Carlton Calkins building comes full circle
By Lisa Truesdale
Carlton Chase Calkins, one of the original settlers in the Chicago-Colorado Colony, arrived in Longmont in 1871 with a long list of plans and a healthy dose of ambition. He first worked as a surveyor, and was also interested in farming. Calkins purchased a large parcel of land in east Longmont and built a reservoir there, originally named Calkins Lake and now known as Union Reservoir. After he passed the farm on to one of his sons in 1895, “Potato Calkins” (a nickname Carlton received because potatoes were his favorite crop to grow) served in the state legislature and helped establish Longmont’s sewer system while working as the city’s civil engineer. He also was a bank director and was instrumental in getting the flour mill built.
In 1906, he built the Carlton Calkins Commercial Building at 416-420 Main St., a building with two equally sized storefronts on the street level and an upper story. His wife turned the upstairs into a boardinghouse she named “The Carlton,” and it remained a boardinghouse or hotel until the 1960s. A number of businesses occupied the storefronts over the years, including Knox-Lashley Mercantile, Ben Franklin, Worley’s Book Store, JC Penney and Safeway.
In 1991, Ron Cheyney purchased the building. He opened Ron’s Printing Center in the northern storefront and rented out the southern storefront (it’s currently occupied by Simply Bulk, which features more than 500 different bulk food items). But Cheyney says he wasn’t quite sure what to do with the upstairs, which had been vacant for 30 years and needed a lot of work.
“One afternoon,” Cheyney says, “I was golfing with some friends and talking about what to do with the upstairs, and it just hit me. Why not sell our house and use the equity to demolish and completely remodel the upstairs so we could live there?”
It took 11 months and the removal of 111 tons of debris, but Cheyney and his wife were able to move into the upstairs unit in 1997. Their home showcases many of the building’s original features, like exposed brick running all the way up the front staircase. Cheyney also salvaged a few relics from the debris piles that now serve as décor in the home, including a piece of radiator and the original “Carlton Hotel” sign. So the building has come full circle, as the space that began as a residence 110 years ago is now a home again.