The year was 1932. Amelia Earhart had completed the first solo air flight across the Atlantic ocean, Mahatma Gandhi ended his “fast until death” in protest of the British occupation of India, and the United States was experiencing the crushing weight of the Great Depression. That was the year when a Dominican Priest stationed at St. Dominic’s Parish in Denver, one Fr James Reagan, proposed that the Catholic Daughters of America purchase The Antlers Hotel in Nederland CO to use as a summer camp for girls.
Over the next three years Fr Reagan offered mass at the camp for all the campers and the many faithful Catholics from the surrounding areas from Rollinsville to Ward. “If you put enough green stuff in the collection,” he told his congregation one day, “I will build you a chapel.” By 1935 the money was raised and Fr Reagan purchased the timbers that would lay the foundations for a Catholic chapel in Nederland. Parishioners of St. Dominic’s and from the mountain communities joined together and had soon constructed a modest structure which Fr Reagan christened St. Rita’s Chapel.
For many years the summer camp thrived in the old Antlers Hotel. The building had been constructed in 1897 and named after the renowned hotel in Colorado Springs. During the flu epidemic of 1917 the structure was converted into a hospital to care for the sick and dying. Fr Reagan’s summer camp was operational from 1932 to 1954 but as the ’60s dawned the camp was shuttered and Nederland and the surrounding mountain communities were ready for a church all their own. So in 1961 The Antlers was demolished and in it’s place St. Rita’s Catholic Church was built.