Fort Collins History and Architecture


1540-1858 | 1844-1866 | 1866-1877 | 1877-1900 | 1900-1919 | 1919-1941 | Introduction

As part of its Historic Preservation Resources Program, the City of Fort Collins solicited proposals for professional services for "Development of a Historic Preservation Resources Program for the City of Fort Collins," Proposal Number P-342, 5 February 1991. Community Services Collaborative of Boulder, Colorado, was selected by the City for this project, which included a number of separate tasks. Front Range Research Associates, Inc., of Denver, Colorado, served as subconsultant for developing a historic context for the themes of "Residential Architecture: 1867-1940" and "Central Business District Development: 1862-1940."

Contacts for the City Planning Department were Joe Frank, Assistant Planning Director, and Carol Tunner, Historic Preservation Specialist. Rheba Massey, Chairperson, Fort Collins Landmark Preservation Commission, represented the commission. Principal participants in the project for Community Services Collaborative included John D. Feinberg and Allyn S. Feinberg. Principal participants for Front Range Research Associates, Inc., were R. Laurie Simmons and Thomas H. Simmons. Judith E. Broeker participated as research assistant. Wayne Sundberg, Fort Collins historian, generously assisted the project by reviewing portions of the historical narrative.

The Setting Fort Collins, Colorado, is a city of 87,758 population (1990), located at an elevation of 4,984 feet in the north central portion of the state, approximately sixty-five miles north of Denver. Located on the Cache la Poudre River, a tributary of the South Platte River, Fort Collins is the county seat of Larimer County. The earliest permanent settlement in the area began in the late 1850s and the city was incorporated in 1873. Horsetooth Reservoir, a part of the Colorado Big Thompson Project created in the 1940s, is adjacent to the city on the west, where the foothills of the Rocky Mountains begin. The area surrounding Fort Collins, which averages roughly fifteen inches of precipitation yearly, is an important irrigated agricultural region of the state. Such crops as sugar beets, alfalfa, wheat, barley, and corn have been important historically, as has livestock raising. Colorado State University, the second largest university in the state, is located here. In recent years, the city has diversified its economic base with the attraction of high-tech industries such as Hewlett-Packard and Texas Instruments.

Historic Contexts The National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 established the National Register Of Historic Places, the official list of recognized properties of local, state, and national significance maintained by the National Park Service for the Secretary of the Interior. The Secretary of the Interior has issued Standards for Preservation Planning for archaeology and historic preservation. These standards include: establishing historic contexts; utilization of historic contexts to develop goals and priorities for the identification, evaluation, registration, and treatment of historic properties; and integration of the results of preservation planning into the broader planning process.

The Secretary of the Interior's Standards define an historic context as "an organizational format that groups information about related historic properties, based on a theme, geographic limits and chronological period." The historic context is the cornerstone of the preservation planning process as it results in an understanding of the full significance of historic resources. Historic contexts may be as narrow as the discussion of a specific property type or as broad as a major research theme. The elements of an historic context may include such items as: a series of events or activities, patterns of development, or associations with a person or group or group of persons; a stage of physical development; or a research topic or site that will expand the existing knowledge base. A group of contexts may summarize a community's history.

For this project, which emphasized the development of residential architecture and the central business district, a number of topical and chronological historic contexts were created: Euro-American Exploration and the Fur Trade, ca. 1540-1858; The Colorado Gold Rush, Early Settlement, and the Creation of Fort Collins, 1844-1864; Establishing the City, Old Town and New Town, 1867-1877; The Railroad Era, Colorado Agricultural College, and the Growth of the City, 1877-1900; Sugar Beets, Streetcar Suburbs and the City Beautiful, 1900-1919; and Post World War I Urban Growth, 1919-1940. Within each topic, the influences shaping Fort Collins' residential and commercial development during particular time periods are explored. The potential property types associated with each context are discussed as a physical reflection of the socio-economic development of the city. Taken as whole, the contexts help explain the how, when, where, and who of the physical development process. Other thematic historic contexts that are now on-line include: Old Military Fort Site; Agriculture in the Fort Collins Urban Growth Area 1862-1994; The Sugar Factory Neighborhoods; and Quonset Huts in Fort Collins.

A property type is defined as "a grouping of individual properties based on shared physical or associative characteristics." Physical characteristics may include structural forms, architectural styles, building materials, or site types. They are associated in time and location with specific historical patterns. As associated with contexts herein, property types were identified on the basis of chronology and function. For example, residences, commercial buildings, and schools were treated as separate property type categories. Within each property type discussion is information on architectural styles displayed in Fort Collins and a description of buildings erected in the city which are or were examples of the property type. Architectural styles are based on those recognized by the Colorado Historical Society, as defined in the Society's publication A Guide to Colorado Architecture (1983).

The property type discussion also cites buildings which are no longer extant but were historically or architecturally significant. This information is provided to alert planners to the fact that, in some cases, examples of an historic property type may no longer exist and to supply comparative information on the loss of historic properties over time. It is obvious that some property types will overlap more than one context. A summary of property types associated with each context is presented at the end of each context narrative, as are suggestions for registration requirements, data gaps, and discussion of threats to resources. The document is intended as an evolving planning tool and it is expected that information about resources will be refined or added as further information becomes available.

1540-1858 | 1844-1866 | 1866-1877 | 1877-1900 | 1900-1919 | 1919-1941 | Introduction

Table 1 - Population Growth
Table 2 - List of Historic Subdivisions

Fort Collins Museum of Discovery          Poudre River Public Library District
Preserving the history of Fort Collins, Colorado & the Cache la Poudre region