Longmont Presbyterian College, 546 Atwood St., was the birthplace of higher education in Longmont. It was founded by the Presbyterian Synod of Colorado on November 24, 1885. Construction began on the historic building in 1886, and it was intended to serve as the south wing of the college under the original design of a much larger campus. Unfortunately, the remainder of that campus was never built, but the beautiful building that remains today has an interesting history.
The Longmont community offered a generous amount of cash, land and free water to the Presbyterian Synod of Colorado as an incentive to build their college in town. The location of the campus would be “out in the country” on the east end of 6th Avenue, or the edge of town at the time.
Designed by Denver architect Fred Hall, the construction of Longmont Presbyterian College got underway in 1886. The two-story structure was built in the Second Empire style of architecture noted for its mansard roof and inspired by Napoleon III’s French Renaissance. The college’s campus was going to be quite a large complex, however the only portion of the plans to be completed was the south wing. The architectural details of this formal building seem odd and asymmetrical since only a portion of the complex was completed. Elaborate brick work on the façade and a large, institutional entrance are some of the unique characteristics of this stunning building.
Construction was completed in 1886, and the college opened with 16 students under the direction of Dr. William O. Thompson, the local Presbyterian minister who became the college’s first president. The college offered classes in Literature, Latin, Greek, the Sciences, History and Mathematics. It wasn’t too long before the institution had financial difficulties and was forced to close in 1889.
It became the Presbyterian Academy, which also had financial difficulties, and the building was rented to School District 17 in 1896. In 1907, the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi took over ownership and managed St. Joseph’s Academy and later a Catholic High School in the building. From 1941 to 1949, it was the St. Coletta School for Exceptional Children and later St. Coletta’s of the Rockies. The building was converted into apartments in 1949 and still serves that purpose today.
The building received local landmark designation in 1978, and it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1987. To learn more about this and other Longmont landmarks on the National Register of Historic Places, click here. And for more information about local Longmont history, visit stvrainhistoricalsociety.com.
Cover photo courtesy of the Longmont Museum & Cultural Center archives.