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Fort Collins History and Architecture

Establishing the City: Old Town and New Town, 1866-1877

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

Jay H. Bouton Law Office c.1878

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 available lands.

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."

Property Types

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 Indians.

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 sophisticated clapboard.

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 manufactured nails.

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, double-hung windows.

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 in 1881.

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 business center.

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 year.

Registration Requirements

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.

National Register of Historic Places
Old Town Fort Collins Historic District Old Town Fort Collins Historic District, 1978
Local Historic Landmarks
  Old Town Fort Collins Historic District, 1979
Auntie Stone Cabin Auntie Stone Cabin, located at the Fort Collins Museum, 1985
  The Brown Farmhouse, 2513 West Prospect Road, 1993
Ranch-way Feed Mills Ranch-way Feed Mills, 546 Willow Street, 1994
Frank Miller Stagecoach Frank Miller Stagecoach, located at the Fort Collins Museum, 1994

Data Gaps

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 period.
Inventory of false front buildings. Remaining grout buildings in the vicinity of Fort Collins. Buildings related to early transportation functions. Extent of early industrial sites and facilities.

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