Early History of Larimer County Schools

Pictured above are kids having fun on the playground at school in Timnath in the 1950s.

The earliest schools in Colorado were simple log or frame structures, symmetrical in design, with a central entrance on the gable end. Schoolhouses were first erected by families which were served by the building, and often consisted of a single room. The first schoolroom in Fort Collins was in Elizabeth "Auntie" Stone's log home.

In 1871, a one-story building was built by Henry Peterson on Riverside (between Whedbee and Peterson Streets), and the Remington School (at Remington and Olive Streets) was completed in 1879. By the 1880s, the population of Fort Collins had skyrocketed, forcing the district to rent vacant downtown store rooms for classes which could not fit into Remington School. To remedy this situation, Franklin School (later demolished) was completed in 1887 at the corner of Mountain and Howes.

In 1901, the city block bounded by Magnolia, Meldrum, Mulberry, and Sherwood was purchased for construction of a high school building. High school classes were moved to the new structure upon its completion in 1903. This building - after completion of a new high school in 1924 - became Fort Collins Junior High School (later Lincoln Junior High, and later razed). The Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, which replaced it, incorporated the old gymnasium.

The city also needed new grade schools to serve a growing student population. The Laurel Street School at Laurel and Peterson was designed by Montezuma Fuller and completed in 1906. Fuller also designed the Laporte Avenue School of 1907 at Laporte and Loomis. Two more grade schools were completed in 1919: Lincoln School (at Elizabeth and Whedbee Streets), and Washington School (Shields and Olive Streets).

Lincoln School was renamed Harris School after principal Mame Harris, who had been the principal of the school from the time it was built until she passed away in February 1939. Then in June of 1939, the school board renamed the Fort Collins Junior High to Lincoln Junior High.

The new Fort Collins High School, completed in 1924, was situated in the southeast portion of town bounded by Remington, Lake, Peterson, and Pitkin Streets. The school, distant from much of the town's population, resulted in long walks for many students. The trolley was the first "school bus" to serve the facility and was routed on Pitkin for this purpose. The building was the city's only high school into the 1960s.

Harmony School, erected in 1931 to serve local farm families, was one of the few Art Deco style buildings erected in Fort Collins. The school year at Harmony School was structured around the farm schedule, with a fall vacation at beet harvest time. The principal private school in Fort Collins prior to 1941 was St. Joseph's School, a Catholic educational facility constructed in 1925 (at 101 North Howes Street).

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