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Identifier: WH1847


The bulk of this collection comprises perspective drawings of buildings Axtens designed, frequently accompanied by floor plans. Most of these drawings were placed into showcase portfolios with Masoniteā„¢ covers. The heavy covers have been removed to allow easier viewing and better preservation of the materials. Photographs of some of his buildings are in leather bound volumes, most photographs are identified, and many were published in his books (see related materials below). Many of his designs bear numbers, but no key has been located to explain his system.

Considerable confusion about the name of one of Axtens most frequent clients has existed since the institution's inception. The front of a brochure celebrating the 1890 laying of the corner-stone announced "Women's College." Yet inside the booklet the institution's constitution stated that the "name of this Society shall be the Colorado Woman's College Society." The confusion is still reflected in 2009 on their alumnae website: the seal on a canvas totebag shows Colorado Women's College, but the seal on a coffee mug displays Colorado Woman's College. The documents described in this collection bear the name as Axtens spelled it, usually Colorado Womans College.

As the result of a gift in 1966 the name of the school changed to Temple Buell College on July 1, 1967. In 1973, the president of the college announced that they would become known as Colorado Women's College because the $25 million endowment from Temple Hoyne Buell would not be available until the architect's death. In 1982, Denver University agreed to take the site and pay $6 million in debt in order to merge the two private colleges. In 1999 the campus was purchased to become the Denver home of Johnson & Wales University, which offers undergraduate degrees in culinary arts, hospitality, and business.


This series comprises the bulk of the collection, which contains perspectives, elevations and floor plans for the projects that Axtens designed from 1927 until about 1965.


This series consists of items that were in a folder marked "The Evidence - Book 2." There is no indication of what "Book 1" might have consisted of, where it could be found, nor are there any notes related to any of the items he clipped for this scrapbook.


The only item in this series is a metal hand embosser bearing Axtens' seal as a licensed architect in the state of Nebraska.


This series comprises black and white photographs of buildings designed by Axtens. In some cases, his drawings and floor plans have been reproduced photographically.


  • 1927-1971

Language of Materials

Material is in English.


The collection is open for research. Floor plans for privately-owned buildings cannot be copied without written permission from the owners.


Literary and copyrights - as appropriate - have been assigned to the Denver Public Library.


All requests for permission to publish, reproduce, or quote from material in the collection should be discussed with the appropriate librarian or archivist. Permission for publication may be given on behalf of the Denver Public Library as the owner of the physical item. It is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which also must be obtained by the customer. The Library does not assume any responsibility for infringement of copyright or publication rights of the manuscript held by the writer, heirs, donors, or executors. Reproduction restrictions are decided on a case-by-case basis.


Stephen Arthur Axtens was born June 4, 1895 in Garden City, Kansas. He graduated from Garden City High School in 1913. From September 1913 to June 1916 he attended the Agricultural College of Colorado, in Fort Collins, later known as Colorado State University. From March 1917 to August 1918 he attended Colorado State Teachers College, now the University of Northern Colorado, in nearby Greeley, where he completed his Bachelor of Arts degree in industrial arts.

On August 30, 1919, Axtens married a teacher, Lucinda Farnsworth, of Denver. In 1920, he taught school in Boulder, Colorado. In January 1924, he received his Colorado architects license. Between 1919 and 1927 Axtens was employed by various architects in Denver, San Francisco, and Oakland as an architectural draftsman, engineer, and construction superintendent. Some drawings reflect his participation in architecture classes at Atelier Denver, and the School of Architecture at the University of California, but no records have been found of a degree granted by any institution. He received his California architects license in April 1926.

Axtens opened a private architecture and engineering practice in Denver in 1927. He maintained his practice until May 1942. He received his Colorado engineers license in August 1943 while working as a structural consultant for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Denver District Office. He resumed his Denver private practice in March 1944.

Axtens designed a variety of Denver buildings, many for the Colorado Women's College. He also designed residences, apartment houses, and office buildings. Greatly affected by the threat of nuclear war, in the foreword to his book Thirty Years of Architecture & Engineering 1927-1957, he ridiculed the use of construction materials including "brick, stone and tile, since they cannot resist lateral forces of large magnitude."

His architectural solution to the destructive force of nuclear bombs was epitomized in the Farmers Union Building, which he designed in 1952. Its square, somewhat squat design made it very stable, and with no large windows it was touted as providing "atom-bomb proof offices." Surrounded by tons of concrete, its windowless inner tower would serve as a bomb shelter. Excavation began in April 1953, and the first tenant moved in on the last day of 1954. Located at 1575 Sherman Street in Denver, its open office area featured "specially designed partition units" which may have been the forerunner to the now ubiquitous cubicle. The State of Colorado bought the building in 1969 to house the State Social Services.

Axtens continued to work as an architect and structural engineer. In 1967, at the age of 71, he was still actively seeking employment: "I am not interested in 'fringe benefits', I am interested in being useful, I enjoy my work." Axtens died in April 1976.


1 box

7 Oversize folders

1 PhotoBox


These papers were purchased from Jeffrey S. Miller, a dealer, in May 2004. This project was partially funded by a State Historical Fund grant award from History Colorado, the Colorado Historical Society


Architecture and Engineering, by S. Arthur Axtens C720.978883 A972ar

S. Arthur Axtens, A.I.A.: Architect, Denver, by S. Arthur Axtens C720.978883 A972s

Ten Requirements for Production of "Superior Buildings at Lower Costs", by S. Arthur Axtens C970.978883 A972te 1950

Thirty Years of Architecture & Engineering 1927-1957, by S. Arthur Axtens C720.978883 A972th 1957


Number of Boxes: 1 (.25 linear foot)

Number of Oversize folders: 7

Number of Photoboxes: 1




Roger L. Dudley

August 2009


Ellen Zazzarino

Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Denver Public Library, Western History and Genealogy Repository

10 W. 14th Ave. Pkwy
Denver CO 80204 United States