Chronology of Littleton History

Color image of Centennial Race Track postcard

c. 20,000 BC- Prehistoric big-game hunters use the valley of the South Platte River for hunting and camping.

c. 7000 BC- Prehistoric hunters at the Lamb Springs site, about seven miles SW of Littleton.

c. 4000 BC- Altithermal Period: Climate changes to hot and dry, pushing prehistoric hunters off the plains.

c. 2500 BC- Milder climate returns and nomadic Native American hunters and foragers reside and roam within the South Platte Valley.

1720- Spanish military expedition of Pedro De Villasur reaches the "Rio Jesus Maria", as they call the South Platte River.

1763- Early French claims to the Platte River drainage ended; Spanish claims reasserted.

c. 1770- Arapaho and Cheyenne tribes migrate into the region, coming from the Dakotas and Minnesota.

1800- Spain gives its land claims to France.

1803- President Thomas Jefferson buys land from France in the transaction known as the "Louisiana Purchase."

c. 1810- Fur trappers and traders enter the region, occasionally camping nearby.

c. 1815- Trappers' rendezvous held north of the area, near Bear Creek.

1820- Expedition commanded by Major Stephen H. Long exploring the South Platte River pass the future site of Littleton.

1858- Gold is discovered in the sands of Little Dry Creek, four miles north of the area.

1859- The "Pikes Peak" gold rush begins, centering on the confluence of Cherry Creek and the South Platter River; Denver City is founded; Capital Hydraulic Company is organized to dig the "City Ditch" to supply water to Denver and surrounding areas.

1860- Richard Sullivan Little, an engineer from Grafton, NH, arrives in Colorado Territory.

1861- Richard Little becomes chief engineer for the Capital Hydraulic Company and begins construction of an irrigation ditch drawing water from the South Platte River near present-day Littleton.

1862- Richard Little files for a homestead and makes other land claims; Dozens of other farms and ranches established all along the South Platte Valley.

1864- A school is established in Richard Little's cabin, the precursor of School District No. 6.

1867- Several neighbors join with Richard Little to build the Rough and Ready Flour Mill on his property to process the abundant grain being grown in the area; it is an immediate success selling to the Denver area market and as far away as Boston.

1869- U.S. Post Office designated at Littleton, with Richard Little as the first Postmaster.

1871- Tracks of the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad reach area around Richard Little's farm; St. Paul's Episcopal Church is consecrated.

1872- Rough and Ready Flour Mill is destroyed by fire and quickly rebuilt; Richard Little subdivides his property and files a plat for the village of Littleton.

1873- Brick school house built near Rapp Street; Denver and Rio Grande depot built.

1874- Denver, South Park and Pacific Railroad (also called the Colorado and Southern) tracks laid west of the South Platte River; Second fire destroys the flour mill and it is again quickly rebuilt, this time of stone and brick.

1876- Colorado becomes the 38th state in the Union during the nation's centennial.

1879- Construction begins on the Highline Canal to supply water to Littleton and points north and east. It is completed in 1883.

1883- First Presbyterian Church is organized.

1887- Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad extends its line to Littleton, building a depot in 1888.

1888- Littleton Independent (originally called the Littleton Gazette) founded.

1890- Town of Littleton incorporated with a population of 245; John G. Lilley Hook and Ladder Company organized as Littleton's volunteer fire department; Methodist Church organized.

1900- Population of Littleton is 738 at the turn of the century.

1901- St. Mary's Catholic Church is built.

1902- Arapahoe County is subdivided by the state legislature into South Arapahoe ("south" is soon dropped), Denver, Adams, Washington and Yuma Counties; Littleton is named temporary county seat.

1903- Electricity switched on for Littleton residents.

1904- Littleton defeats Englewood, 1,310 votes to 829, in the election to determine the permanent Arapahoe County seat.

1907- Electric trolley car line extended into Littleton; construction begins on the county courthouse (completed in 1908).

1910- Census has Littleton's population at 1,373.

1915- Old Harwood Inn, longtime Littleton landmark which had been renamed the Sunshine and Shadow Inn, is destroyed by fire.

1917- Carnegie Foundation-funded library built at the west end of Main Street; America enters the "Great War" (World War I, ending in 1918).

1920- High school built on Grant Street; Town Hall built on Main Street; population reaches 1,636.

1926- Buses replace Littleton's street car line.

1929- Boosters advertise Littleton as the "Center of the State's Poultry Industry."

1930- J.B. Benedict-designed Presbyterian Church completed; census counts 2,019 residents.

1933- First National Bank fails.

1935- Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) establishes a supply center and the Works Progress Administration (WPA) initiates numerous city improvement projects.

1938- U.S. Highway 85 is rerouted west of downtown, along present-day Santa Fe Drive.

1940- Littleton's population put at 2,244.

1941- America enters World War II (ending in 1945).

1942- Heckethorn Manufacturing Company, making projectiles for the Navy, becomes Littleton's largest employer (with 700 employed in 1944).

1950- C.A. Norgren Company moves to Littleton; Centennial Race Track opens; population reaches 3,370.

1952- Brookridge Heights and Malo Farm (Broadmoor) developments begin.

1955- Glenn L. Martin Company announces plans to build a major defense plant southwest of Littleton.

1959- Home Rule Charter/City Manager Plan accepted by voters; South Suburban Parks and Recreation District created; Rough and Ready Flour Mill destroyed by fire for the last time.

1960- Professional fire department replaces volunteers; street names and numbers changed to conform with Denver Metro area; population has swollen to 13,670.

1965- Voters approve college district formation; the great South Platte River flood triggers renewed interest in the long-debated Chatfield Dam; Bemis Public Library opens.

1970- Littleton Historical Museum opens; Population reaches 26,466.

1972- Chatfield Dam reservoir begins collecting water.

1975- After a major beautification program and adoption of a controversial sign code, Littleton named as one of "America's fifteen best suburbs" by Ladies Home Journal.

1976- AT&SF railroad depot restored for Depot Art Center.

1980- Population has grown to 28,631 residents.

1984- Centennial Race Track closes to make way for one of many new major developments.

1990- Littleton marks its centennial; Arapahoe Community College celebrates 25th anniversary; population at 33,661.

1997- Ground is broken for construction of the Southwest Corridor Light Rail Line which will link Littleton with Denver.

1999- The city's official government Web site, is launched.

2000- Former Arapahoe County Courthouse is renovated and and dedicated as the new Littleton Municipal Courthouse; RTD opens the new Southwest Corridor Light Rail Line; Littleton World War II Memorial is dedicated in Ketring Park on Veteran's Day

2001- Population of Littleton reaches 43,580.

2002- The Olympic Torch is carried through Littleton on its way to the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah.

2003- A "100-year blizzard" dumps over three feet of snow in Littleton in March; construction begins on the new Littleton Historical Museum building.

2004- The new Littleton Fire Rescue station #12 is dedicated; construction begins on the new Littleton recreation center.

2005- The Greater Littleton Youth Initiative was recognized by the Unites States Conference of Mayors as a winner in the City Livability Awards Program; the Denver Seminary completed relocation to its new home on S. Santa Fe Drive.

2006- The Littleton Immigrant Integration Initiative's One-Stop Information Center opened at Bemis Public Library.

2007- The Danny Dietz Memorial Sculpture was dedicated on July 4; voters overturned the city council rezoning of three parcels of land on S. Santa Fe Drive for a Wal-Mart store.

2008- Littleton celebrated the 100th birthday of the beautifully restored Arapahoe County Courthouse (now Littleton Municipal Courthouse); the Littleton Police Department began a K-9 program, acquiring two Belgian Malinois dogs.

2009- Management of the One-Stop Information Center created by the Littleton Immigrant Integration Initiative in 2005 was transferred to Bemis Public Library; Littleton was one of the first two cities in the country to participate in a new program designed by the National League of Cities to enhance immigrant integration efforts. Reynolds Landing Park is dedicated.

2010- The population of Littleton was 41,737; the 1921 Edwin A. Bemis home was dedicated after extensive renovations; the Humane Society of the South Platte Valley opened on West Chenango Avenue--the cities of Littleton and Englewood worked for more than a year to form a new animal shelter.

2011- More than $1 million in improvements to South Platte Park were completed; the expansion and remodel of the Littleton Police Department was also completed.

2013- The Littleton City Council approved the development of Littleton Village; the 77 acre site had been vacant for more than thirteen years when Marathon Oil closed its doors. Plans for the site included residential units, a park, and commercial space.

2014- The Littleton Community Trail, connecting Big Dry Creek Trail on the north to the Lee Gulch Trail on the south, was completed.

2015- Littleton celebrated the 125th anniversary of its founding with events throughout the year and a celebratory weekend March 7-8.

2016- A new fire station was built and opened in the TrailMark neighborhood of Littleton. Bemis Public Library was renovated with new carpet, paint and furniture.

2017- City staff worked with CDOT to coordinate improvements to the Broadway and County Line Road intersection as part of the C470 Express Lanes Project. In addition to a new traffic signal, another left turn lane was added from southbound Broadway to eastbound County Line. The Littleton Twilight Criterium, in its fifth year, drew 6000 spectators and 300 bicycle racers.

2018- Littleton voters approved inclusion of Littleton Fire Rescue with South Metro Fire Rescue. The election concluded a process that involved many years of study and discussion.

2019- The city council adopted the Envision Littleton Comprehensive Plan, one of the most important accomplishments in recent history. It will guide future development, redevelopment and community enhancement over the next 20 years.

2020- The COVID19 pandemic occurred and in response, the city launched Weekends on Main, an outdoor seating plan for Main Street restaurants to help restaurants obtain additional seating outside to compensate for the seating lost inside due to social-distancing requirements. The city also began a Temporary Outdoor Expansion program to permit any Littleton business to temporarily operate in outdoor settings adjacent to their building in order to compensate for the seating lost inside due to social-distancing requirements of the pandemic. The Littleton City Council approved grant programs to local businesses and non-profit organizations to help mitigate economic hardships due to the pandemic.


Hicks, Dave. Littleton From the Beginning. Denver: Egan Printing, 1975.

Littleton Museum. Photographic Archives.

McQuarie, Robert J. and C.W. Buchholtz. Littleton, Colorado: Settlement to Centennial. Littleton: Littleton Historical Museum and Friends of the 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 Pat Massengill, Phyllis Larison, and Catherine Weaver

Updated May 2021 by Phyllis Larison