuary and Cemetery. Design began in 1926, and construction of the Tower of Memories mausoleum broke ground in 1929. And it has been a historic site since its completion decades later following further delays caused by World War II.

The original designer of the Tower of Memories mausoleum was a Gothic architect named Charles A. Smith, but he was not the one to finally see its completion. That honor belonged to later architect John Monroe. The mausoleum has a 2-story base and a 7-story tower rising from the center and looking out over the Olinger Crown Hill Mortuary and Cemetery. 

Leading up to the modernistic-style building is a half-mile grand esplanade. Inside the mausoleum, you will find Gothic detailing with marble floors and walls, as well as a chapel with red stained-glass windows that can hold up to 75 people. 

The Tower of Memories was placed on the list of the National Register of Historic Places in 1987.

The practical purpose of the Tower of Memories is to hold the bodies and cremated remains of the deceased. There are approximately 6000 crypts and 5000 niches for cremated remains. As a final resting spot for the citizens of Wheat Ridge, Colorado, it would not be easy to find a better place.

Olinger Crown Hill Cemetery

When the population of Denver, Colorado, began to increase between 1890 and 1907 substantially, it became obvious that certain services were going to be needed, including end of life and internment services. 

George W. Olinger (whose family was in the funeral business) and five other entrepreneurs formed the Crown Hill Cemetery Association and purchased 180 acres of farmland owned by Henry Lee, a Colorado legislator at the time. 

With this land, the six entrepreneurs envisioned founding one of the best cemeteries in the Denver area. In December of 1907, Crown Hill Cemetery opened.

The original Olinger Crown Hill Mortuary was located on the grounds of the cemetery in the early 2000s. The bodies of the deceased were originally prepared in the basement of the Tower. 

A funeral home was built across the street from the cemetery, but it closed and moved to another downtown Denver location. It has since moved back to the cemetery.

Construction And World War II

Construction of the Tower of Memories began in 1926 under the supervision of Charles A. Smith and carried with it a $1 million cost. Although the original builder faced bankruptcy when his firm failed in the last year of construction, the building still came together out of necessity because it already housed the remains of many bodies. 

Architects William and Arthur Fisher were commissioned to continue the work. The new architects who were hired to replace Smith on the project altered the original plans to exclude the Gothic design on the exterior. 

Because of this, the outside of the Tower of Memories is far more modernistic detailing rather than Gothic, though the interior keeps the original style intention. 

The onslaught of World War II caused construction to be halted, but architect John Monroe finally saw the completion of the Tower after he was hired in 1948.

Why Visit The Tower Of Memories?

Visiting the city of Wheat Ridge, CO, may not be on the top of your vacation destination spots. For those interested in history or anyone who enjoys looking at stylistic architecture, the Tower of Memories provides plenty of both. 

Still, if you are venturing through the Denver area and want to visit a location with plenty of local colors, the Tower is certainly a spot to check out.