Arapahoe Community College

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When Richard Little settled on the banks of the South Platte River in 1862 and in 1873 donated the land for the one-room, brick Rapp Street School, little did he know that he was planting the seeds that would eventually grow to nourish more than 22,000 college students annually on that very site.

The idea of a college for Littleton dates back to February 22, 1924, when the Littleton Independent declared "a junior college is a possibility in the near future." This proclamation was a bit premature, however, as it was not until 1959 that Littletonites voted on the creation of a junior college -- and defeated it by a 13-to-1 ratio. Five years later, city leaders were struggling with ideas to revive a sluggish Main Street area. One idea sprang from a Chicago slum area which had been revitalized by the construction of a junior college. So on May 4, 1965, a better-informed and more civically-minded public established Arapahoe Junior College (AJC).

Work immediately began to pick a location. A total of eighteen sites were investigated before the selection of 51 acres including West Elementary School just south of the downtown area. While raising the $3 million needed to purchase and remove 55 homes for the new campus, classes would begin at the elementary school.

Schools - Temporary Location Arapahoe Community College during 1965 flood.
Members of the original A.C.C. faculty gathered in front of temporary building. Date unknown.

The first president chosen for AJC was Allan Crawfurd, Ed.D. He opened up office in an old corner grocery store while renovations to West School proceeded. By September 1966, Dr. Crawfurd and 23 faculty members welcomed the first class of 550 full- and part-time students. Before long, the college outgrew the old elementary school, so classrooms, offices and whole departments began moving into houses being purchased for eventual demolition. One such location was a Victorian structure with three fireplaces that became known as "Wuthering Heights" and housed, appropriately, the English Department.

In 1970, after only four years of operation, AJC was honored with membership in the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools, the quickest accreditation at that time for any junior college. That same year, the same voters whose vision had begun the college, voted again to dissolve the Arapahoe Junior College District -- but only to allow AJC to join the State System of Community Colleges. The name was changed to Arapahoe Community College (ACC).

Schools - early Arapahoe Community College
Arapahoe Community College. Date unknown.

Dr. Crawfurd, who had been so instrumental in AJC's growth (400%) and speedy accreditation, retired in 1972. In 1974, the college finally moved into its four-story permanent campus building, which the school newspaper called "the Grey Monster." The concrete structure contained 197,000 square feet, and a subsequent annex in 1977 added another 84,000 square feet. Designed to serve 4,000 students, enrollment immediately soared to that level. Other buildings around campus continued to be used, and the old West School building was renamed North Building and received extensive renovations in 1983. The Art and Design Center, on the corner of Alamo St. and Prince St., was opened in 1990 and is the home to the college's art, fine art, design and technology programs. The University Center of Chaparral near Parker opened in spring 2001 through a unique consortium of Arapahoe Community College, the University of Colorado at Denver, the University of Denver and the Douglas County School District. Distance learning programs are also offered by Arapahoe Community College and web-based instruction continues to expand.

 ACC sign 2015
Front entrance of Arapahoe Community College, 2015. Photo by Amelia Martinez.
 ACC Building 2015
Arapahoe Community College, 2015. Photo by Amelia Martinez.

As ACC reached its 25th anniversary in 1990, coinciding with Littleton's centennial, it had grown into one of the largest of Colorado's eleven community colleges.  In 2000 ACC completed a nearly $13 million expansion.  Today, in 2017, ACC's campuses in Littleton, Parker and Castle Rock offer nearly 100 degree and certificate programs and over 200 online classes.

The motto of Arapahoe Community College is "Progenitores Summus" meaning "We are the leaders." Certainly everything in its history underscores this.

Bibliography

Kurtzman, Sally. Quarter Century of Excellence, Arapahoe Community College, 1965-1990. Littleton: The College, 1990.

Littleton Museum. Photographic Archives.

____. Vertical File: "Arapahoe Community College".

McQuarie, Robert J. and C.W. Buchholtz. Littleton, Colorado: Settlement to Centennial. Littleton: Littleton Historical Museum and Friends of the Library and Museum, 1990.

Photographs courtesy of the Littleton Museum unless otherwise noted. To order copies, contact the museum at 303-795-3950.

 

Compiled by Pat Massengill and Phyllis Larison

Updated May 2017