|The Carnegie Library at the west end of Main Street, c.1920.|
The first Littleton Public Library was opened in 1897 in a drugstore on Main Street. As it grew it was moved from place to place; by 1903 it was located "in comfortable rooms facing the street upstairs...[in the] town hall." This town hall was the structure built by L. Evans in 1889 at 2450 West Main Street. Littleton had purchased the building in 1898 for city offices and added a brick extension to its front in 1902. They temporarily rented some of the new space to Arapahoe County officials and also moved the public library into the second floor of this brick addition. (In 1920 the brick town hall was replaced on the same site at 2450 West Main with the terra cotta faced Italian Renaissance Town Hall designed by Jacques Benedict.)
In the mid-teens a movement was begun to get support from the Carnegie Foundation for a new library. The location was narrowed down to two sites: the corner of Prince and Malinda (now Alamo) streets, or the west end of Main Street. One requirement for Carnegie support was that a local tax must be imposed to maintain the library. That vote passed in April 1915, and the Main Street site was selected in August. $500 was quickly raised by popular subscription to purchase the site from the Water Company. Some citizens, however, were still apprehensive about the financial control wielded by the Carnegie Foundation over the project.
As it turned out, not only was its control financial, but the Foundation's secretary stringently applied its (or his) rules for the library design. The local government was expected to select the architect and act as his client. A library board appointed by Mayor J. E. Maloney chose Jacques Jules Benois Benedict who had designed many outstanding homes and other buildings in the area, including Denver's Woodbury Branch Library. Benedict had been educated at the Beaux-Arts School of Architecture in Paris and was known for his period architecture and fine attention to detail. Eccentric and exacting, he soon clashed with the Foundation's secretary. Plans were repeatedly sent in and returned until they were finally approved and funds of $8,000 were released for the new building in July 1916. The new library opened 31 August 1917 under the auspices of The Woman's Club.
|Carnegie Library facade, 2015. Photo by Amelia Martinez.|
The Beaux-Arts movement, a style employed frequently by Carnegie institutions, influenced the building's design. In the case of Littleton's Carnegie Library, the buff brick building has an Italian Renaissance style with large Palladian style windows dominating the façade. Columns with Ionic capitols border the large, divided light windows and the entryway. At the apex of each arch is a keystone. Decorative brick panels below each window help balance the façade by giving the illusion that the entrance and the windows are of the same size. The eave of the tile hipped roof projects forward to protect a decorative frieze. The ceiling of the arched entryway is ornamented in a terracotta flower motif. Ornamental terracotta printer seals decorate the entrance below the cornice. It has been said that, despite its small size, it carries the large arches with delicacy and balance. The contractors were V. W. Robbins and the Watts Brothers.
|Carnegie Library entrance, 2015. Photo by Amelia Martinez.|
The Carnegie Library was a center of community activities for several decades. During the Depression it housed a Colorado Works Administration project to give women work in binding books. A Federal Employment Relief Association project provided maintenance and new furniture. During World War II, it housed a Red Cross service project and allowed a "Bundles for Britain" festival there. The Littleton Public Library had completely outgrown the Carnegie building by 1965, when it moved to 6014 South Datura Street. The Carnegie building was given landmark status by Littleton in 1973.
With two exceptions, the exterior of the Carnegie building is largely unchanged since its construction, but the interior has had many different uses since the library relocated. Until 1977 it was the Littleton police station and jail. In early 1979 the city sold it to a developer who remodeled the inside and opened a discotheque called "Pistachio's." It was then that additions were made to the south and west sides of the building. The concrete-block extension on the south side obliterated an arched window which was part of the original brick building. The disco was followed by four restaurants: Cafe Kandahar, with an Alpine ski motif and European cuisine, Alpine Cafe for family dining, The Old Library, a beer garden, and Scribbles, owned by two members of the Denver Broncos football team. In 1997 it became The Melting Pot, a fondue restaurant, and the restaurant continues to be a popular local dining spot in 2017.
At 100 years, the Carnegie Library, although somewhat altered, still graces the foot of Littleton's Main Street.
Littleton (Colo.) Independent. The Littleton Independent Publishers, 1888- .
Littleton Historical Museum. "City Boards and Programs: Historical Preservation Board. Carnegie Library, 2700 West Main Street." Littleton, Colo.: The Museum, 1993.
____. "Littleton Historical Building Survey. (Main Street.) (Notebook.) Carnegie Library, 2700 West Main Street." Littleton, Colo.: The Museum, 1992.
____. Photographic Archives.
Nippert, Stephen. An Architectural and Historical Building Survey: Inventory and Evaluation, Littleton, Colorado. Phase II. Littleton, Colo.: Littleton Historical Museum, 1973.
Spilver, Rebecca. Littleton Library History. 1897-1965." Research paper prepared for University of Colorado at Denver, 1996.
____ and Phyllis Larison. Littleton/Bemis Public Library. 100 Years Of Library Service. Littleton, Colo.: Edwin A. Bemis Public Library, 1997.
Arapahoe County Assessors Records
Littleton City Directories, 1932, 1939, 1953-1965
Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps
Littleton Historical Museum Files, Photograph Collection, #1995
Waring, Houstoun, "Hous's Littleton", (Littleton: Littleton Independent, 1981)
McQuarie, Robert and Bucholtz, C.W., "Littleton From Settlement to Centennial: (Littleton:
Littleton Historical Museum)
Rocky Mountain News, 13 November 1990
Denver Post, 18 October 1965
Littleton Independent, 22 July 1938
Taylor, Cary M., "The Architecture of J. B. Benedict," Boulder: Western Interstate Commission
for Higher Education, 1974)
Photographs courtesy of the Littleton Museum unless otherwise noted. To order copies, contact the museum at 303-795-3950.
Compiled by Doris Farmer Hulse
Edited by Kris Christensen, Colorado Digitization Project
Last revised May 2017