Building Index – Building 256

Building 256

520 Rampart Way
Denver, CO
[GPS 39°43’26.55″N, 104°54’5.02″W]

The Agnes Memorial Sanatorium

The Agnes Memorial Sanatorium has been erected at Denver, Colorado, by Mr. Lawrence C. Phipps, of Pittsburgh, as a memorial to his mother. At attempt has been made to have it in every detail the most thoroughly built and equipped institution possible, and Mr. Phipps has spared no expense to this end. An account of the plans and construction of the Sanatorium may therefore be of interest. Mr. Phipps, having determined upon building, for this memorial, a sanatorium for the care of persons of small resources suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis, purchased a large tract of land in the suburbs [Montclair] of Denver. In April, 1902, he laid his plans before the gentlemen whom he later asked to be the Trustees of the Sanatorium, which is incorporated under the laws of Colorado as a permanent charity, and before the physicians whom he had selected for his Medical Board. The members of the Medical Board, being asked to make all necessary suggestions as to the details and requirements of such a sanatorium, gave their enthusiastic attention to this work, and recommended that the institution be conducted as a closed sanatorium for the open-air treatment of persons of small means…

A description of the sanatorium for the treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis, built at Denver, Colorado, by Mr. L. C. Phipps, by Carroll E. Edson, A.M., M.D., and W. H. Bergtold, M.Sc., M.D., Denver, Colorado [Source]


In 1921 Chanute Field , located near the small village of Rantoul, Illinois in part due to the War Department’s ground school at the University of Illinois, became the Air Service’s training center for Air Service Mechanics. In 1922 the Air Service established a technical school for photography at Chanute. By 1923 nine of Chanute’s steel hangars had been converted into classrooms. In 1934, with no additional funding forthcoming to provide additional training space, the Air Corps [prev. Air Service] determined Chanute Field no longer met the needs of a modern air force. Chanute’s weather was also deemed inadequate as the number of clear weather days restricted training in aerial photography. A new location was being sought to host the Air Corps’ training requirements.

Army officials had established two major prerequisites for a new training site location: 1) space for a bombing range and 2) the weather conditions at the new location should support aerial photography’s training requirements. In March of 1934 Denver’s leaders started a campaign to bring the Air Corps’ school to Denver. On 2 April 1934 they presented their formal submission towards achieving that goal to the War Department. An Army committee, interested in the property currently occupied by the Agnes Phipps Memorial Sanatorium, arrived in Denver on 26 May 1934 to evaluate their proposal.

Denver’s civic leaders, enthralled with the economic prospects offered by establishing an Army Post in their region, offered to donate the site to the Army as an enticement to locate their new school in the Denver area. A bond was floated stating Denver’s objective to acquire the land, along with its 17 buildings, in pursuit of this endeavor. Denver voters passed the measure in May of 1935. After having evaluated 86 sites across the nation, the Army recommended the Denver location due to its weather and the availability of land for a bombing range…not to mention the acquisition of the property at no charge to the Federal Government.

Funding for the new Air Corps Technical School was approved in August of 1937. Chanute Field would continue as the headquarters for the Air Corps Technical School and the home of the aircraft mechanics school, while the Denver branch became the new location for the armament and photography training schools. On 27 August 1937 the Photography and Armament Schools hosted by the “Denver Branch, Air Corps Technical School” were open for business. The Headquarters and classrooms occupied the buildings formerly known as the “Agnes Phipps Memorial Sanatorium.” On 1 September 1937 Capt. Harold Stetson, the Army Quartermaster at Ft. Logan, began working at the sanatorium location. He raised the American flag on 1 October 1937…making the Denver Branch an active Army post…and training began at the new Lowry Field. Capt. Stetson was the Constructing Quartermaster for Lowry Field from September 1937 to January 1940, supervising more than 3,000 WPA workers during Lowry’s early renovation and construction phase.

Lawrence Phipps was paid $200,000 for the sanatorium, and the City of Denver donated the properties to the Army on 8 December 1937. The War Department had also announced the naming of the new field in honor of Lt. Francis B. Lowry, only possible as the Colorado National Guard had deactivated its Lowry Field shortly after the 1st of the year. The Denver Branch of the Air Corps Technical School officially became Lowry Field on 21 March 1938.