The East and West Side Historic Districts in Longmont are located east and west of Main Street and south of Longs Peak Avenue. They contain many of the city’s earliest homes. The East Side Historic District includes 67 historic houses and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986, while the West Side Historic District includes 118 houses and was added to the register in 1987.
Most of the houses in the East Side Historic District date to the nineteenth century and were built in the Queen Anne style. The houses in the West Side District mostly date to the early twentieth century and were built in a variety of post-Victorian styles with larger lots. The East Side Historic District represents Longmont’s origins in the Chicago-Colorado Colony, while the West Side District reflects the city’s twentieth-century development as a major agricultural hub on Colorado’s Front Range.
East Side Historic District
Led by former lumberman Seth Terry, members of the Chicago-Colorado Colony established the city of Longmont near the confluence of St. Vrain and Left Hand Creeks in 1871. Modeled after Horace Greeley’s Union Colony, the Chicago-Colorado Colony was based on agriculture, temperance, and cooperative development of water resources. Its first residents built houses along Main Street between Kimbark and Coffman Streets and Third and Sixth Avenues. That area is the heart of the East Side Historic District, roughly bounded by Sixth and Longs Peak Avenues to the north, Fourth Avenue to the south, Collyer Street to the east, and Emery Street to the west.
The Chicago-Colorado Colony established its new town near the existing homestead settlement of Burlington. Burlington resident William Henry Dickens built Independence Hall, a community center and drugstore, in 1869. The building was a simple wood-frame structure, built in the vernacular style with a gabled roof over its second story. In 1872 Dickens moved the building to the corner of Third Avenue and Main Street in Longmont, making it the city’s oldest building. Independence Hall moved again in 1880 to make room for the Dickens Opera House, and in 1903 the building made its final move to 329 Third Avenue, where it stands today.
Many of Longmont’s earliest houses were built along Collyer Street, named for Robert Collyer, the first president of the Chicago-Colorado Colony Company. Albert Benson built his house at 444 Collyer Street in 1872, making it one of the earliest residences in the city. Little is known about Benson, but his two-story brick house was built in the Italianate style, with tall, narrow windows and doors. The building housed students from Longmont College after the Presbyterian Synod established the school in 1886. S. Dwight Arms, the college’s first professor, also lived on Collyer Street, in a brick cottage built in 1887. Other early homes on Collyer Street included the Edwardian residence of successful merchant George Atwood and the Victorian home of Lorin C. Mead, founder of nearby Mead, Colorado, both built in 1883.
Houses on Emery Street included the 1883 home of James Parker Warner, owner of the J. M. Warner Furniture store on Main Street and Longmont’s first mortician, and the 1902 residence of James Wiggins, a renowned local craftsman. Wiggins is known for building the Callahan House, perhaps Longmont’s most famous mansion, on Terry Street west of Main Street in 1892. Warner’s two-story wood-frame home with a truncated gabled roof reflected the vernacular architecture of early Longmont, while the fine detailing on Wiggins’s classic cottage house reflected his skills as a craftsman.
Due to their age, many of the houses in the East Side Historic District have undergone alterations since they were built. One prominent example is the Webb House, a single-story brick home built in 1888 at 536 Collyer. The house was enlarged twice, in 1937 and 1980. The owners who conducted the 1980 expansion were careful to keep the design close to the home’s original Victorian style, drawing specific mention and praise in the publication Victorian Home.
Many of Longmont’s prominent early citizens lived on the city’s East Side until the early 1900s, when the Longmont sugar beet factory opened and the city’s wealth nexus shifted to the West Side. Prominent East Side families, such as the Atwoods and Warners, began moving to the West Side.
West Side Historic District
Longmont’s West Side Historic District is roughly bounded by Fifth Avenue and Carlton Place to the north, Third Avenue to the south, Coffman Street to the east, and Grant Street to the west. The district has a triangular shape due to Third Avenue’s slight northward bend beginning at Terry Street.
While many of the West Side Historic District’s residences date to the early twentieth century, the district also includes some of Longmont’s earliest buildings. Library Hall at 335 Pratt Street, for instance, was built in 1871 and served as the first public library in Colorado. One notable early residence, the Atwood-Buckingham-Warner House at 311 Terry Street, was built in 1873. It first served as the home of W. J. Atwood, an early leader of Longmont, in 1874. Later, in 1897, Willis and Della Warner, James Warner’s son and daughter-in-law, moved into the house. The building is notable for its combination of Victorian architectural styles: the house is mostly built in the Queen Anne style, but includes the pointed-arch windows of the Gothic style and the tall, slender windows of the Italianate style.
Architecturally, most of the houses in Longmont’s West Side Historic District can be categorized as Edwardian Vernacular (a later version of the Queen Anne design) or American Foursquare (square-planned, two-story residences topped with a hip roof). The home of Jarvis M. Fox, built in 1895 at 920 Third Avenue, is a typical example of the Edwardian Vernacular style. Its rather plain, straightforward exterior is broken up by pairs of slender columns that support the front porch roof. Fox built Longmont’s first flour mill, and his large house is a testament to the wealth that agriculture brought to the city.
Another prominent early family provided a typical example of the American Foursquare style. Brothers John, Dennis, and Tim Donovan were all successful businessmen in early Longmont; Dennis and Tim had a lumber business, and Dennis was instrumental in persuading farmers to plant sugar beets for the factory that went up in 1903. John, meanwhile, was elected mayor of Longmont in 1901 and won reelection in 1902, though he retired immediately upon winning.
Like other prominent Longmont families, the Donovans initially lived on the East Side but moved across Main Street in the 1890s. Dennis Donovan’s residence at 347 Pratt Street, built in 1900, reflects the simple yet stately American Foursquare style. The two-and-a-half-story brick house features a hip roof punctured by dormers. A decorative white cornice lines the tops of the second story and the front porch.
The home of John H. Empson, founder of the Empson Cannery, reflects a bit of the architectural diversity on Longmont’s West Side. The wealthy canner’s house, built in 1907 at 1228 Third Avenue, was constructed in the Bungalow style, using plenty of natural sandstone and tall, broad windows on its western end. The original style was considerably altered by the addition of a long, wood-sided dormer sometime after its completion.
Other prominent sites in the West Side Historic District include the home of William H. Dickens at 303 Coffman Street (1904), the Callahan House, a famous local mansion at 312 Terry Street (1892), and Thompson Park. Located at Fifth and Bross Streets, Thompson Park was established on land donated by wealthy East Coast resident Elizabeth Thompson in 1871. Thompson, who owned some twenty shares in the Chicago-Colorado Colony but never lived there, also donated Library Hall.
Work to preserve historic sites in Longmont began with the establishment of the Landmark Designation Commission in 1971. The Callahan House, now considered part of the West Side Historic District, was the commission’s first designated landmark in 1973. The East and West Side Historic Districts were officially added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986–87. In 1998 the Historic East Side Neighborhood Association received a $3,450 grant from the State Historical Fund to update its survey of historic homes within the East Side Historic District.
With the exception of the Callahan House, which is maintained by the city, most of the homes in Longmont’s historic districts are currently privately owned or rented.