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Utah Addition to National Register: St. Christopher’s Episcopal Mission

St. Christopher’s Episcopal Mission
near Bluff, Utah

St. Christopher’s Episcopal Mission (02001042), near Bluff, Utah, was initially listed on the National Register of Historic Places for statewide significance under Criteria A and B, as well as Criteria Consideration A as a religious-use property, with a period of significance dating 1943-1952.  With this amendment, in addition to the previous criteria and criteria consideration, the mission is also being nominated for architectural significance under Criterion C. Also, the period of significance is being expanded to 1943-1968. Because of this, the number of contributing buildings in the complex has increased from three to seven.

St. Christopher’s Episcopal Mission is a truly singular entity in Utah. Although a few religious groups had minor contact with the Navajo and the Utah strip of the Navajo reservation in particular, up to the mid-twentieth century, St. Christopher’s was the only complex of its kind serving these people in remote and isolated southeastern Utah. Father H. Baxter Liebler and his small staff’s role in establishing and building the mission, as well as the religious and social services they provided the Navajo here was quite unique in the state.

Under Criterion C, the buildings of St. Christopher’s Mission are significant not only in the local region but statewide as well.  The particularly rustic, mid-century interpretation of the Mission style of architecture for the earlier buildings of the complex is distinctive in Utah, where the Mission style was never popular during the period revival era of the early twentieth century. The uncommon architecture, combined with use of Navajo laborers to construct the buildings, make this collection of buildings very unique. Furthermore, compared with the rusticity of the early buildings, the later, contemporary style summer chapel stands out in stark contrast, and is the most visible architectural icon of the mission and the area. The chapel symbolizes the mission’s presence in a vast, barren landscape and, although not quite fifty years old, is being considered a contributing building in the complex.