Woodlawn Shopping Center

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The Woodlawn Shopping Center took its name from the area that had been known as the "Woodlawn Addition" at least as early as 1906 when ads were running in the Littleton Independent for lots in what had been the Stark Brothers orchard, north of Littleton Broadway (Littleton Boulevard) and east of Sixth Avenue (so called because it was six blocks east of the railroads.)The addition was on the hill just outside the town of Littleton. Sixth Avenue (now Windermere) was the dividing line. Lots in Woodlawn were about one-quarter acre "with Fruit Bearing Trees and Water [from artesian wells] Mains in the Alleys," and were advertised for one-and-one-half cents per square foot.

Page's Orchard, later known as Woodlawn.

The Arapahoe County Courthouse can be seen in the distance in this photograph of Page's Orchard, later known as Woodlawn. The tall standpipe was Littleton's water reservoir. c.1909.

In the early 1950s when Varian Ashbaugh, Carroll Quelland and J. Sherman Brown decided to develop the Florian Ashbaugh property directly across Littleton Boulevard, "Woodlawn" seemed the natural name to use. The Ashbaugh land was covered, not with fruit trees, but with giant old cottonwoods. Florian Ashbaugh's log house had been built from them and was called "Cottonwood Cottage."

In May 1952 John L. Gray had bought the Ashbaugh property when he presented plans for a shopping center to the Arapahoe County planning commission. The following July his request for a zoning change from residential to commercial was approved. The center was to be "a short distance east of Windermere." The reason for that was because there were still several houses facing Windermere south of Littleton Boulevard. The one on the corner was the stately brick home of Mable (Mrs. Walter) Ficklin. Others were the Mrs. James Lawler, Clyde Potts, and John Griffith residences. This part of the area south of Littleton Boulevard was officially known as Windermere Heights.

Carroll Quelland has explained that the developers first bought the "back yards" of these homes. Their lots, he said, ran all the way from Windermere to Datura Street (except for the Ficklin lot which ran north and south along Windermere). Negotiations with the homeowners eventually led to removal of the houses in return for Quelland, who owned a number of building lots in Littleton, constructing a new house for each of them. The shopping center then could occupy all the land up to Windermere. Indeed, some early sketches of the shopping center show it's west wing set back from Windermere.

J. Sherman Brown bought the 1922 Georgian colonial Ficklin home at 110 South Windermere. It was stripped of its bricks, boarded up and moved to what was then known as the old Fischbach property, now 6698 South Acoma. The bricks were replaced, a garage added underneath, and possibly an addition was built. Difficult as it may seem that the large house was almost taken apart, moved and put back together, the newspaper account on February 11, 1955 described the operation, including the route it was to take to its new location. Photographs of the house when it was on Windermere confirm its identity.

Flor Ashbaugh Home, 1001 Littleton Blvd. 1920
Flor Ashbaugh Home, 1001 Littleton Blvd., c.1920

The Lawler home was at 140 South Windermere. It is described by Quelland as having been a frame house, and an old one. He says it was sold and moved. It has not been determined where it was taken. Nor is the fate of the Clyde Potts house from 146 South Windermere known.

The John Griffith house, also known as the Nate Burt home, was a brick story-and-a-half residence with dormers. It had also been occupied by Grant Fleming, Dr. J. R. Crist, and C. S. Hill. It stood at 170 South Windermere and was moved one and one-half blocks south and to the opposite side of the street, to 5939 South Windermere. Ashbaugh's log house was torn down.

Meanwhile, the cottonwood trees were cleared and stacked in great piles that presented a problem until a neighbor on Gallup Street offered to haul them away one at a time for firewood. The original three developers bought back the property and the plans from John Gray and proceeded to contact potential businesses for the center, which was said to be "the first shopping center within five miles of Littleton," and certainly the first one in Littleton.

The major retailer needed was a supermarket. Safeway finally bought the east portion of the center for its store and opened in August 1955. Charles Fetterhoff was the manager.

Ashbaugh home on present-day site of Woodlawn Shopping Center. 1920s or 30s
Ashbaugh home on present-day site of Woodlawn Shopping Center. Photo circa 1920s or 30s.

The west leg of the L-shaped brick multi-store shopping center was built in 1955. Its first tenant was Republic Drug operated by Louis "Arky" McIntosh in the northwest corner unit. It opened in October 1955 and was followed a few days later by Lois Blythe's Young World clothing store for children. Third occupant was John Wallace Shoes in November. In December, and in time for Christmas, Van B's Dads and Lads store for men became the fourth shop. The Van Bebbers were in Woodlawn from 1955 to 1989, a total of thirty-four years. Also in December 1955, Fashion Center by George Trowbridge opened next door north of Van B's.

By February 1956 the above businesses were operating, as well as Sterling Hardware and the Lazy Susan. The latter was a gourmet delicatessen and catering service owned by Charles Martin. He also stocked a variety of imported cheeses, jams and canned French truffles-a shop some forty years ahead of its time for Littleton. The Woolworth store with its popular lunch counter announced its grand opening for February 16-18, 1956.

The second wing of the center was finished in 1956 and ran east and west.

Saturday, May 12, 1956 (probably Mother's Day weekend), big things were planned at Woodlawn. Sheriff Scotty, local television favorite, would ride his horse to the center from the depot and share stories, balloons and rubber balls with the kiddies. (He was sponsored by the U. S. Rubber Company, makers of Keds.) Three new businesses would open in the new section: Woodlawn Produce, Warfield Radio and TV and Gigantic Cleaners. Free ice cream, coffee, hot chocolate, Vanda orchids for the ladies, a fashion show, the Meadow Gold carousel and shopping bargains were anticipated.

Woodlawn Produce was an open-air market owned by the Sato brothers, Frank, Joe and George. Jim Fujita was also involved in it. The Sato brothers were the owners of the HandiSpot Market on Santa Fe south of Hampden Avenue. The Woodlawn Produce market featured fresh fruits and vegetables, some canned goods and picnic items, bedding plants, and Christmas trees at the holidays. It was located in the middle of the new south wing, directly in line with the center's entrance off Littleton Boulevard. Occupying several storefronts, it had two large garage doors at the front that rolled up for access. Toyo Nobuta ran Woodlawn Produce from about 1958 to May 1961, when he moved to the Safeway store in Woodlawn.

John Warfield had moved his radio and television repair business from Main Street to Woodlawn for the May 1956 opening. Next door to his store, his wife, Morine, had already opened her new beauty shop. Anchoring the east end of the new wing, Gigantic Cleaners with manager Al Kunkel was ready to specialize in one-hour dry cleaning. Columbine Finance, owned by Councilman Charles Grout, had opened his office several weeks before. Soon to follow were Allen's Ice Cream, Lowdermilk Bakery, Castle Furniture and Bob and Nancy Fritz's Woodlawn Flowers.

As early as February 1955 the announcement had been made that an 800-seat movie theater would be built in the Woodlawn Shopping Center. It opened as the Fox Woodlawn Theater early summer of 1957. The first showing was the film "Tammy" starring Debbie Reynolds. It was the Woodlawn Theater when it closed, probably in the mid-1970s. Radio station KMOR was upstairs beside the theater in the 1960s.

After some controversy with neighbors and school officials, Woodlawn Liquors was established in the west wing of the center. In November 1957 the Safeway had so much business that it expanded. About 1970 it built an entirely new store in the design that Safeway was using for all its new stores, using a high roof with flaring eves. It was built just south of the old store which continued to operate until the new one was finished. Then the old one was torn down. Safeway closed its Woodlawn store in 1984.

Sometime between 1960 and 1962 Henri Grusin consolidated his longtime downtown Henri's Jewelry store with the shop he had established in the Woodlawn center. Harold Horiuchi had run the Woodlawn location. In 1971 the Keith Tanke family bought the business; in 1997 Keith's son, Karl Tanke, bought it from his father. The business still carries the Henri's name and in 2003 is the oldest merchant still in Woodlawn.

The Littleton National Bank did not open its branch facility in the northwest corner unit of Woodlawn until 1980. About five or six months later it opened its Woodlawn drive-up bank.  Littleton National Bank became Affiliated Littleton National Bank and was later taken over by Bank One. The walk-in bank in Woodlawn closed about 1996.  Bank One Corporation merged with JP Morgan Chase & Co. in July 2004. The Bank One drive through in Woodlawn was changed to the new company name of JP Morgan Chase & Co. In 2015 the four lane drive through was closed and the structure was transformed to an ATM location, one walk in and one drive up.

In 2008, the Woodlawn Shopping Center, then owned by Littleton Capital Partners, made improvements and renovations costing about $2 million.  LCP focused repairs on the parking areas, the aging exterior, outdated signage and the poorly maintained landscape. 

The shopping center was sold in 2015 to a company based in California--Cadence Littleton Co. LLC.  This San Rafael-based business is an arm of a larger company called Cadence Asset Management.  With its headquarters in San Francisco, this private retail investment manager bought the shopping center for $10 million.

A few of the businesses occupying Woodlawn Shopping Center at 1500 West Littleton Boulevard in 2017 are Sherwin Williams, Act II Consignment Boutique, Anytime Fitness, Family Dollar Store, Harley's: A Hot Dog Revolution, Louis' Diner, Mountain Man Fruit & Nut, India's Best Restaurant, and New Creations Beauty Salon.  Plans were announced in 2017 to add a new 5000 square foot building to the shopping center; the building will include a drive-through coffee shop.

Woodlawn Plaza

Varian Ashbaugh and Carroll Quelland acquired nearly an acre of L-shaped ground east of Datura by February 1960 and said that, while they had no immediate plans, they would probably build a series of small shops facing west. They said they had bought the Earl Barcus and Henry Mefford land, giving them 150 feet along the south side of Littleton Boulevard. The Barcus and Mefford houses had already been moved. They had also secured the adjoining land on Gallup Avenue that had been the Lucy Huntley property. It still had two small rental houses on it.

The "series of small shops," built of brick, was erected between February 1960 and October 1964, when a sketch of the block showed ten units there, four of which were occupied. It extended straight back from Littleton Boulevard. This became Woodlawn Plaza (also called "Little Woodlawn.")

Bibliography

Adams, Bruce, Technician, Littleton Police Department, 2255 West Berry Avenue, Littleton, CO 80120, telephone interviews by Doris Farmer Hulse. January, February, 2001.

Brown, Joan (Bradley), Littleton, CO, telephone interview by Doris Farmer Hulse. January 10, 2001.

The Denver (Colo.) Post. The Denver Post Publishers, 1895-

Ficklin, Walter. Ficklin Papers, Littleton Historical Museum.

Littleton, Colorado City Directories, 1932, 1934, 1953, 1955, 1957, 1959.

Littleton (Colo.) Independent. Littleton Independent Publishers, 1888-

Littleton Museum. Card file: Woodlawn Shopping Center; Photographic Archives.

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

Nobuta, Toyo, Littleton, CO, telephone interview by Doris Farmer Hulse. February 19, 2001.

Pratt, Glenn, Littleton, CO, telephone interview by Doris Farmer Hulse. January 24, 2001.

Simovich, John, Littleton, CO, telephone interview by Doris Farmer Hulse. February 19, 2001.

Tanke, Karl, owner, Henri's Jewelry, Woodlawn Shopping Center, 1500 West Littleton Boulevard, Littleton, CO 80120, telephone interview by Doris Farmer Hulse. January 24, 2001.

Tanke, Keith, former owner, Henri's Jewelry, Woodlawn Shopping Center, 1500 West Littleton Boulevard, Littleton, CO, telephone interview by Doris Farmer Hulse. February 23, 2001.

Trujillo. Evelyn, Union Bank and Trust, 5501 South Broadway, Littleton, CO 80121, telephone interview by Doris Farmer Hulse. February 23, 2001.

Quelland, Carroll, Lakewood, CO, telephone interviews by Doris Farmer Hulse. January 17, February 24, 2001.

Van Bebber, Florence, Littleton, CO, telephone interviews and emails by Doris Farmer Hulse. February, 2001.

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 May 2017