Building Index – Building 880

Building 880

1016 Boston Street
Aurora, CO
[GPS N39°43’47.69″, W104°52’40.65”]

The Air Force Academy Commandant of Cadets Building (Building880) is located in the northeast quadrant of the former Lowry Air Force Base in Aurora, Colorado. The building is one of seven still standing that are historically associated with the interim Air Force Academy that operated on the base during 1955-58. Lowry, established in1937, has been redeveloped for residential, retail, and public uses. The block on which Building880 is located was once filled with rectangular cadet dormitories surrounding a central open space. Building 880, which faces southwest, stands alone at the southern end of its block. The rehabilitated 1942 building is distinguished by its H-shaped plan. Theo ne-story frame building has horizontal board dropsiding with corner boards, a gabled roof with composition roofing and overhanging eaves, eight-over-eight-light doublehung sash windows, and a concrete block foundation (Photograph1). A multi-story brick chimney, stepped out from the center of the façade, is a distinguishing feature. The building now serves as a community center for the City of Aurora and houses a preschool, before/after school childcare center, and adult daycare facility. Of the extant buildings associated with the Academy, the Commandant of Cadets Building retains the highest degree of historic physical integrity and is considered most representative of the cadet era on the base.

The Commandant of Cadets Building (Building880) has a national level of significance under Criterion A in the area of Military as the most intact remaining resource associated with the original site of the United States Air Force Academy at Lowry Air Force Base during 1955-58. While the permanent home of the Air Force Academy was under construction north of Colorado Springs, a portion of Lowry in Aurora, Colorado, served as its interim home for the first three classes of cadets. Dedication of the school in July 1955 marked the first creation of a major military academy in the country since 1845. Founding of the Academy followed the designation of the U.S .Air Force as a separate branch of the military in 1947 and marked recognition of the importance of air power in the Cold War era.

Housed in refurbished World War II era frame buildings, the first three classes at the new institution began their education at Lowry Air Force Base. Young lieutenants known as “Air Training Officers” served as upperclassmen (Air Training Officers) through the summer of 1957. While at Lowry, many of the fundamental traditions of the “West Point o f the Air” were inaugurated, including a cadet honor code and class system, adherence to rigorous academic standards, adoption of the falcon mascot, and participation in intercollegiate athletics. President Eisenhower wrote of the importance of the Academy’s pioneer class in influencing the direction of the institution: “The standards of intellect, obedience and leadership which have been established by the Class of 1959 will bear strongly upon the growth of future tradition.”

The survival of Building 880 as a representative of the Academy at Lowry AFB is particularly fitting, as it housed the Commandant of Cadets, who was responsible for airmanship, military, and physical training, including the development of such traits as leadership, character, and ethics that would mold the cadets into Air Force officers. Maj. Gen. Harold W. “Pete” Todd (retired), a member of the first graduating class, observed that the Commandant’s building was “the Citadel of Honor, the place where the true core of the Air Force Academy lay,” which uniquely embodied “the essence of the training in character, discipline, and integrity at the fledgling Academy.”

The Commandant of Cadets Building (Building880) is the H-shaped building in the foreground pictured in this c. 1955-56 oblique aerial photograph (view northwest). SOURCE: U.S. Air Force Academy Library, photographic collection, provided through National Registry documentation, Figure 1.
Figure 10. Between 1983 and 1994, the Lowry Heritage Center occupied Building 880, shown here in a 1980’s view. SOURCE: Aurora History Museum, photographic collection, provided through National Registry documentation, Figure 10.
Building 880, August 2017.
Building 880, once the USAF Academy’s Commandant of Cadet’s Building, has been repurposed into housing several new endeavors, including the Lowry Intergenerational Center, the Morning Star Adult Day Program, and a Lowry Preschool. It was assigned a new address with the closure of Lowry in 1994: 1016 Boston Street.