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Identifier: WH1353


The collection contains a large assortment of residential and commercial architectural plans, finished drawings and preliminary sketches by Edwin A. Francis. These materials document the development of his architectural and decorative styles over a 25-year period (1938-1964). Although Francis has been credited with being a proponent of the International and Modernist architectural styles dominant before and after World War II, some of the materials illustrate his willingness to create more traditional residential plans and decorative elements as late as 1961.

Francis' residential plans span a 15-year period, with projects for Major C. Hoyne (ca.1938), C.F Wolfer (1939), Ethan Young (1941), R.L. Rickenbaugh (1949-1951), Edwin A. Francis (1950), William J. Burkhardt (1951) and Lafayette M. Hughes, Jr. (1954). Commercial plans include work executed in Denver: Boettcher School Addition (1957), Willows Building (1961), J.K. Mullen High School (1962), and Capitol Life Insurance Company Building (1963). In association with architect, Carlisle B. Guy, Colorado Springs, he designed: Broadmoor South (1960), the Broadmoor International Center (1960-1961), and the "Great Ape House" at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo (1964).

There is additional information located in newspaper and magazine articles, photographs, documentation and memos on the Mount Evans Crest House (1939-1941). Designed by Francis before World War II, the files provide insight into a unique structure built in an unusual location and, at times, harsh environment. Some information on the reconstruction and repurposing of the Crest House by the United States Forest Service in the 1980s and 1990s is also included.


The series contains sets of residential architectural plans and preliminary drawings arranged chronologically by project. The drawings provide a sampling of the larger body of residential work done by Francis during his career. Each set of plans is listed in sequential order based on the original numbering system found on the finished drawings with undated sketches and other drawings listed at the end. A number of the sets are either incomplete or contain only portions of the original designs. Individual sets include project title and address (if available). Information on each drawing includes: type, scale, size, material, and date.


The sets of commercial architectural plans comprise work executed by Francis after World War II. They are arranged in chronological order. Individual sets are listed in sequential order based on the original numbering system found on the finished drawings with undated sketches and other drawings listed at the end. A number of the sets are either incomplete or contain only single plans from the original designs. Individual sets include project title and address (if available). Information on each drawing includes: type, scale, size, material, and date.


The series contains assorted magazine and newspaper articles related to the Crest House opening and operation (1940-1949). Additional newspaper articles address the possible rebuilding of the structure after partial destruction and the lawsuit brought by the Mount Evans Company against the United States Forest Service (1982-1986, n.d.). Completing the series is a copy of the Historical American Building Survey (1986); memorandums from the Mountain States Legal Foundation (1982-1991); photographs of the building during construction and early operation of the venue (ca.1940-1941); and a copy of a line drawing of the structure (ca.1941).


  • 1938-1991


The collection is open for research. Floor plans of privately owned buildings may not be copied without the consent of the building owner.


Papers are the physical property of 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.


Denver and Colorado Springs based architect, Edwin Allen Francis was born March 7, 1905 in La Junta, Colorado. He was the only child of Lettie Louise Bentley (b.1880, New York) and John W. Francis (b.1874, Iowa). The family moved to Denver in 1908 where John Francis worked as an electrician. Edwin Francis attended South High School and received his architectural training at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

During the late 1920s and early 1930s, Francis worked for Denver architect J. B. Benedict and as an associate architect with Harry James Manning before opening his own architectural practice in 1932. Although trained in a traditional manner and known for his decorative designs, Francis simplified his style and became an early proponent of the International Style prevalent in Europe. He utilized the International Style for residences he designed in Denver at 300 Exposition Avenue (1936; William Cabot, associate architect); 660 Fairfax Street (1937); 940 Bonnie Brae Boulevard (1938); as well as for the Harbor Hotel (1939) in Glenwood Springs, Colorado.

The last building designed by Francis before the outbreak of World War II was the Mount Evans Crest House, a.k.a. Summit House (1939-1941), located at the summit of Mount Evans. It is arguably one of the most famous structures designed by Francis before the war. Touted in the press of the day as the "world's highest hotel..." the impetus and funding for the construction came from William Thayer Tutt of the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs. In order to withstand the site's fluctuating and often extreme weather conditions, the structure was thickly built of granite as a comfortable, indoor venue for visitors. At an altitude of 14,269 feet, the restaurant, observation area and gift shop were only open to the public from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Due to partial destruction caused by a propane gas explosion in 1979, the Crest House has since been re-configured by the United States Forest Service as an outdoor observation deck and wind shelter.

Reestablishing his practice in Denver after wartime service in England with the Army Corps of Engineers, Francis embraced the emerging modernist style of design for his commercial structures as characterized by his well-known Van Hummel Insurance Company Building (1948-1951), located at 444 Sherman Street, Denver, Colorado. With the possible exception of the decorative design work done for the Cherry Hills Country Club, Cherry Hills Village, Colorado; he continued designing commercial structures in a modernist style for the remainder of his career. Notable among these are the Johnson-McFarland Residence Hall, Centennial Halls, and the Ben Cherrington Hall a.k.a. Graduate School of International Studies at the University of Denver (1957, 1961, 1965); Willows Buildings (1961); various projects for the J.K. Mullen High School (1962); and the Capitol Life Insurance Company Building (1963). In the 1950s, Francis also developed a successful architectural practice in Colorado Springs with associate architect, Carlisle B. Guy. The two men were responsible for a number of commissions from the Broadmoor Hotel: Broadmoor South (1960), Broadmore International Center (1960-1961), as well as the "Great Ape House" for the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo (1964).

In contrast with his post war commercial designs, Francis' residential work was much more conventional. Examples include decorative work done for the Thomas J. Howard, Jr. addition (1948), the R. L. Rickenbaugh residence (1949-1951), Edwin A. Francis' own residence (1950), and the William J. Burkhardt (1951) and Lafayette M. Hughes, Jr. (1954) residences.

Francis was married August 29, 1924. His wife, Mary Evelyn, was born in Clinton, Mississippi October 4, 1907 and died in Denver, Colorado, April 29, 2000. The couple had one daughter. Edwin Allen Francis died in Denver, Colorado, July 8, 1966 at the age of 61.


1 box (.25 linear feet)

8 oversize folders

Language of Materials



Mrs. Fletcher Lee Francis Moses donated the bulk of the materials in 1991. Additional materials were added in 1993 by Helen Christy. This project was paid for in part by a State Historical Fund grant from the Colorado Historical Society.


Number of Boxes: 1 (.25 linear feet)

Oversize: 8 file folders




Martin Leuthauser

February 2009


Ellen Zazzarino

Edwin A. Francis Architectural Records
February 2009
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

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

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