Stepping onto the grounds of the Littleton Museum, shaded with century-old cottonwood trees and peppered with historic buildings, visitors get a glimpse of Littleton’s pioneering past. Nearly as old as Denver itself, Littleton’s beginnings date back to the Pike’s Peak Gold Rush of 1859. The museum, with indoor galleries, two working farms, resident animals, flourishing gardens, and informative volunteers, offers a unique perspective on how the settlers of one of Denver’s earliest neighbor-communities lived and worked.
“Not only is it a state-of-the-art museum building, but it’s also home to 40 acres of living history,” says museum director Tim Nimz. “Visiting the museum really is a step back in time to the 1860s, when Colorado was on the cusp of statehood and people farmed to feed their families, and then to the 1890s, when farming was more of an occupation.”
Start in the museum’s permanent indoor gallery to learn about Littleton’s history through photos and artifacts. Tucked within the gallery is the Kids’ Connection area, a hands-on space for kids to learn through dramatic play by preparing dinner in a turn-of-the-century kitchen or serving as the editor of the Littleton Independent newspaper.
Walk outside through the back doors and veer right to head down the path to the 1860s homestead farm. Pass the orchard and mules before arriving at the cabin—an original relocated to this spot—where visitors learn how early pioneers sustained their families on a plot of land. Explore the cabin, tour the barns, and sit in Littleton’s original one-room schoolhouse, from around 1865. Along the way, staff and volunteer interpreters, dressed in period-appropriate costumes, showcase daily tasks such as preparing a meal, ironing clothes, or tending the garden. Young children will love seeing the sheep, pigs, and turkeys that live on the working farm. You may even catch a glimpse of the museum’s oxen, Ford and Fitz, plowing the fields.
As museum guests cross from the 1860s site to the 1890s urban farm, they’ll see how advancements in transportation and technology allow this farmhouse to include more home comforts, such as wallpaper, rugs, pictures on the walls, and decorative wood burning stoves.
In the farmhouse, volunteers and staff members showcase daily living, answer questions, and give visitors more information about the times. “We tell the children what they would be doing if they lived in the 1890s,” says volunteer interpreter Vernetta Philben. “The boys would be learning to farm and the girls would be working with Ma.”
The 1890s farm is home to a lively pen of chickens and a barn with gentle cows. If smoke is rising from the blacksmith shop, stop in to see what the volunteer blacksmith is making.
The museum also marks the seasons with events that emphasize different aspects of farm life. The annual Harvest Festival in October includes a hay bale maze, hay rides, food, and a pumpkin patch. December brings a glimpse of holidays past at the annual Holiday’s Evening, and spring events, Sheep to Shawl and Dairy Days, highlight the animals and typical farming tasks like sheep shearing and butter churning.
Regardless of the season in which you visit, Nimz says the Littleton Museum has something for everyone. “We really focus on intergenerational opportunities for play and for learning.”
- Check it Out:
- 6028 S. Gallup St., Littleton
- Need to Know:
- Open Tuesday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Closed Mondays and holidays.
- Free. The museum is funded by the City of Littleton.
- Insider Secret:
- The museum is more crowded on weekdays, due to visiting school groups. Watch the museum’s Facebook page closely in the spring to learn when farm animal babies are born and visible to visitors.