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Lincoln Building, originally known as the Lincoln Elementary School, was designed by Watson Vernon, a local architect also responsible for other elementary school and residential designs in the area. Vernon's design made use of an Italianate revival style that was characteristic of other architecture in Colorado in the early twentieth century: scrolled brackets below deep overhanging eaves; tall, narrow windows; a deep Richardsonian-type entry; elaborately carved capitals; and a distinctive cupola. Efforts were made to use new and evolving technologies of the time: indoor plumbing, which was new to Boulder, and also electricity.
In 1903, it opened its doors to approximately 150 students in grades one through four. Before the year was out the school was attended by more than 200 students, and it continued to serve the growing community Boulder as a neighborhood meeting and cultural center. In 1920, it hosted the first P. T. A. meeting in Boulder Valley.
The interior offered four large classrooms: two on each of the main floors. These classrooms flanked a central circulation space, with the principal's office located beneath the bell tower. The basement was utilized for separate lunch rooms and rest rooms for boys and girls, while also providing space for mechanical systems.
The building was remodeled extensively in 1927, which included absorbing space from the hallways for additional classroom space. Two more grades were added at this time. The relocation of stairs necessitated the reconfiguration of some of the windows in various parts of the building. Records indicate that an auditorium, small library,and the principal's office occupied the upper story above the classrooms. Changes were made to the heating system at this time.
As the student population of Boulder continued to grow especially during the 1950s, additional space was added in the form of two separate prefabricated buildings attached to the southwest facade of the school. These steel buildings, now known as Sycamore Hall, are part of the Naropa University campus. Lincoln Building underwent further changes through the early 1980s before being leased to Naropa Institute, the precursor organization of the university. Significant preservation, restoration, and renovation of the school building has taken place since that time. Today it serves as the centerpiece of Naropa's campus, continuing the legacy of learning and education begun more than a century ago.