Notable building marks 150 years

Former general store goes back to early days of metro area

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On July 30, Historic Littleton Inc. invites interested folks to join the organization at 2 p.m. in celebrating the 150th anniversary of the J.D. Hill General Store at 5728/5738 S. Rapp Street (just east of the Bowles Avenue and Santa Fe Drive intersection). A brief walking tour along South Rapp Street will follow, introducing other important nearby buildings as well, including the Richard Little House and the Columbine Mill.

HLI member Rebecca Kast writes: “Picture the J.D. Hill building with horses tied up to the posts ... This was the economic center of the little hamlet of Littleton. The mill was here, a hotel, the church and a schoolhouse were built nearby. With the road to Santa Fe right in front, it was a convenient stop for travelers. The J.D. Hill Store was Littleton’s first general store and post office. This is a two-story, wood clapboard building with three chimneys of corbeled brick. It has been remodeled extensively. The social activities of Littleton revolved around this building 150 years ago ...”

The second floor served as meeting space, including for the Weston Masonic Lodge (which is housed nearby and is also about to celebrate 150 years).

J.D. Hill was born in Massachusetts and arrived in Denver in 1866. He cut hay along the South Platte River and worked at assorted odd jobs. He arrived in Littleton in 1870 and worked at the Rough and Ready Flourmill. In 1872 he built a large two-story white frame building and stocked hay, coal, groceries and dry goods. It was also the first post office and both Richard Little and Hill served as postmaster ...

The building also served as meeting place for Catholic, Methodist and Christian Science churches and the Odd Fellows Lodge. The town was incorporated in 1890 and Hill served on the first city council, and again in 1895-1896. The building served as a town hall until 1920 when the Italianate building on Main Street was completed.

The first drugstore was on the present site of the Masonic Hall, operated by Hill’s brother, Oscar.

Hill married Inez Berry in 1876 and they had one daughter, Eva.

In 1884, with J.S. Morse, Hill built the Littleton Creamery next to the general store on Alamo Street and his first home was on the north side of Main Street, near the present location of Bradford Auto Body. The creamery was part of a larger facility and by 1888, it was processing milk from 1,000 dairy cows, belonging to farmers who brought their milk into Littleton. By 1902, the creamery building was used as Littleton’s first high school and by 1908 the Christ Scientist Church used the building for religious services.

Hill was also one of the organizers of the First National Bank in Littleton, which closed during the Depression.

For a time, the building served as residences and it’s not certain when the front porch was added.

The Littleton Flower Shop and Pongo Lifestyles fill the Hill Building’s storefronts today. The florist has been in Littleton at other locations for many years. Pongo means orangutan, according to assistant manager Anne Kiley, who said the store carries clothing, accessories, jewelry, gifts, shoes, pet items and more. The owner is Ronna Phillips, who is active in supporting rainforest projects and volunteers with the apes at the Denver Zoo.

To join the celebration and walk, find a parking place in the neighborhood and appear at the former J.D. Hill General Store at 2 p.m. (Note: Historic Littleton Inc. welcomes new members.)

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