In 1870, a group of prominent men in Chicago decided to start a new town in Colorado. They sold memberships in this new town, called "The Chicago-Colorado Colony" and used the money to buy 60,000 acres of land for a town and nearby farms in a carefully chosen site in northern Colorado. They named the new town " Longmont " in honor of Longs Peak , the beautiful mountain clearly visible from the town.
Thanks to a decade of creative planning and on-going revitalization, the downtown Longmont district is laid out on a clear and elegant grid that provides easy walking and graceful tree-lined streets. Situated in the shadow of the spectacular Rocky Mountains, Downtown Longmont is an area rich in heritage with dozens of buildings dating back to the early 1900s. These eclectic buildings now house more than 300 businesses and organizations. Thousands of Longmont residents and visitors come downtown throughout the year to enjoy a wide range of arts and entertainment, shopping, and dining.
Step back in time and visit landmarks which help tell the story of the evolution of Downtown Longmont and its surrounding neighborhoods. Self guide brochures of the downtown’s historical areas are available at the St. Vrain Historical Society located in the old St. Stephen’s Church at 470 Main St.
If you would like a private tour for small groups of 5 or more, call Historical Tours and Talks at 303-776-3611.
Main Street Landmarks
Many of downtown’s historical landmarks tell the story of Longmont’s Main Street with its humble beginnings as the hub of a new and developing Chicago colony of farmers and investors.
St. Stephen’s Church, 470 Main Strett, was erected in 1881 as the first home of the 35 member congregation of St. Stephen’s Episcopal parish. The building became home to the St. Vrain Historical Society in 1976. For a history of the old church visit the Historical Society website.
The Fox /Trojan Theatre, 513 Main Street, opened in December 1939 as the New Fox Theatre with 710 seats. The theatre was renamed in 1960, the Trojan Theatre. It was playing first run features until 1984 when it switched to an art house. It closed two years later. It was purchased by the Longmont Theatre Company in 1990 and converted to live performances. It has been fully restored to its beautiful Art Moderne style. It was given Landmark status in 1991.
The Carlton Hotel, 416 Main Street., was constructed in 1906 and granted landmark statue in 1996.
The Dickens Opera House, 300 Main Street., was originally built in 1881 by William Henry Dickens, a distant relative to the famous Charles Dickens. The parcel that the building sits on was given to his father by President Ulysees S. Grant.
J.C. Penney Meat Market, the site of the old J. C. Penny Meat Market is marked by a plaque found at 311 Main Street. J. C. Penny had a humble start in Longmont before going on to become a giant in the retail business.
Check out many more historical buildings and intersections as you amble along the historic streets of Downtown Longmont. The City’s website has a list of all designated historical structures in Longmont.
The Historic East and Westside Neighborhoods
As the name implies, the Historic East and Westside neighborhoods are strongly historical in character. A large number of the homes date from the late 1800's or early 1900's, and many have been carefully restored. Laid out by the original town planners in 1871, the neighborhoods feature several unique amenities associated with the original Longmont, such as wide streets, large lots, and mature trees. One of the main characteristics of the Historic East and Westside neighborhoods is their small town feel, which is emphasized by their proximity to historic Main Street shops and services. Visitors to Longmont often find themselves strolling leisurely through the neighborhoods, savoring the charm and character of the historic homes and beautiful gardens.
When the Chicago-Colorado Colony founded Longmont in 1871, the earliest residences were scattered throughout the original square-mile town site. During the 1880s residential development concentrated on the east side and many examples of Victorian, Edwardian, Italianate and Queen Anne styles of that era still exist today. Many streets in the Historic Eastside Neighborhood are named after original founding fathers of Longmont, including Kimbark, Emery, Collyer, Atwood, and Baker. During the 1880s residential development concentrated on the east side and many examples of Victorian, Edwardian, Italianate and Queen Anne styles of that era still exist today. Uniformity is not a feature of the residences in the Historic Eastside neighborhood and many of the houses reflect the charm and character of bygone times. The boundaries are from Kimbark Street east to Martin Street and 3rd Avenue north to 9th Avenue.
The Historic Westside Neighborhood was settled more than 100 years ago, by the original pioneers of the Chicago Colony, They settled the St. Vrain River Valley and brought with them their Midwestern values and aesthetics. The homes reflect the many styles and vernaculars that were familiar to them – Craftsman, Queen Anne, Four Square, Farmhouse and their many variations. They brought an aesthetically pleasing vision, with their large deciduous trees, neighborhood parks and unique homes. In addition, the neighborhood has historic homes that are used for small businesses and the neighborhood includes a portion of the downtown business community. The boundaries are from the west side of Main Street to the east side of Bowen St, and from the north side of 3rd Ave to the south side of 9th Ave.
Thompson Park Neighborhood, Historic Westside
Take a tour of the Westside Historic District and admire homes designated as local landmarks by the Longmont Historical Preservation Commission. The homes demonstrate the rich variety of Longmont’s architectural heritage including the Callahan House, a brick Queen Anne style home now available to rent for weddings and private events.
Third Avenue, Historic Westside
A tour of the homes along Third Avenue will take you back to the beginning of the 20th century when the farms surrounding Longmont, and the agricultural-related industry they spawned, brought new prosperity to that part of town. Successful Longmont citizens built elaborate and beautiful homes along Third Avenue, eager to display their new found wealth. They often filled in vacant lots between earlier structures or replaced original, less elaborate homes with the new houses.
Historical Photo Gallery
For more than 100 years, Longmont has embraced the development of its unique small town, making in the vibrant place it is today. Visit the Longmont Museum Historic Photo Gallery for a journey back in time.