Explore our history in Littleton and beyond

Posted 5/6/10

In 1921, Edwin and Katherine Prescott Bemis built a cozy one and a half story frame family home at 5820 S. Bemis Street, bordering on Sterne Park. It …

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Explore our history in Littleton and beyond


In 1921, Edwin and Katherine Prescott Bemis built a cozy one and a half story frame family home at 5820 S. Bemis Street, bordering on Sterne Park. It remained the Bemis family home until Ed Bemis’ death in 1978, when he deeded it to the City of Littleton, specifying that it be part of Sterne Park.

Now, the Littleton Historic Landmark has a new roof, a fresh coat of paint on the original siding, which had long been hidden by a layer of asbestos siding, repaired windows and more — restoration to ensure that it will be a community asset for many more years.

Historic Littleton Inc. invites the community to an open house at the Bemis House from 2 to 4 p.m. May 16 in celebration of National Historic Preservation Month.

For a number of years, the house was rented to South Suburban personnel who maintained the park, but weren’t really charged with maintenance of the house. Eventually, the city took it over and contemplated its future. It needed help and a new use. Western Welcome Week Inc., the nonprofit organization which runs the big community festival in August, is a year-round operation and fits nicely as a tenant, with a 15-year lease.

In “preservation speak,” based on the US Secretary of the Interior’s Standards: the house is representative of local domestic architecture in Littleton in the early 20th century. Specific elements include the side-gable roof with overhanging eves, an original leaded glass window on the west side and a projecting porch on the south side with exposed rafters and paired casement windows. Although the home has been altered over the years with a deck on the rear and asbestos siding, it retains its historic integrity. Restoration efforts enhanced that historic integrity, with paint matched to chips of the original colors and a treated wood shingle roof.

Furthermore, it was the home of a notable person: Edwin Bemis, who was influential in shaping the identity of Littleton. Bemis grew up on his parents’ farm, the house that is now at the Littleton Museum’s 1890s farm. He decided farming was not his future and went to work for the Littleton Independent at age 11, eventually becoming its owner and publisher. He also found time to serve as deputy sheriff, town treasurer, founder of the Littleton Historical Society, which became the Museum and Littleton Rotary founder.

He created and chaired the city planning commission. At the state level, he founded the Colorado Press Association and worked with the Colorado University School of Journalism, from which he hired legendary editor Houstoun Waring. He and his sister Ella operated a book and camera shop on Main Street and he recorded decades of Littleton history with his own camera. His artistic wife Katherine was active in community cultural affairs.

A Colorado Historical Society grant for $198,493, plus City of Littleton matching funds of $93,904 were allocated, Littleton’s Historic Preservation Board approved the project and White Construction was hired to work on the house. Mark Barons, Littleton’s neighborhood resources coordinator was named to oversee the project for the city, coordinating with the state historical society staff, the contractor and Western Welcome Week.

Western Welcome Week director Cindy Hathaway says the plan for interior restoration involves encouraging organizations to adopt a room, since funding is not available in the city budget or that of WWW. Historic Littleton Inc. funded research by an expert who wrote a document suggesting treatments, paints and materials for each room inside so it would retain its historic integrity.

Littleton Rotary, which counts Bemis as a founding member, has agreed to adopt the living room and Littleton Sertoma, the dining room. The kitchen is the big project, since either period or replica stove, refrigerator and sink will be in order.

For information, call WWW director Cindy Hathaway, 303-794-4870.

The Littleton Historical Preservation Board and Historic Littleton Inc. will also present 2010 Preservation Awards to property owners and individuals at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 20 in the Community Room at the Littleton Center.

On June 4, from 2 to 4 p.m. the City of Littleton will hold a ribbon cutting at the Bemis House, with Colorado State Historical officials in attendance. The public is invited.

Other area events:

Castle Rock Historical Society and Museum and the Town of Castle Rock Historic Preservation Board will offer a Trolley Tour of Historic Castle Rock at 9:30 and 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Meet at the Castle Rock Museum, 420 Elbert St. 303-947-6286, luciamcconnell@hotmail.com; 303-704-9222, kbourneswan@aim.com.

2010 Elbert County Museum Opening Day, hosted by the Elbert County Historical Society, 515 Comanche St., Kiowa. 303-621-2229, www.elbertcountymuseum.org.

Larkspur Historical Society will dedicate a kiosk at the historic 1873 Crull Cabin, 6225 Bear Dance Drive, Larkspur. 303-681-3738, dvedanna2@gmail.com, www.larkspurhistoricalsociety.com.

The Wildlife Experience in Parker features Colorado Creatures at 10035 S. Peoria St., at Lincoln Avenue, Parker. 720-488-3300, www.thewildlifeexperience.org.

For a lengthy complete statewide list, which could lead history buffs and their families to all sorts of new adventures, visit www.coloradohistory-oahp.org.

If you go:

Historic Littleton Inc will host an open house 2 to 4 p.m. May 16 at the Bemis House, 5890 S. Bemis St., Littleton, in celebration of National Historic Preservation Month.

Historic Preservation Awards will be presented by the Littleton Historic Preservation Board and Historic Littleton Inc. at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 20 at the Community Room in the Littleton Center, 2255 W. Berry Ave. Littleton.

The City of Littleton will hold a ribbon cutting at Bemis House, 5820 S. Bemis St., Littleton, to celebrate its restoration with Colorado Historical Society funds at 2 to 4 p.m. Friday, June 4.


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