Back In Time: Meet the architect behind many of Cañon City’s Main Street
Just a decade after being incorporated, a building boom broke out in Cañon City, resulting in many of the beautiful architectural buildings on Main Street, as well as many of the downtown area homes. While there have been several architects who have left their mark on Cañon City throughout the years, Charles C. Rittenhouse might have been the one who left the largest.
Born in Van Wert Ohio in 1852, Charles Rittenhouse began to learn the trade of carpentry at the age of 18. After finishing his apprenticeship, he was employed as a journeyman and contractor before he decided to move to Fort Wayne, Ind., and study architecture with T.J. Tolin & Son for two years.
In 1877, his successful career began when he became the first practicing architect in Adams County Nebraska. Between 1877-1895, he designed more than 40 buildings throughout Nebraska consisting of churches, homes, schools, opera houses, the State Insane asylum, and government buildings. Three of his structures are on the National Register including, The Farrell Block McCormick Hall at Hastings College and the Nebraska Loan and Trust building according to the Adams County Historical Society. Not only did he physically help build the town, but he played an integral part in building the infrastructure, as well by serving as Mayor of Hastings for more than 10 years.
When the family moved west to Colorado in 1898, Rittenhouse wasted no time in building some of the most prominent buildings in Cañon City. Between 1899 and 1902, he built at least 15 structures ranging from homes to entire blocks on Main Street. A 1901 article in the Cañon City Record states, “A modern architect of Cañon City who has impressed his individuality on our building is Mr. C.C.Rittenhouse, who by his skill good judgment and careful regard for the interest entrusted to him has made a record in his profession of which he is justly proud.”
Rittenhouse had a leading role in designing and building at least four of Main Streets’ buildings. The F.L. Smith Building (501-502 Main St.), The Central block (513-515 Main St), the Arthur Block (517-519 Main St), and the Burrage Block (506-508 Main St). The Burrage Block often referred to as the $10,000 block was built in 1899 and perhaps one of Rittenhouse’s first projects in Cañon City. Funded entirely by Mrs. Burrage, the block was predicted to be the finest business block that had been planned for Cañon City. The modern block was said to be a marvel of architectural beauty in an 1899 newspaper article. Pressed brick, plate glass windows, and nickel-plated doorways and display windows would house Beecher, the Corner Drug Store on the main floor, and seven offices and a bathroom on the second story.
Other large architectural projects in town that found Rittenhouse’s name on them are the Mt St. Scholastica building, the First Presbyterian Church at 701 Macon, Dr. Wards Hospital in the area of 6th and Macon, and the Deputy Wardens home at First and Main streets.
Not only did Rittenhouse use his skill to build large commercial buildings, but he was behind the design of several homes, as well. A newspaper article in 1901 gave an update on J.D. Biggs at 1103 Macon.
“Plans for this have just been completed by Architects Bradbury and Rittenhouse,” the article states. “The parlors and living rooms will be large and roomy and there will be all the accessories, closets, baths, etc. making it one of the most convenient and pretty homes in the City. The…