Those who were interested in incorporation for Littleton began to get serious in 1889 when Joseph Bowles and other landowners west of the Platte River moved to incorporate the town of Wynetka to avoid Littleton taxes. The race was on to see who could take in the lands across the river first. Sheridan was consolidating just to the north, and there was always the threat of Denver "casting its influences about us." Both Wynetka and Littleton filed papers the same day, 1 October 1889. Wynetka won because Littleton's papers were faulty and had to be resubmitted.
Finally, on 8 March 1890, Littleton citizens were ready for the vote. Incorporation passed with only three votes dissenting. Further elections on 1 April yielded a mayor, F. S. Gilmore, and trustees J. D. Hill, Harry Knight, A. M. Bair, F. W. Shuckhart, Dr. W. S. Weaver, and John G. Lilley. (Wynetka lasted slightly more than two years and was discontinued.)
Editor Emeritus Houstoun Waring (probably relating accounts by Ed Bemis) said that the early town board met upstairs in the J. D. Hill general store on Rapp Street and also in a frame building on Malinda (now Alamo) Street where volunteer firemen kept their equipment. Then they rented rooms in the back of the large building at 2450 West Main which L. Evans had erected in 1889 for his bakery. On 10 September 1898, the city bought "Evans Hall," and made it the official town hall. The site was the same as that used in 1920 for the town hall designed by Jacques Benedict. In 1997 the Benedict building is the Town Hall Arts Center.
Evans Hall sat far back from the sidewalk. After Arapahoe County was divided in 1902, the town board built a brick front on the building and rented the new space to "South Arapahoe County" officials. (Waring said that in 1905 the Lilley Block was built at 2519 West Main and it was used for the county courthouse until the new one was built at the east end of Main Street in 1908.)
From 1890 to 1959, Littleton was a statutory city governed by the Colorado State Legislature. On 28 July 1959 the city charter election was approved, and it became a home-rule city. This meant a change to a city manager style government with seven elected councilmen. Four of these are from legislative districts, and three are elected at large. The council is directly responsible to the people, and, as the community's legislative body, it sets policy, approves budgets, and determines tax rates.
In 2020, Littleton voters approved an amendment to the city charter which, starting in 2021, allows voters to directly elect the mayor. (Previously, the mayor was elected by council every two years from among the seated members.)
|Littleton Center, 2015. Photo by Amelia Martinez.|
The city manager is a professional administrator appointed by council to manage city business. He serves as council's chief advisor, recruits and hires employees, recommends the budget for council's action, and sees that council policies and programs are carried out.
The city used the Benedict town hall at 2450 West Main for fifty-seven years, until the new Littleton Center was built at 2255 West Berry in 1977. The site was fifteen-acre Geneva Village which had been purchased in 1975 after voters approved a bond election. Architect was Muchow Associates of Denver. Robert G. Fisher was contractor. The city made its final payment on 1 July 1986. The complex includes general administrative offices, the police department, a communications department, and public meeting rooms. The Littleton Council Chamber was extensively renovated in 2020.
Mayors of Littleton 1890-Present
Keller, Carolyn. "Joseph W. Bowles. 1835-1906." Research paper prepared for Littleton Historical Museum. Denver, Colo.: University of Colorado at Denver, 1989.
Littleton (Colo.) Independent. Littleton, Colo.: Littleton Independent Publishers, 1888- .
Littleton Museum. Photographic Archives.
____. Vertical Files: "Littleton City Government--General and Town Growth."
McQuarie, Robert J. and C. W. Buchholtz. Littleton, Colorado. Settlement To Centennial. Littleton, Colo.: Littleton Historical Museum and Friends of the Littleton 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 Doris Farmer Hulse
Updated December 2021 by Phyllis Larison