Completed in 1921, Holyoke banker William E. Heginbotham’s large Craftsman-style house with extensive gardens was long one of the most stylish residences in Phillips County. Upon his death in 1968, Heginbotham gave his house to the town of Holyoke, which now uses it as a public library.
Planning for W. E. Heginbotham’s house in Holyoke began in 1918, when he hired Denver contractor Michael McEachern to build a $75,000 residence at the corner of South Baxter and Jules Streets. At the time, Heginbotham was a forty-year-old vice president of the First National Bank of Holyoke, which his father had helped establish in the late nineteenth century. Construction on Heginbotham’s house began in 1919 and was finished two years later.
Probably working from a design book or a house catalog, Heginbotham and McEachern built a 1.5-story house in the Craftsman style, which was popular at the time but would have been unusual in largely rural Phillips County. The redbrick house is set back from the streets and is enclosed within a low brick wall. The interior features oak columns, woodwork, and paneling. The aboveground floors originally had three bedrooms and one bath (with a second bath added in the 1930s), while the basement served as a library with built-in bookcases and built-in oak benches.
As was typical for Craftsman-style houses, which blended interior and exterior spaces through the use of porches and verandas, Heginbotham’s house was surrounded by gardens laid out like outdoor rooms across his property. Six distinct gardens featured different designs and plants. An English lawn-and-border garden and a walled garden sprawled across the half block of land north of the house, while an entrance court, sunken water garden, and sun court wrapped around the other three sides.
Heginbotham made his fortune during the 1930s, when he became president and owner of the First National Bank of Holyoke. The bank was the only one of eight in Phillips County to survive the Great Depression. Later in life Heginbotham remained involved in the local community but developed a reputation as a quiet loner. He retired from the bank in 1962 and spent his final years as a recluse, tending to his house and gardens.
At the end of his life, Heginbotham surprised the people of Phillips County with a flurry of large-scale philanthropy projects. In 1964, for example, he donated $500,000 and part of his land for a new twenty-bed hospital in Holyoke called Melissa Memorial Hospital, in honor of his mother.
Upon his death in 1968, at the age of eighty-nine, the childless Heginbotham bequeathed his entire $2.4 million estate, in trust, to Phillips County. His will dictated that interest from the trust should be used “for the general betterment and improvement of the people in Phillips County.” The Heginbotham Trust distributed more than $8.5 million in its first four decades. It has provided Phillips County with medical centers, ambulances, fire trucks, park sprinklers, ballpark lights, tennis courts, a golf course, an indoor Olympic-sized swimming pool, an expanded county museum, and a high school auditorium.
Heginbotham’s house went to the town of Holyoke, with the provision that it never be sold to a private owner. In 1969 Holyoke converted the house into a public library, with removable shelving for books placed in most rooms (including the kitchen and pantry). Otherwise the house and gardens remain essentially the same as Heginbotham left them. In 1988 the property was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Today the Heginbotham Library is regarded as one of the finest public libraries in northeastern Colorado. It holds more than 15,000 volumes and has an annual circulation of nearly 60,000.