Gerald Bevelhymer opened the original Taco House on Federal Boulevard in 1958. Not long afterward —1961, to be exact — a building housing a burger joint went up on Littleton Boulevard. It soon turned into a Taco House franchise and since then, not much has changed. Different owners have come and gone and the newest owners, Don and Dora D'Andrea, updated the exterior paint scheme a few years ago, but otherwise the low-slung, mid-century-modern eatery has continued to serve up simple, nostalgic fare for neighborhood residents.
Until about ten weeks ago, that is. According to Don D'Andrea, some work was being done on the roof to repair hail damage. "It was supposed to be a three-to-four day job, with new decking, new insulation," he explains. But a snow storm followed by several days of rain turned a quick repair job into a continuing struggle against an aging structure.
"The rain came inside and damaged the whole building," Don adds. As crews rushed to repair damage in one area, new problems were uncovered and the city insisted that all repairs — and anything discovered that was outdated — needed to be brought up to current code. "You do one step forward and you find yourself ten steps back."
So while roof repairs started the project, the entire electrical system is now being replaced and Don says he can't give an estimate for a reopening date until the engineer's plans are submitted and approved. Although insurance is covering the construction costs, in the meantime there are still bills that need to be paid and employees that need work.
The D'Andreas have owned the Littleton Taco House (but not the building itself) for the past eight years, but their connection stretches back further than that. "My wife has been with the Taco House for 53 to 54 years," Don explains, and he's been a part of the company on and off for more than three decades. Over the years, Dora D'Andrea has also owned restaurants in the original Lakeside Mall, at 80th Avenue and Kipling Boulevard, and at Oxford Street and Federal Boulevard.
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At one time, there were as many as fifteen family-owned or franchised Taco Houses throughout the metro area, but today there are just three locations left: the original on Federal Boulevard, one on Wadsworth Boulevard in Lakewood, and the D'Andreas's Littleton outpost. Because the Littleton Taco House is a franchise, many of the ingredients — the hot sauce, beans and enchilada sauce, for example — come from the Taco House commissary kitchen, which is located behind the Federal Boulevard Taco House and is operated by the grandson-in-law of Gerald Bevelhymer. Don D'Andrea has added a few items to the menu on his own, including the breakfast burritos that he says sell very well.
But most of the recipes remain identical to what you might have found at Taco House thirty, forty or fifty years ago. "If you change something, the customers will let you know right away," he notes.
Last year Colorado Preservation Inc., an independent non-profit, added the Littleton Taco House to its list of endangered places, along with a group of other "midcentury resources of Littleton Boulevard." While the designation does not carry any legal weight, the organization focuses attention on buildings and places that "tell a story by servicing as the physical representation of some period in history," with the hope that those spots will be preserved. Colorado Preservation Inc. also included the neon signs of Colfax Avenue on the 2014 list.