Built in 1886, Longmont College, also known as The Landmark, was the first institute of higher education in Longmont and the St. Vrain Valley. The Presbyterian Synod of Colorado founded the college in 1885 with plans to build a massive Italianate-style campus at the east end of Sixth Avenue, but due to financial constraints only the south section was built, which still stands today.
The original college was plagued by financial difficulties and closed in 1896. The building then became home to a series of high schools and academies until it was converted into apartments in 1949. In 1987 the Longmont College building was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Longmont’s First College
Members of the Chicago-Colorado Colony, an agricultural settlement in eastern Boulder County, established the city of Longmont in 1871. By the 1880s, it had developed into a major agricultural center on Colorado’s Front Range. Boulder County already had the University of Colorado, but Longmont lacked a college of its own, even though the town’s founders had designated space for one in the original plat. In 1884–85 the Presbyterian Synod of Colorado sought a site for a college campus, and the people of Longmont enticed the Synod with offers of cash, land, and water.
The Presbyterians founded Longmont College on November 24, 1885, with plans to build a sprawling, stately campus on the east end of Sixth Avenue. William O. Thompson, a Presbyterian minister from Ohio who had recently arrived to head the local church, was named the college’s first president. The college chose Denver architect Fred A. Hall to design the building, and construction of the south wing began in 1886.
Due to financial shortfalls, the south wing, at the corner of Sixth Avenue and Atwood Street, was the only part of the campus completed. It is nonetheless an imposing, two-storied structure made of red brick with a high sandstone foundation. The main entryway consists of wide steps leading up to tall wooden double doors underneath a keystone arch. A two-story front pavilion, iron roof cresting, and tall, rectangular windows augment the structure’s impressive verticality.
Longmont College’s inaugural class of sixteen students—ten men and six women—paid a $15 tuition for a fourteen-week term. The college had three main disciplines: classical, scientific, and normal (theory and practice of teaching). Initial course offerings included Latin, Greek, “Science of Mind” (psychology), Old Testament History, and Philosophy on the Plan of Salvation.
A Series of Schools
The college soon ran into financial troubles, however, and closed in 1889. A local bailout allowed the school to reopen as the Presbyterian Academy in 1890, and enrollment peaked at fifty-three students in 1893. But the Presbyterians again ran into financial problems, and the academy closed in 1896.
School District 17 then rented the building, holding high school, seventh-, and eighth-grade classes until 1907, when the Landmark was acquired by the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi. The sisters ran St. Joseph’s Academy and later a Catholic High School in the building, and oversaw the completion of a rectangular, three-story sleeping porch on its south end.
From 1941 to 1949 the Longmont College building housed its final school, the St. Coletta School for Exceptional Children. In 1949 the sisters sold the building to George Smoot, who converted it into apartments.
The Longmont College building was designated a Longmont landmark in 1978 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1987. Since then it has passed through a series of owners, most recently Longmont College Apartments, LLC. The company bought the building in 2004 for $900,000 and still operates it today.