Establishing the City: Old Town and New Town, 1866-1877
When General William T. Sherman visited Fort Collins in 1866,
he determined that threats to the trails and settlers in the area
had been substantially reduced and that the fort was no longer of
military use. In the same year, the Rocky Mountain News
reported that rumors were circulating about the military's
intentions to vacate the site. In 1867, President Johnson ordered
the post abandoned. At that time, there were only a few civilian
settlers who had been given permission to reside on the military
reservation. Shortly after the army abandoned the site, however,
a number of people squatted on the land, expecting that it would
soon be opened for settlement. These expectations were evidenced
in Jack Dow and Norman Meldrum's survey and platting of the
original townsite, an area known today as "Old Town,"
in 1866. Old Town extended from the river south to Mountain
Avenue and west from Riverside to College Avenue. Several of the
civilians at the fort elected to stay on and operate businesses
in the town, including Auntie Stone, who turned her boarding
house into the community's first hotel.
The town's founders had reason to be optimistic about its
prospects. The Rocky Mountain News reported that a number
of men had settled on the river and its tributaries, and erected
substantial homes upon their farms. The Homestead Act of 1862
offered land to Union army veterans, citizens, and immigrants who
planned to become citizens. For a small cost, the homesteader
could acquired 160 acres of land after living on and improving
it. After the cessation of Indian/Anglo hostilities, many of the
soldiers from the fort claimed land nearby and brought their
families to the area as squatters, including Norman H. Meldrum,
John H. Mandeville, and Fred Wallace.
George E. Buss purchased land and a cabin not far from the
Strauss claim and then returned to the East for his family.
During 1866-1867, his wife, Amelia, kept a diary of her journey
in a covered wagon to Colorado and her first year on the farm
east of the fort. During her first year in the fledgling
community, Mrs. Buss was lonely and homesick. Apparently other
women also had difficulty adjusting to the isolation. At one
point, she wrote that Mrs. Sherwood visited her and remarked,
"I really pity you in comeing [sic] here."
As the number of settlers increased, the pioneers established
commercial and industrial enterprises to serve the basic needs of
the community. One of the earliest and the most vital commercial
establishments in a frontier town was a mercantile store where
basic manufactured goods and certain foodstuffs could be
obtained. A. H. Patterson and John C. Mathews purchased Mason's
business, which had been continued after the period of military
abandonment. In 1870, William C. Stover purchased Patterson's
interest. Stover and Mathews kept a general store for the
community and also supplied military posts in Wyoming.
Drug stores were an important early component of a frontier
community. In 1871, Benjamin Whedbee, together with Dr. P. D.
McClanahan, built the first drug store north of Boulder. The drug
store shelves were lined with medications, including popular
patent medicines. It would be a number of years before a hospital
would be available to local residents.
Mills were significant enterprises for the development of the
local community. Auntie Stone and Henry C. Peterson began the
construction of a grist mill to process the wheat and corn grown
by local farmers in 1867 and began grinding wheat by 1869. Ansel
Watrous noted that Henry Peterson, an Ohio native, was perhaps
the first civilian to locate at the fort. Peterson, a millwright
by occupation, arrived in Colorado in 1859 to pursue gold mining
and freighting. In 1864, he became a gunsmith for the soldiers at
Fort Collins. Peterson cut logs for and built Auntie Stone's
boarding house at the fort. Peterson and Stone operated the mill
until 1873, when Joseph Mason bought the enterprise.
In 1868, the town received an indication of its growing local
significance when the people of Larimer County voted to move the
county seat from Laporte to Fort Collins. Mason and Allen
received the contract to transfer the county jail and records
from Laporte to Fort Collins. Mason had reportedly been
instrumental in arranging for the vote. An ornate county
courthouse would not be built for several years. At first, the
county commissioners met on the second floor of Old Grout, the
same room which was used for church services, court hearings,
theatrical entertainments, and dances.
One of the trademarks of civilization in a new community was a
schoolhouse. Elizabeth Keays had held small classes in Auntie
Stone's cabin at the fort. In 1870, local settlers established a
school committee and the town received designation as School
District No. 5. Local farmer and merchant Peter Anderson was
selected president of the school board. The community raised
money to build a small frame school for its children at 115
Riverside Avenue. The structure was utilized for educational
purposes until Remington School was erected in 1879.
Subsequently, the building was used as the city's first Catholic
church and then became a dwelling, which is its current function.
The Colony Movement
The colony movement, which led to the successful founding of
Greeley, was also important in the growth of Fort Collins and the
surrounding area. The movement was an attempt to reduce the
hazards of moving to the frontier by bringing an entire community
to help establish a settlement. In this way, a homogeneous group
of people could settle into an area and more quickly enjoy the
benefits of schools, churches, and community life.
In 1869, a group of men representing families in Mercer
County, Pennsylvania, arrived in Fort Collins looking for a site
for a colony. The Mercer Colony was the first such enterprise in
Larimer County. The Mercer group selected land which encompassed
the present Prospect Park and Scott-Sherwood Addition in Fort
Collins and began building a ditch. Unfortunately, the colony
soon ran out of money and abandoned the undertaking.
By 1869, the value of agricultural products in the state was
almost as much as the mine output. Once the agricultural
possibilities of the area formerly known as the "Great
American Desert" were recognized, land development companies
and local communities began promoting the region for settlement.
These boosters emphasized and sometimes exaggerated the
demonstrated crop production, advantageous climate, possibilities
of irrigation, and available markets in Colorado. The building of
the transcontinental railway accelerated the movement of settlers
to the West, and railroads offered special rates for emigrant
colonies. The colony movement became so popular during the 1870s
that some land promoters used the concept to sell their
developments by incorporating certain aspects of the colony idea
into their promotion schemes.
The Union Colony which founded Greeley in 1870 originated in
New York in December 1869. Nathan C. Meeker, agricultural editor
of the New York Tribune was president of the colony, with
Robert A. Cameron elected vice president. A committee chosen to
select the colony site visited Colorado and were persuaded by
Denver newspaperman William Byers to investigate the South Platte
Valley. Near the confluence of the Cache la Poudre and the South
Platte rivers, the committee purchased a large block of land for
settlement. The colonists founded the town of Greeley and
proceeded to lay out streets, build houses, establish a school,
dig an irrigation ditch, and fence their crops against roaming
cattle. Greeley was one of the most successful colony ventures in
the region and its growth led, in turn, to the creation of
another colony, Fort Collins.
The Fort Collins colony was a scheme developed by Robert A.
Cameron, who had become superintendent of the Greeley Colony.
Officers and trustees of the Fort Collins Agricultural Colony
included prosperous Greeley and Fort Collins businessmen such as
Judge A. F. Howes, Jacob Welch, Jared L. Brush, Benjamin Eaton,
W. E. Pabor, and Joseph Mason. The group planned the new colony
to spread what they believed were the benefits of the Greeley
experience, as well as to reap profit from the sale of land. For
this project, they organized the Larimer County Land Improvement
Company. The Fort Collins colony was judged by historian James
Willard to be a "semi-cooperative colony" as it was a
hybrid of both a land development scheme and a colony.
On 15 May 1872, the military reservation was officially opened
to settlement, and a new era of development ensued. The
improvement company purchased lands and sold certificates of
membership in their new colony which entitled the holder to
commercial or residential lots or farm tracts, depending upon the
cost of the membership. The colony lands encompassed three
thousand acres adjacent to the established Old Town, which was to
be absorbed by the new development. Franklin Avery helped survey
the townsite and laid out the streets for the improvement
company, establishing blocks four hundred feet square; business
lots 25 by 90 feet; and residential lots 50 and 100 feet by 190
feet. Streets laid out by Avery were exceptionally broad, with
College and Mountain 140 feet in width, Laporte 150 feet (later
narrowed), and all other streets 100 feet (See Figure 6). Avery
reportedly remarked: "There is plenty of room out here, and
I'm going to use it."
In establishing the new section of town, Avery platted streets
according to points of the compass with major roads following
section lines. This contrasted to Old Town, which had been laid
out by Dow and Meldrum parallel to the river without regard to
the public lands survey system. When the new plat was overlaid,
the southwest and southeast corners of the original plat were
truncated along College and Mountain avenues. The differences in
platting made an interesting contrast which continues to
distinguish Old Town from New Town to the present time.
The founders of the colony attempted to provide for every
desirable type of development activity. Outlying farm tracts were
sold in ten, twenty, and forty acre parcels. Locations for a
college, schools, churches, hotel, county buildings, parks
(called Washington and Lincoln), a zoo, and a cemetery were set
aside to encourage these civilizing influences. The founding
fathers made clear that they wanted to attract a particular type
of individual to their community. Purchasers of lots were
required to be "of good moral character." The founders
announced that they did not intend to encourage the establishment
of saloons or gambling halls but that they did hope for
"superior educational facilities." The first drawing
for colony lots in December 1872 disposed of one-fifth of the
The creation of the new colony stimulated population growth in
Fort Collins and fueled a building boom. Watrous reported that,
as soon as the drawing for lots was completed, local citizens
competed for the honor of erecting the first building in the new
portion of town. Brothers Clark and Jay Henry Bouton won the
contest, building a law office on North College within the same
month as the drawing. Jay Bouton, a native of New York had
arrived in Fort Collins in 1872, coming West to care for his
asthmatic brother, Clark.
Older log buildings were recycled and found new uses in the
community. Auntie Stone's cabin was moved from the site of the
old fort to the Agricultural Hotel established by Coon and
Scranton, where it became the kitchen and laundry room. This
hotel was later purchased by D. M. Harris and became the
Commercial Hotel. Other small frame buildings and log structures
soon lined Jefferson Street.
By the following spring, construction activity in town
escalated as a number of new residents moved to Fort Collins.
Watrous reported that in 1873, homes and businesses "went up
almost like magic, and the demand for building material and
mechanics far exceeded the supply." Utilizing the bricks
from the kiln fortuitously established by Peterson and Stone, a
number of business blocks were erected, which would transform the
settlement from a frontier outpost to a Victorian community. In
1873, the town of Fort Collins was incorporated.
In the winter of 1872-1873, Ben Whedbee moved his store from
Jefferson and Linden to College and Mountain streets, thus
initiating a rivalry between businesses favoring the older
commercial district and those creating a new one. This feud
between Old Town and New Town was to last for many years, and
each new businessman entering the community had to side with one
group or the other. Watrous believed that the rivalry slowed the
town's growth, as newcomers disliked the prospect of choosing
between the competing factions.
It was fitting that the successors of the mercantile business
begun in Old Grout, the town's first commercial enterprise, went
on to build the first brick store building in Fort Collins.
William C. Stover and John C. Matthews had continued to supply
the town with mercantile goods from the old building. In 1873,
they erected a new store on the northeast corner of Jefferson and
Linden. The store would serve the local community as a general
mercantile establishment for thirty-six years, until it was razed
to make way for the Union Pacific tracks in 1910.
An important indicator of the stability of any town was the
erection of a bank building. Henry Tutton opened a bank in 1873,
but the banker disappeared during the economic crisis of that
year. In the fall of 1873, A.K. and Ella B. Yount, who had given
up their log store in the Big Thompson area, established the
first successful bank in Larimer County. The bank was located on
the corner of Jefferson and Linden Streets, where Whedbee's store
had previously been situated. A common fate of many of the early
wooden buildings in town was their removal to different locations
within town during their years of service. A.K. Yount died in
1876 when he was run over by a train in Boulder. Ella Yount
continued to operate the bank until 1883 and became a prominent
member of the business community in Fort Collins.
In 1873, one of Fort Collins' most prominent businessmen,
Jacob Welch, moved to the town from Greeley. Welch had lived in
Ohio for thirty years before joining the Greeley Colony in 1870.
As was commonly done, he operated a mercantile store in a tent
until his frame building in the new settlement was completed.
Although he may not have possessed as large a construction fund,
Welch was not to be outdone by the impressive brick building
erected by Stover and Matthews. His store at the corner of
College and Mountain was a frame structure veneered with brick.
This economy may have later been regretted, as the building
burned down causing the loss of two lives in 1880.
Newspapers were also among the first businesses to be founded
in a new town. The county's first newspaper, the Larimer
County Express was started by J.S. McClelland in 1873 in a
small frame building with a shed roof. In an age before
telephones and television, when mail service was sometimes
erratic, newspapers brought local residents important information
as well as entertainment. Newspaper offices also functioned
during the early days as printers for published materials.
During the early 1870s, another important business was founded
when Joseph Mason constructed a livery stable of the functional
grout. In the nineteenth century, horses occupied a major role in
society, and caring for horses was a significant source of
employment. As Eric Stoehr noted, "wherever there were
people, there were ten times as many head of stock," so
barns, corrals, livery stables, and blacksmith shops were built.
Livery stables rented horses and carriages and provided overnight
facilities for horses and carriages.
Despite the establishment of important businesses and the
erection of several frame and brick buildings, Watrous found that
the "gloomy" period following 1873 showed little
progress for the town. After the initial boom in population
resulting from the creation of the colony, building activity
dwindled and a number of people moved elsewhere in search of
brighter prospects. The Panic of 1873, which resulted in bank and
business failures throughout the country had an effect on the
local economy. When Tutton's bank failed, many local residents
lost their savings. In addition, the agricultural sector suffered
setbacks, as hordes of grasshoppers plagued the county,
destroying crops for three years in a row. Many residents were
discouraged when, in 1875, the town ordinance against selling
liquor was repealed, thereby changing one of the original aspects
of the community's character. Watrous concluded that, following
the burst of construction in 1873 and continuing until the
arrival of the railroad, "building was practically at a
standstill and business of all kinds was in the dumps." A
correspondent in the Rocky Mountain News remarked that, in
1876, Fort Collins consisted of "a few straggling wooden
buildings and the noted grout corner."
Context: Establishing the City: Old Town and New Town,
1867-1877. This theme covers the period from the military
abandonment of the fort in 1867 to the creation of Old Town, the
founding of the colony, the platting of the new town, and the
development of the town up to 1877.
Potential Property Types
Associated property types could include residential buildings
such as cabins and houses; farms and associated structures such
as houses, barns, silos, sheds, corrals, and outbuildings;
churches; industrial structures such as sawmills and lumber
yards, grist mills and associated structures such as ditches and
millraces, and brick yards; businesses, including mercantile
stores, drug stores, offices, banks, saloons, shoe shops,
blacksmith shops barbers, tailors and milliners, newspaper
offices, hotels, bakeries, butchers, and restaurants; schools;
transportation related resources such as livery stables, roads,
and corrals; parks and cemeteries; government offices, including
post offices, city offices, and courthouses; and meeting places,
such as fraternal lodges.
Residential Buildings. When the earliest settlers first
arrived at the site of their new home, they lived in tents,
wagons, or with local residents who took them in until a cabin
could be constructed. The earliest permanent residents of Fort
Collins built small log cabins utilizing wood cut in the
mountains and hauled into town by wagon. These cabins made use of
the materials close at hand and were built with minimal tools and
little skill. The dwellings were rudimentary, consisting usually
of one or two rooms, with a loft. Log cabin construction had come
to the country with Scandinavian and German settlers, and was
combined with the form and plans preferred by the British
immigrants. The buildings in Fort Collins vicinity were
constructed utilizing knowledge brought from the settlers'
previous homes, and the form was universal to frontier
construction throughout the country.
The earliest cabins had dirt floors. Often, logs were used
with the bark still on, to prevent mildew and rot. Logs were
either placed atop stone foundations or directly on the ground.
The logs were laid atop each other and interlocked with notches
at the corners (see earlier discussion of cabins). The spaces
between the logs were chinked with mud, straw, animal hair, or
small pieces of wood or stone. Sod or hand-hewn wood shakes were
the earliest forms of roofing. As milled wood became more readily
available, wood flooring and wood shingle roofing were included
in cabins. Larger log homes were generally gabled, with board and
batten or vertical wooden siding in gable ends to keep out
drafts. Fireplaces were constructed originally of logs and mud,
and later stone, or brick. Cast iron stoves were cheaper and
easier to install than stone fireplaces and thus met with greater
popularity when they became available.
At first, doors were fashioned from vertical pieces of wood or
board and batten and hung with wood or leather hinges. The first
cabins had no windows, as glass was not immediately available.
Manufactured doors and windows were obtained from Denver or
building supply stores when they were established. The size of
window panes was generally small and most often windows were
six-paned fixed sash or multiple-light double-hung. Frequently,
additions were made to the small cabin structure as a family grew
in members or acquired greater wealth.
James W. Hanna, head of the detachment which selected the fort
site, brought his wife to Fort Collins in 1867. Mrs. Hanna
reported that she first stayed in a "low sod-roofed cabin
with a mud floor, whose entrance was concealed by a large
corral." She soon moved to a "wee log cabin with a sod
roof and broken window panes." She reported that, upon her
arrival, "only a few log cabins remained" at the fort,
and among her nearest neighbors was a large tribe of Arapaho
Mrs. Buss reported that, as was the usual practice, her
husband went to the mountains for logs for construction. She
noted that the snow blew in through the gable ends of her cabin
because they were not battened and that she papered the kitchen
with newspapers to keep out bugs.
Log homes were generally considered temporary construction by
the settlers, who remembered the more formal styles of houses
they had left behind. The log cabin owner did not spend a great
deal of time or money adding exterior ornamentation to his
dwelling, believing that he would soon possess a better house.
The pioneer log cabins of the town's infancy soon gave way to
solid brick or wood frame houses. When more sawmills began to
operate in the county during the late 1860s, clapboard siding
became a popular material for houses. Evadene Swanson reported
that James A. Brown settled in Fort Collins in 1868 and began
building houses, including the first frame dwelling in town.
Early clapboard-sided houses were generally simple in design, not
much larger than the log homes, with steeply pitched, front
gabled or side gabled roofs and symmetrical fenestration. Most
had stone foundations and stone or brick chimneys. Windows were
double-hung, tall and narrow, and had plain wooden surrounds.
Some residents covered their log dwellings with the more
Before the arrival of professional architects or mail order
pattern books, the design of a home reflected the traditional
skills and building habits of the community and the builder
rather than the individual owner. The origins of many of the
builders of the city were reflected in house designs. The simple
foursquare frame residence with its boxy shape, plain facade, and
symmetrical arrangement of doors and windows was transported by
English immigrants to the United States. Other groups also
reproduced designs which they had known in their country of
origin. Germans and Scandinavians favored homes with plastered
masonry and small, asymmetrical windows. Hispanics built simple
houses of adobe bricks which they made on their home sites. The
styles which became nationally popular were slow to take hold in
the West, due to ethnic influences, shortages of material, and
the initial lack of skilled labor.
Vernacular housing, or that which had no particular stylistic
influence and was based on local traditions utilizing native
materials, dominated the early period and continued to be
extensively produced throughout the pre-World War II era.
Vernacular construction has been divided into several
subcategories by the Colorado Historical Society: gabled L; front
gable; hipped box; and side gable. Vernacular housing was
generally the least expensive type of building available to the
home owner, as it did not require formal architectural knowledge
or skilled craftsmanship. Vernacular dwellings are found
throughout Colorado, in both rural and urban areas, dating from
all historic periods.
A one-story vernacular frame dwelling erected in 1874 stands
at 206 W. Myrtle Street. The house was originally a gabled L
plan. Between 1901 and 1906, an intersecting gable was added with
details matching the first gable. The shed roofed porch of the
house has engaged, slender, squared column supports and two doors
opening onto the porch are paneled and glazed. The house was
originally owned by Arthur H. Patterson, a prominent pioneer
landowner and county official, although it is unclear whether
Patterson ever lived here. The dwelling was later owned by James
W. and Elizabeth Coy Lawrence. James Lawrence was a professor at
the university and Elizabeth Lawrence was reportedly the first
Anglo girl born in the Cache la Poudre Valley and the first woman
to graduate from the Agricultural College.
The 1876 house at 401 Mathews Street is one of older extant
homes in Fort Collins and reflects the vernacular construction of
the pre-railroad era in the city. The one-story house was
designed and built by Grant Ferguson, who sold it to John Coy in
1891. The clapboard dwelling with gabled roof is typical of the
period when log was being abandoned in favor of milled wood. The
simplicity of design and small size of the building resulted from
the stringencies of the period when the town still faced a number
of uncertainties and had no direct access to eastern markets.
The balloon frame method of constructing a house, developed
prior to the Civil War, was an important technological advance
which altered the way homes were constructed in the United
States. The method utilized pre-cut pieces of lumber which were
held together by nails, rather than the hand hewn logs and wooden
pegs of earlier construction. The earlier method required a crew
of men who fitted an entire wall frame on the ground and then
lifted it into place. With the balloon frame method, a few men
could construct a building in a short period of time and at less
expense, working with standardized pieces of lumber and
The completion of a brick kiln in Fort Collins in 1869 led to
a wider variety of vernacular designs for homes and also lessened
the threat of fire which destroyed a number of early towns. Henry
Peterson built and lived in the first brick house in Fort Collins
on Lincoln Avenue, and the second was erected by Sam Gano on
College Avenue. Both were later razed by the Union Pacific.
Peterson's house was a plain, one-and-a-half story building with
a steeply pitched cross-gabled roof. The building had overhanging
eaves, a central wood paneled door with transom and tall, narrow,
Farms. Fort Collins was a well established supply
center for the surrounding agricultural area by the late 1870s
and the countryside contained a number of successful farms and
ranches. In 1870, Jesse Sherwood, one of Fort Collins most
illustrious pioneers and a large landholder, established a farm
on which he built a grout house (See Figure 7). The house, which
is still standing, may be the only remaining example of a grout
dwelling in the county. The one-and-a-half story dwelling had a
side gable roof with overhanging eaves and an off-center entrance
with low pedimented surround. A decorative bay window to the
right of entrance had a hipped roof and wooden panels, while
other windows were double-hung and topped by low pedimented
lintels. The house was considered grand because most of the
residents of the area still lived in log buildings and because it
had an upper story, an inside staircase, plank floors, and a bay
window in the parlor."
In 1876, Jay H. Bouton, who had built the first frame building
in the colony town, erected a farmhouse of native lumber. The
house at 2513 W. Prospect Road was a one-story frame dwelling
with clapboard siding and a stone foundation. Bouton soon built a
much more elaborate home in town and resided in the farmhouse for
a short period or not at all. The farm was later purchased by
Samuel W. Johnson, a banker. Johnson's son-in-law, Jim Brown,
later took over the operation of the farm, successfully raising
sheep and cattle. In the early 1940s, the family added a second
story to the farmhouse. The complex of farm buildings grew to
include a barn, silos, chicken coops, and a Model T garage.
Double rows of trees lined the entrance path to the house.
In 1877, Benjamin and Hessie Preston purchased 228 acres of
raw land from Edgar Avery and established a farm in the Harmony
agricultural district. Preston became one of the area's most
successful farmers, serving as president of the sheep feeder's
association, the beet grower's association, on the board of
directors of several ditch companies, county commissioner, and
state senator. A small stone house was built for the Preston
family, as well as a smoke house, granary, chicken house, ice
house, coal house, and barn. The small stone house became an
adjunct to a large new dwelling erected about 1890 (4605 South
County Road 9), which featured decorative shingles and a
polygonal turret. In 1911, Ansel Watrous wrote of the Preston
farm, "its beautiful and commodious farmhouse, large barn,
sheds and corrals, its fruit and shade trees and vegetable and
flower gardens, making it one of the most attractive farms in the
county, as it is one of the most productive."
After the construction of a dwelling for the family, the
farmer turned to buildings and structures necessary for the
keeping of animals and production and storage of farm products.
Barns for the sheltering of animals and storage of hay, storage
and threshing of grains, and protecting farm implements had
primary importance and were usually larger than the family home,
becoming the most impressive feature on the rural landscape.
Barns were designed in a functional manner of wood or a
combination of stone and wood. Like a house, the design of the
barn often reflected the origins of its builder. Fences and
corrals were erected to contain animals and keep intruders out of
cultivated areas. Small structures were erected for a variety of
specific purposes, such as smoke houses, pumphouses, icehouses,
root cellars, privies, and chicken coops. Silos allowed farmers
to store winter feed for livestock.
Churches. Earliest religious services were held in
existing buildings until a church could be built. Old Grout was
the setting for church services in pioneer Fort Collins, as were
private residences. One of the first church buildings, dedicated
in 1876, was built by Henry Clay Peterson. The building was a
rectangular frame edifice which housed a Methodist congregation.
The windows of the church were painted to resemble stained glass
Schools. The earliest schools in Colorado were simple
log or frame structures, symmetrical in design, with a central
entrance on the gable end and evenly spaced windows along the
side walls. Schoolhouses were first erected by a family or
families which were served by the building and often consisted of
a single room. The first classes for school children in Fort
Collins were held in Auntie Stone's log home. In 1871, a
one-story, front gable roofed frame building still standing was
built by Henry Peterson on Riverside.
Industries. A mill was among the most significant
structures in a pioneer community, enabling local residents to
produce their own flour for bread rather than importing it from
elsewhere. Mills were often a gathering spot for farmers who
waited while their grain was being ground. Auntie Stone and Henry
C. Peterson built a grist mill operating by 1869. The Stone and
Peterson millrace, which conducted water to the water wheel, was
one-and-a-half miles long, thirteen and one-half feet wide, and
eighteen inches deep. The three-story mill building was the
largest in town. The structure was plain and functional in
design, with "broad sides, low roof, and water wheel."
The third floor of the mill was utilized as a Masonic Lodge hall.
Machinery for the mill was purchased by Peterson in Buffalo, New
York, and shipped by railroad to Cheyenne, where it was loaded
onto a wagon and hauled to town. Although the mill was plagued by
costly fires, it was rebuilt and remained in the same location.
Portions of the original and subsequent mill buildings have been
incorporated into Ranch-Way Feeds, 546 Willow Street.
Brick yards were also one of the first enterprises to appear
in a fledgling community. Brick making was inexpensive as it used
native materials and did not require elaborate equipment. Small,
family-owned brick yards were the rule during the early days. In
1870, a brick kiln was erected by busy entrepreneurs Henry
Peterson and Elizabeth Stone. The brick kiln expanded the design
possibilities for both residential and commercial buildings
within the town. At the same time, sawmills were established in
the county and at Greeley.
Businesses. Pioneer businessmen often set up commercial
enterprises before the completion of buildings in which to
operate. Jacob Welch was typical of the early day entrepreneur,
establishing his store in a tent while he waited for his business
block to be completed. The first businessmen used easily
obtainable native materials to build their stores and offices.
Many built log structures based upon the same plan as the log
cabin dwellings. Like log residences, these buildings were
generally considered temporary and, in most cases, were replaced
or boarded over with milled lumber as quickly as possible.
Following the wane of log construction, commercial buildings
generally had either clapboard or board and batten siding. Many
were one-story buildings with false front facades and central
doors flanked by large multi-light, double-hung windows.
The Boutons erected the first building (demolished) in the new
colony in 1872. The design of the building represented one of the
most popular styles for commercial buildings during the
territorial period, the false front vernacular style. Bouton's
office was a one-and-a-half story false front clapboard building
with wood shingle roofing (See Figure 8). The building had a
central, paneled, wooden door which was flanked by tall,
six-over-six light windows. In the center of the false front was
a tall, single six-over-six light window.
The architecture of the Bouton building was typical of the
false front style, in that it featured a central entrance flanked
by large windows. When applied to store buildings, such windows
were utilized for display purposes. The tall window on the upper
story spread light and ventilation to that floor. The building
reflected the fact that residents had evolved from log and grout
constructions to more sophisticated buildings of milled lumber.
Eric Stoehr has commented that false fronts "gave a
citified, more eastern look to a new frontier town."
False front buildings had first been built in large numbers
during California's gold rush. Throughout Colorado, false fronts
appeared as soon as milled lumber became available. The tall
false front gave a small building the appearance of being much
larger and also provided substantial space for the company's name
(See Figure 9). More elaborate false fronts had decorative
cornices with dentils or brackets. Cornices were enhanced by
gable apexes which created a triangular pediment at the top.
Sometimes the pediment was included without a cornice. In some
communities, the false front continued to hold sway for many
years, although most of the more prosperous towns replaced their
false fronts with more substantial structures. The functional
style continued to be constructed in Fort Collins into the 1930s,
when Peter Day erected a false front blacksmith shop at 100 E.
Lincoln Avenue (See Figure 10).
As soon as brick became readily available, it was used to
build more elaborate business blocks. Commercial buildings were
often designed to reflect the prominence of the owner. The brick
buildings constructed in Fort Collins during the early 1870s
reflected the fact that merchants and businessmen wanted their
enterprises to remind local residents of the substantial business
blocks found in the East. As soon as materials other than wood
became available, merchants turned to stone, brick, and cast
iron. These materials also had one other advantage, they were
more fireproof. Before the arrival of the railroads, merchants
built brick buildings with stone trim. After the railroads
arrived, many buildings added ornate cast iron fronts and
elaborate metal cornices.
William C. Stover and John C. Matthews built the first brick
store building at the southeast corner of Jefferson and Linden in
the new town in 1873. The rectangular, two-story brick structure
(demolished) had a first floor salesroom and warehouse. The
second story was utilized as a lodge for the Masons and was
reached via an outside stairway. Jacob Welch responded to the
Stover and Matthews building by constructing a frame building
with brick veneer (destroyed by fire).
Banks were among the earliest and most vital businesses in a
community and bank buildings were often the most ornate
structures in a town. In 1873, Henry Tutton established a bank in
a small frame building (demolished). A.K. and Ella B. Yount began
the town's first successful bank later the same year. The Younts
erected a two-story brick building at Jefferson and Linden
(demolished) with evenly spaced pilasters between doors and
windows and decorative quoins. The Yount Block was a radical
departure from the frontier roughness of Jay Bouton's 1872
commercial structure. Windows had segmental arches and, in a
burst of extravagance, the Younts built the door and window sills
and lintels of white sandstone. A new industry originated when
builders began to haul stone from the nearby hogbacks to town by
wagon. In subsequent years, stone was greatly in demand as a
building material and quarrying operations would transform Spring
Canyon west of town.
One of the most notable commercial enterprises of the 1870s in
terms of its architecture was the City Hotel (demolished), also
known as the Collins House (See Figure 11). Builder O. C. Peck
erected the City Hotel which served the newcomers, businessmen,
and tourists to the new town. The hotel had some pretension to
formal architectural design, as was befitting an elegant
establishment. The two-and-a-half story stone building had a
mansard roof, perhaps the first in town, with a series of gabled
wall dormers. The walls of the hotel were a substantial three
feet thick and the large windows admitted plentiful sunshine.
Next to the hotel was the shoe shop and residence of Vincenz
Demmel, a German immigrant (See Figure 12). The Demmel building
(demolished) was one of the first frame buildings in town. This
structure, too, had architectural merit, being distinguished by
its stepped gable, reminiscent of northern European masonry. The
clapboard building had a central entrance, over which Demmel
mounted a stuffed animal head, and two large six-over-six light
display windows. The shoemaker lived and worked in this building
for nearly twenty-five years.
Transportation Facilities. Barns and livery stables
were an integral component of the late nineteenth century town as
horses, wagons, and carriages were primary means of
transportation. Livery stables which cared for and stored horses
and vehicles were present in most towns and featured interior
stalls and large doors sufficient for the passage of vehicles.
The Old Grout Livery Barn was a two-story, gable roofed structure
with a plain facade featuring large central doors. The building,
which was razed to make way for the Union Pacific in 1910, had
walls eighteen inches thick and beams made of hand-hewn timbers.
Wooden false front buildings were also common designs for livery
stables and blacksmith shops (See Figure 13).
Government Offices. The honor of being named the county
seat was much sought after by towns across Colorado. When Fort
Collins became the county seat of Larimer County in 1868, county
business was conducted on the second floor of Old Grout. Watrous
reported that the county jail, a log building that Ben Whedbee
had constructed in 1864, was also moved to Fort Collins at that
time. Later the offices were moved to a "little one-story
frame" building located some distance outside of the
Cemeteries. Early cemeteries varied from small family
burial grounds on homesteads to orderly arranged grounds set
aside within towns. Associated with the military post in
1864-1866 were burial grounds at the southwest corner of College
and Oak. These graves were moved to Mountain Home Cemetery in
1874. Mountain Home had been platted by C.S. Hayden the previous
Some resources reflecting these property types have been
identified in Fort Collins, mostly residential properties. None
has been designated. Many buildings associated with this context
have been demolished, including a number razed in 1910.
Therefore, remaining resources are extremely significant as rare
representatives of the period. Residences should generally
maintain integrity of design, materials, and craftsmanship, and
location. Some alteration of materials will not destroy the
integrity of a building if it is significant for its
architectural style, but the original design should be evident.
Residences may be eligible under criterion A, for their
association with significant patterns of development or
significant events; under criterion B, for their association with
significant persons; or under criterion C, for their
representation of an architectural style or as the work of an
architect or builder. Other property types may be eligible under
criterion A, for their association with a particular historical
theme or event, or under criterion C for their architecture or as
representative of the work of a master. Resources representing
these property types should generally maintain a high degree of
integrity of materials, design, craftsmanship, location, and
feeling. Buildings significant primarily for their architectural
value or association with an important person or event may have
lost integrity of location and still qualify under criteria
consideration B if other elements of integrity are intact.
Religious properties which derive primary significance from their
architectural or historical importance would be eligible under
criterion consideration A. The foundations of early buildings and
associated cultural materials may exist and may be significant to
historical archaeology and eligible under criterion D.
Threats to Resources
Associated resources are threatened by natural deterioration,
inappropriate remodeling, and development pressures. Houses of
the period are generally small, simple buildings which may lose
integrity when remodeled for contemporary use. Farm structures in
the outlying areas of the city are experiencing substantial
development pressures as the city expands, as well as natural
deterioration and vandalism. Historic commercial areas lose
integrity as new buildings are constructed to serve as infill
within historic districts. Industrial resources are threatened by
technological change which renders them obsolete, as well as by
deterioration and abandonment.
Research on immigrant groups which resided in Fort
Collins and their influence on architecture in the city.
Women in early Fort Collins and their effect upon the
development of the city and its architecture.
Early builders in Fort Collins.
Inventory of extant commercial buildings from this
Inventory of false front buildings.
Remaining grout buildings in the vicinity of Fort
Buildings related to early transportation functions.
Extent of early industrial sites and facilities.