Littleton, Colorado, is located just a few minutes south of Denver near U.S. Highway 85 and State Highway 470. It’s a cozy town of 48,171 with a small-town atmosphere that residents love. Littleton has a rich heritage and long history of resiliency, determination, and innovation. It began as a food-producing village but evolved into manufacturing as the region’s technology, available resources, and industrial needs changed.
Over the past 135 years, the Littleton community has adapted and persevered through challenges just as its innovative and visionary founder, Richard Sullivan Little, did. An engineer and surveyor from New Hampshire, he relocated to the Colorado Territory during the Pike’s Peak gold rush just as many did. However, he was not chasing tales of gold. He wanted to earn a steady income by providing his services to the people in the area.
In the late 1800s, the growing Denver metropolitan area was arid and lacked ample water systems. Farms, towns, and businesses in the region depended on man-made ditches to channel water from nearby creeks. Upon Little’s arrival to Denver City in 1886, a local business had a water supply problem with an irrigation ditch that supplied water from the South Platte River. The business hired Little to investigate and repair the problem. He found it soon, and the repair plan was to construct a new water passageway that connected to the river several miles upstream from the old one.
However, the Civil War and financial issues of the company that hired him forced the project to end before he finished it. Although Little returned to his surveying work for the locals, he had grown quite fond of the area along the river where he had been building the new irrigation ditch. He knew that the area could produce crops and sustainability with a reliable water source.
In a few decisive moves, Little changed this area forever. He purchased the 920-acre tract that included the water passage he was once hired to repair. On it, he built a home for himself and his wife. He and some neighbors rerouted the old water ditch and began producing corn, wheat, barley, and other crops.
The remote area made it difficult to travel to Denver’s mills to process grain for himself and to sell the excess. Again, Little had to improvise. In 1867, he and his neighbors again tapped into that old irrigation ditch. They became partners and built a grain elevation and mill of their own. With the new Rough and Ready Flour Mill, they could process the grain themselves. This new business provided the area with the economic upstart it needed to thrive.
The mill burned twice over the years, and Richard Little did what he had always done – he adapted by rebuilding with stone. In 1872, he and his wife subdivided much of their land to create the town of Littleton.
Littleton, Colorado, is an inspiring example of perseverance and staying focused. When Richard Little was planting crops all those years ago, he must have also planted seeds of determination and endurance for future generations to one day reap.
Littleton is also an example of a well-planned city. Picturesque mountain views, various styles of residential living, accessibility, and excellent schools, contributed to their recognition by WalletHub’s 2020 List of Best Small Cities in America. So did its buzzing nightlife options and wide range of parks, trails, and golf courses.