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Colorado Southern Passenger Station / Western Union, located in the center of the intersection of Laporte and Mason
Colorado Southern Passenger Station / Western Union, located in the center of the intersection of Laporte and Mason

Old Town and Disneyland's Main Street USA

Legend: Harper Goff, who created Disneyland's Main Street USA with Walt Disney, grew up in Fort Collins. Harper came back to Fort Collins in the 1950s to photograph the buildings of his youth to use as the model for the buildings along Disneyland's Main Street.

Truth: This legend is true! In 1994 Richard Francaviglia, author of Main Street Revisited (University of Iowa Press, 1996) called Rheba Massey at the Local History Archive to perform research on his book. Mr. Francaviglia had been to the Disneyland Archives to perform research and much to his surprise he found out that Harper Goff, a former resident of Fort Collins, had used Fort Collins and Walt Disney's hometown, Marceline, Missouri as an inspiration and models for Disneyland's Main Street USA. Mr. Francaviglia decided he would visit these towns and view some of the extant buildings that were copied for Disneyland. The basic information that he used for his research in Fort Collins was an interview with Harper Goff that was published in the publication "The 'E' Ticket: Collecting Theme Park Memories", Winter 1992-93. Harper stated in this interview:
"Yeah, I was born in that little town…Fort Collins, Colorado. My dad owned a newspaper there, the "Fort Collins Express Courier", and I grew up there. It was a very prosperous town. We had banks that looked like banks, you know, and there was a Victorian city hall. I was born in 1911 and these buildings were around when I was a kid. When I started working on Main Street, I had photographs of Fort Collins taken. I showed them to Walt and he liked them very much. Disneyland's City Hall was copied from Fort Collins…so was the Bank building and some of the others."
When Mr. Francaviglia and his wife arrived in Fort Collins, Ms. Massey gave them a tour of the Old Town area and provided historic photographs of various downtown buildings. The extant Union Pacific Railroad Station, Jefferson Street buildings, Miller Block, Walnut Street with the old Firehouse and Linden Hotel (old Poudre Valley Bank), and the demolished old Colorado and Southern Railroad Station, Hottel House, Old Main, First National Bank, and Court House were of particular interest. He was also interested in the original streetscape in front of the Colorado and Southern Depot with its grassy median in the center of the street, and the round grassy median or roundabout that was previously in the intersection of Laporte and College Ave. He commented that there is a similar streetscape at the entry to Disneyland's Main Street USA with its railroad station.
The 100 Block of N. College Ave., c. 1922
Roundabout at Laporte and N. College Ave. Intersection, c. 1922

As a result of this information, Ms. Massey informed the museum director Joy Poole and Coloradoanreporter, David Persons that Fort Collins had some little-known notoriety. Ms. Poole and David Persons set up an appointment to interview Mr. Goff's wife in Palm Springs, California. This interview is published in the November 5, 1995, edition of the "Coloradoan" on page A1. Additionally, the "New York Times" published an article on Mr. Francaviglia's book that included photographs of Fort Collins and the comparison to Main Street USA in its October 15, 1998 edition on page F1. These articles are all available to view in the Local History Archive's biographical file of Harper Goff, and Francaviglia's book is available for research at the Archive and check-out at the Library. The Fort Collins Museum also has two paintings by Harper Goff depicting Jolly Green Giant and Discovery Bay.

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