Zimmerman’s Keystone Hotel, a Stanley Steamer, and a Mountain Lion

John Zimmerman and his brother, Michael, arrived in the Poudre Canyon around 1881. When the Zimmermans arrived, they were searching for gold. It would take awhile, but in 1888 they opened their Elkhorn Mine, north of milepost 89 on Colorado Highway 14.

The Zimmerman brothers had a problem common to all the miners in the area–low-grade ore and expensive transportation. The brothers decided to build a stamp mill, a machine that breaks the ore up by pounding it with heavy steel plates called stamps. The gold was recovered by washing the slurry over a mercury-coated copper plate. The mill was in operation in 1890 but an 1891 flood destroyed it, leaving just the chimney. It never reopened and John Zimmerman moved on, eventually opening the Keystone Hotel.

01 Keystone Front View B680
Keystone Hotel, Front View, Postmarked 1915.

John Zimmerman’s Keystone Hotel, at what is now milepost 84.5, was the premier resort in the canyon for decades. The hotel was started in the mid-1890s and was built with bricks made on site. The Fort Collins Courier announced its completion on July 22, 1897, calling the setting “one of the most picturesque locations imaginable . . . surrounded by some of the wildest and grandest of mountain views in the world.” The building itself was huge for the canyon, three-stories, 35 x 66 feet, with 16 bedrooms, a billiard hall, a barbershop, and other amenities. The covered front porch, shown in the first image, soon became the gathering place for guests.

02 Keystone Wide View pm1908 B680
Wide View of the Keystone Hotel Area, Postmarked 1908.
03 Keystone Wide View closeup B680
 Close-up of Previous Image Showing the Main Building.

The resort was an immediate success. Within one month of opening the resort, Zimmerman was running a twice-a-week stage from Fort Collins to the Keystone Hotel. By the summer of 1899 the stage ran daily, carrying passengers to the hotel and mail to the Home, Colorado, post office, now located at the resort. It took almost 12 hours to make the trip from Fort Collins to the Keystone and cost $3.

04 Keystone From Bridge pm1908 B680
Bridge to Keystone Hotel, Postmarked 1908.

John Zimmerman’s son, Casper, supervised construction of this bridge across the Poudre River. It was completed circa 1890, allowing the Zimmermans to start construction on the future resort. Sturdier structures would take its place but certainly this was the most charming. Below is a Stanley Steamer on the bridge circa 1910.

06 Stanley Steamer c1910 B680
1909 Stanley Steamer Model Z on Bridge to Keystone Resort, c. 1910.

I know very little about antique cars. Fortunately, the internet allows me to contact auto experts who are always willing to share their knowledge. Pat Farrell, a Stanley Steamer expert, sent this information on the automobile in the photograph.

“Using the same engine that set the land speed record at 127 MPH in 1906, this is a 1909 Stanley Model Z, nine passenger, 30 HP Mountain Wagon.  It was developed in 1908 for hauling passengers from Colorado Springs and Fort Collins to the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado.  Because of its hill climbing ability, several transportation companies in the Rocky Mountain area quickly came into being while using the new Model Z Stanley Mountain Wagon.  By 1912, the Stanley Mountain Wagon had become a 12 passenger Mountain.Wagon.  The last year for the Mountain Wagon production was 1917.”

One of the interesting stories of the Keystone Hotel concerns the mountain lion shown below.

07 Lion c1907 B680
Mountain Lion, “Terror of the Rockies,” Photograph by Eda Zimmerman, 1907.

According to the March 20, 1907, edition of the Fort Collins Courier, this huge mountain lion had killed one of John Zimmerman’s colts. Setting a spring trap, Zimmerman found the beast with one foot secure in its jaws. After numerous attempts, he was able to drag the animal into a position where his daughter, Eda, could take this picture. Some skeptics believe the lion was killed and mounted before the photograph was taken.

After the Keystone Resort finally closed despite Agnes Zimmerman’s desperate attempts to keep it going, the land was acquired by the Colorado Department of Game and Fish, now the Colorado Division of Wildlife. The purchase included all of the resort buildings along with John Zimmerman’s reservoir and fish ponds. The hotel was razed in the summer of 1946.

08 Trout Ponds Miller B680
Trout Ponds, Poudre Canyon, c. 1940. Photograph by Mark Miller.

Today, a fish-rearing operation provides stock for several Colorado waterways. Visitors are welcome at the ponds (Milepost 83.8)—without fishing poles, of course, and without the family dog. Hatchlings are delivered to the ponds to be fed a carefully controlled diet until fully grown and ready for transport to a lake or river—where fishing poles are welcome.

Next week, watch for a very old and interesting photograph of a landmark Fort Collins’ building and a possible tie to a silent film icon.


Taking a Break.

I’m in the middle of a family situation that is taking a lot of my time. I won’t be posting for three or four weeks. When I return, it will be with images of Zimmerman’s Keystone Hotel, the grandest resort to ever grace the Poudre Canyon.


The Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks #804

The Elks are a fraternal and social organization that got its start in 1868 as a social club in New York City, but it took a long time for an Elks Lodge to open in Fort Collins, CO. The Elks had a rule that a town had to have a population of at least 5,000 residents before it could charter its own lodge. Fort Collins was struggling to get to there.

In 1900, Boulder, CO was able to start a lodge and a number of Fort Collins residents became members of the Boulder Lodge, inconveniently commuting to the meetings by train. By 1902, the Fort Collins Elks were beating the drum for their own lodge. While the 1900 census recorded just over 3,000 Fort Collins residents, the Fort Collins Elks believed that the recent growth of the town would show that its population now exceeded the target. To prove it, they asked for a “post office census” and in July 1902 the post office confirmed that over 5,000 residents received mail at the Fort Collins post office.

Though the exact date is a little fuzzy, the Fort Collins Lodge, #804, was quickly up and running and trying to find a building of their own. In November, 1902, the Elks purchased a single story building that was under construction on the northeast corner of Linden and Walnut Streets. They hired A. M. Garbutt as the architect and Hiram Pierce as the contractor and preceded with plans to expand the new building to a three-story structure, with retail space planned or the first floor and the basement and the Elks Lodge operating out of the second and third floors.

On April 27, 1904, the Weekly Courier newspaper announced the opening of the Lodge. Here is a photograph of the building from around that time and part of the newspaper announcement.

01 Elks Ext 4 c1906 B680
Fort Collins Elks Lodge, c. 1906.

The Fort Collins Elks “occupied their new lodging club room for the first time . . . and a prouder and better satisfied fraternity of men would be hard to find. In less than one year, the lodge, on a membership of about 200, bought one of the best corners in the city and has erected and furnished one of the very best club houses of its kind in the country.”

Newspaper articles praised various aspects of the new building. Even the barbershop (see the pole at the front corner of the building in the above photograph) got its share of praise.

“Harry Schreck’s nice suite of rooms and baths [has been] fixed up for his tonsorial parlors in the basement of the Elks building.”

Here are two more early images of the building.

02 Elks Ext 1 1904-18 B680
Fort Collins Elks Lodge, c. 1910.
03 Elks Ext 1 CU Stores B680
Fort Collins Elks Lodge, c. 1910. Store Front Close-up.
04 Elk Ext 2 pm1913 B680
Fort Collins Elks Lodge, Postmarked 1913.

While the building is nice, it is a little plain but the interior was what really received praise. Below are four interiors views of the building all circa 1905.

05 Elks Lodge Room c1905 B680
Elks Lodge Room, Fort Collins, c. 1905.

“The lodge room, banquet hall and club room furniture is of quarter sawed golden oak. Divans and settees are richly upholstered in black leather. The station chairs in the lodge rooms are works of art. . . In the lodge room are placed 100 arm chairs for the members. Another hundred chairs of simpler make have been provided for use on extra occasions. . . The floor of the lodge room is covered with Moquette carpet of very pleasing design.”

Interior electric lighting was still pretty new and received the attention of the reviewer as well. He remarked that the lodge room contained “138 incandescent lights and 14 two-lamp fixtures on brackets on the wall,” resulting in “soft light, fair women and brave men.”

The Exalted Rulers platform also received its share of praise. Here is a close-up of it and then two images of the piano room.

06 Elk Lodge Room Closeup c1905 B680
Elks Lodge Room, Fort Collins, c. 1905. Close-up of Front Platform.

07 Elks Piano Room c1905 B680


08 Elks Piano Room Closeeup c1905 B440
Elks Lodge Piano Room, c. 1905. 

The piano, in the lodge, was a Schomacker piano, from one of Philadelphia’s earliest and most successful piano companies. I think it was recently donated to the Discovery Museum and is now displayed near the museum’s coffee shop.

Elks, of course, were used throughout the building. Below is an image of the Elk that I think was in the entry to the meeting rooms.

09 Elk Hall Entry w Elk c1905 B680
Entry Hall with Elk, c. 1905.

Finally, here is a photograph of the billiard room at the Elks lodge. The newspaper description said, “The floor of the billiard room and the card rooms are covered in linoleum and provided with plain, but strong, well furnished chairs and card tables.”

10 Elks Pool Room c1905 B680
Elks Lodge Billiard Room, c. 1905.

The Elks used the building for over 30 years but, in 1939, they bought the YMCA building and moved to that building on East Oak Street. I covered that move in an earlier post on the YMCA building that you can see by clicking here.

The building at Walnut and Linden Streets still stands but it is now only a single floor high. It is currently the home of The Wright Life, which advertises as an alternate sports store.

Joe Fruhwith, Champion Sugar Beet Shoveler

During the first half of the 1900s, sugar beets were the big agricultural crop of Northern Colorado. The best sugar beet farmers received recognition and monetary awards from the sugar beet factories. Usually, a factory’s top ten farms were given awards at the annual end of season celebration, based on the tons of sugar beets they delivered per acre. The winners were the rock stars of the industry. In 1941, the Longmont, Colorado Junior Chamber of Commerce decided to sponsor their own sugar beet competition and the first world championship beet-shoveling contest was born.

Even in 1941, sugar beet farming was a very manual effort. The fields beets were manually planted and thinned. Adults and children used short handle hoes to weed around the young plants. When the plants were ready to harvest, the heavy beets were pulled from the ground and “topped” with a sharp knife called a hook. The leaves were thrown to one side and the topped beets piled between the rows. Below is a circa 1905 photograph of beet harvesting near Windsor, CO.

01 sugar beet Windsor c1910 B680
Sugar Beet Harvesting, Windsor, Colorado, c. 1905

Horse-drawn wagons, and later trucks, followed the harvesters as men tossed the beets into the vehicles, using mostly pitch forks. This strength and skill was the one the Longmont, Colorado Junior Chamber of Commerce decided to recognize.

The championship test was as simple and strenuous as sugar beet harvesting. Each contestant had to move one and one-half tons of sugar beets (approximately 2,000 beets), from the ground into the bed of a truck. The winner of the first annual world championship beet-shoveling contest was Joe Fruhwirth, of Fort Collins, Colorado. Below is Joe’s photograph and the description of his performance that ran in local newspapers.

02 Champion Beet Shoveler Joe Fruhwirth 1941 B420
Joe Fruhwirth, Champion Sugar Beet Shoveler, November, 1941.



Longmont, Colo.: Add sugar beet shoveling to your list of championships! Joe Fruhwirth, of Fort Collins, Colo.,  brought spectators to their feet in the crowded Roosevelt Stadium, as he became the first national champ sugar beet shoveler by throwing one and a half tons into the truck in five minutes, thirteen seconds. The champ ended up throwing the stray beets into the truck by hand, as he crawled around cleaning up the ground.”

Joe beat the second place finisher by 11 seconds to claim first place and the $75 award.

Way to go, Joe!


Cowboys in Fort Collins, Colorado c. 1891

Below is a scan of a photograph of two cowboys, probably in Fort Collins around 1891. This first scan shows the full photograph, reproduced as close as possible to what the image looks like if you held it in your hand.

01 cowboys orig scan b680
Scan of Cowboys in Fort Collins, Colorado c. 1891.

This photograph is a cabinet card, popular in the late 1800s to early 1900s. Cabinet cards consisted of a thin photograph mounted on a larger piece of stiff cardstock. The most common cabinet cards were used for portraits and normally measured 4 ¼ by 6 ½ inches – just the right size to be displayed on or in a cabinet.

Larger sizes were often used for landscape or cityscape photographs. This card measures 4 ½ by 8 inches, though as you can see in the image, it has been trimmed on the top and bottom, probably to fit into a photo album.

Here are two scans of the card after building up the contrast in Photoshop. The second scan shows a close up of the building on the right side of the photograph. Notice the missing boards in the porch roof.

02 Cowboy CU Boudoir Card c1890 B680
Cowboys in Fort Collins, Colorado c. 1891.
03 Billie and Building B680
Cowboys in Fort Collins, Colorado c. 1891, Right-side Close-up.

The buildings in the photograph are probably long gone. The one on the right side has great trim but it looks like it was deteriorating. The only real clue to the location of the photograph is a label on the reverse side. Here is the label.

04 Cowboy Boudoir Card c1890 Label B680
Photographer’s Label.

Most cabinet cards showed the name of the photographer. Unfortunately, the trimming of this card probably cut off the photographer’s name, though it is easy to read “Fort Collins, Colo, on the right side and what looks like “Linden St.,” on the left side. There were very few photographers in Fort Collins in the late 1800s and the only one who I know had a studio on Linden Street was Stephen Seckner. I did a post on Seckner a few months ago. You can see it by clicking here. That post included this image of Seckner.

05 Stephen H Seckner Hist Lar Cty Watrous B420
Stephen H. Seckner. Image from Ansel Watrous’ History of Larimer County.

As you can see, the image matches very closely to the one on this cabinet card. Seckner took this photograph. Seckner may have taken the photograph outside of Fort Collins but, usually, early photographers stayed pretty close to home. In fact, if forced to bet, I’d bet this image was taken right on Linden Street, though we’ll probably never know.

While the location is impossible to know, we can date the image using what we know of Seckner and from the trim used on the cabinet card. Seckner advertised in the local newspapers and in May, 1891 he mentioned that he had moved his studio to 216 Linden Street. He was there until he moved to Walnut Street in 1905. At the same time, the gold trim used on the edges of this cabinet card was used for a fairly limited time, from around the mid 1880s to just after 1890. All of this would seem to indicate that this image was probably taken just as Seckner moved to Linden Street, circa 1891.

Finally, let me mention the two names shown on the front of the card – Ed Howard (probably the older man on the left) and Billie Allen (probably the younger man on the right). Searching the local newspapers of the time, I can find both names showing up in articles from as early as 1888 to as late as 1901. Unfortunately, the names are so common that I’m not sure they refer to the men shown in this photograph. In my dreams, I would have found a long article about Seckner taking the photograph of these two men, including a great back story, but no such luck.

If you have any information on this photograph or the men, I’d love to hear from you. You can respond by using the Comment box below or emailing me at mcneil0115@comcast.net.



A Christmas Post

I’m sure Christmas has always been a big holiday in Fort Collins but it doesn’t seem to translate to a lot of images. I have very few Christmas related images in my collection. In fact, I only have four of them and three of them come from Mark Miller’s family photo album. I’ve written about Miller and his family album before. You can find the first post here and the second post here.

Mark Miller was a long time photographer in Fort Collins, with a studio from 1914 to 1970. Apparently, Miller and his wife, Effie, an artist in her own right, often made their own Christmas cards. Here are three of them that they included in their family album. Unfortunately, none of them are dated.

01 Christmas Greetings Shillouttes 107 B680
Miller Family Silhouettes Christmas Card
02 Family Christmas Photo B680
Miller Family Christmas Photograph
03 Miller Christmas Card House B680
Miller Home in the Snow

My only other Christmas image also comes from a family album of sorts. Some years ago, I bought a photo album put together by Rudolph Booraem. Booraem was the general manager of the Fort Collins sugar beet factory. He apparently loved his big home, which I believe was on East Elizabeth Street, and captured the home and the property in a series of photographs. I’ll do a post on the home in the future but, for now, here is his family Christmas tree in its 1901 glory.


04 Tree Full B440
Rudolph Booraem Family Christmas Tree, 1901.

This image also celebrates his daughter’s first Christmas. Here is a close-up of Elsa.

05 Closeup Baby B680
Elsa Booraem’s First Christmas, 1901.

I’m going to take the next two weeks off from posting. I’ll return on Sunday, January 14, 2018 with an image I hope you will love. It is a photograph of two cowboys on the streets of Fort Collins, circa 1890.

I hope you have a great holiday season and thanks for visiting Fort Collins Images.

Mac McNeill

Poudre Canyon: Arrowhead Lodge and Profile Rock

My last Poudre Canyon post covered Glen Echo. In this post, we’ll continue west two or three miles, stopping briefly at Profile Rock and then spending a good deal of time at the only Poudre Canyon resort on the National Register of Historic Places, Arrowhead Lodge.

Barbara Fleming and I have written about Arrowhead Lodge several times. Some of the information, in this post, comes from our previous books and articles. Much of that information came from Stanley Case’s, The Poudre: A Photo History. The rest of the information comes from the 40+ page application used to get Arrowhead Lodge listed on the National Register.

00 Profile rock p1943 Miller B680
Profile Rock, Poudre Canyon, Postmarked 1943. Photograph by Mark Miller.

Profile Rock, around milepost 89, is probably the most recognized rock formation in the Poudre Canyon, used for years as a navigation point in the canyon. Before taking its current name, the whole rock formation was called Arrowhead Point. The lodge may have taken its name from this rock formation, just to its east.

As the automobile gained in popularity, travelers flooded into the Poudre Canyon. More and more resorts and stores began to open to serve the auto-travelers. Arrowhead Lodge was one of them. Arrowhead was built between 1933 and 1935 by Carl Brafford and Brye Gladstone. Brafford had a successful Fort Collins dry cleaning business and supplied the money. Gladstone, a builder by trade, had already opened the Sportsman’s Lodge farther up the canyon, and with his son, built Arrowhead.

According to Stanley Case, the lodge, along with five cabins, opened in 1936.

01 arrowhead lodge c1947 Swanson B680
Arrowhead Lodge, Poudre Canyon, c. 1947. Photograph by Swanson.

A number of additions to the lodge make dating early images pretty easy. Here is a list of the easily seen additions, with their approximate dates.

1936    Original lodge opens with five cabins

1940    Water fountain added near entrance drive

1943    West game room addition added

1948    East dining room addition added

In this image, you can see the water fountain, with the west addition barely visible behind it, so we know it was taken after 1943. Since the east addition isn’t present, it was taken before 1948. I have earlier images of the lodge but none of them have the great 1947 Pontiac Woody in the photograph.

02 Arrow Head Pontiac Woody c1947 B680
1947 Pontiac Woody Resort Car at Arrowhead Lodge, c. 1947. Photograph by Swanson.

Arrowhead must have used this automobile to move guests and supplies around. Though you may not be able to see it in this image, it has an “Arrowhead Lodge” sign on the side and, I believe, a sign on the back that reads “Arrowhead Lodge on Colorado’s Trout Route.”

Melvin Swanson was a Fort Collins photographer who made a series of numbered images of Fort Collins and the surrounding area in the late 1940s. This is image number 88. I’ll probably do a post on his work in the future.

03 Arrowhead Lodge c1951 B680
Arrowhead Lodge, Poudre Canyon, c. 1950. Photograph by Miller.

The logs used for the lodge were local logs cut at the sawmill at Chambers Lake.

This image of the lodge clearly shows the two additions, the c. 1943 game room addition on the left and the c. 1948 dining room addition on the right. The fountain is probably turned off and is hidden by the tree in the right foreground. The fountain, built around 1940, was made from local stones and was originally served by a natural spring. Rainbow trout made their home in the circular depression around the fountain.

The sitting room of the lodge shows up on a lot of postcards, many by Mark Miller. Here is an early image of the room, before the c. 1943 game room was added.

04 Arrowhead Lodge Room b4 Door B680
Arrowhead Lodge Main Room, Poudre Canyon, c. 1942. Photograph by Mark Miller.

The lodge was furnished with handmade furniture and, according to the National Register document, museum quality western artifacts and animal heads. You can see that there are windows on both sides of the fireplace. After the west addition was added, the right window was replaced with a door to the game room.

05 West Fireplace Details c1945 Miller Sharper B680
Arrowhead Lodge, Fireplace Close-up, before 1943. Photograph by Mark Miller.

Here is a closer look at the fireplace. The arrowhead inserted in rocks above the mantle was carved by Stanley Case out of white alabaster, for the original owners. Stanley Case helped with some of the lodge construction and in 1946 Case and his wife, Lola, bought the lodge from the Bradford’s.

06 arrowhead Interior Charles Cur B680
Arrowhead Lodge, Poudre Canyon, Main Room, c. 1960. Photograph by Charles Curs.

This is another image of the main lodge room. You can see the door to the game room addition on the right side of the fireplace. By the way, the mammoth fireplace was built using local rocks and was initially the only source of heat in the lodge building. The dining room, which you will see in the next image, added a second fireplace on the east side of the lodge.

I decided to use this color image to show the knotty pine used on the walls and the red oak flooring. Charles Curs was a Fort Collins photographer, with a studio on East Mulberry Street between 1960 and 1970.

07 Arrowhead Dining Room pm 1953 B680
Arrowhead Lodge Dining Room, Poudre Canyon, postmarked 1953. Photograph by Mark Miller.

Until the dining room addition was added in 1948, the guests either cooked their own food or had sandwiches and pie at the small tables in the lodge. The new addition, on the east side of the lodge, added the dining room, a kitchen, and a walk-in cooler. The red and white floor tile was added in a checkerboard pattern.

Guests stayed in cabins that were arranged in a semi-circle around the lodge. Below is a diagram from the National Register application showing the layout of the 13 cabins.

08 Arrowhead Layout Natl Reg B680
Layout of Arrowhead Lodge, Cabins, and Other Buildings.

The first five cabins were built before the lodge opened in 1936. Each cabin used an Indian related name, apparently to tie to the arrowhead theme. The first five cabins were Wigwam, cabin 9 on the layout; Thunderbird, cabin 10; Navajo, Cabin 11; Hopi, Cabin 12; and Zuni, cabin 13. The size of the cabins varied between 200 and 400 square feet and initially rented for $2.50 per night.

Twelve of the thirteen cabins were completed before Case bought the lodge in 1946. The last cabin, Pawnee, was built by Case in May 1946. It is shown below.

09 Pawnee Cabin c1945 Miller B680
Arrowhead Lodge, Pawnee Cabin, Poudre Canyon, c. 1950. Photograph by Mark Miller.

The Cases were able to make a paying proposition of the resort, which during their tenure was a community gathering place as well as a popular tourist stop.  Some guests returned year after year.  When there, they might be invited to join a community pancake supper, a square dance, a Halloween party, a pie social or a talent show. The lodge room hosted church services as well as films.  Now and then there would be a “shivaree” for newlyweds who had come to the resort for their honeymoon.

When it came time for the Cases to retire after 39 years, they sold the property to the US Forest Service. Although the Cases had initially understood that the Forest Service would keep the buildings and use them for official purposes, personnel changes and budget constraints caused a change in direction and the USFS decided to demolish the resort. Dismayed, a citizens’ coalition led by long-time canyon resident Elyse Bliss eventually achieved a National Historic Site designation for the lodge and it was saved, although the cabins are being allowed to deteriorate.  Now a summer visitors’ center, Arrowhead Lodge is a friendly stopping place for information, coffee and homemade cookies, and picnicking.

The Johnstown, Colorado Tornado of 1928

We know our area can have blizzards and floods and certainly hailstorms but we forget that Weld County has more tornadoes than any other county in the United States. One reason is its size; Weld County is four times as big as the national average. More land area equates to more opportunity to see a tornado but there is also a geological reason. Weld county sits in a bowl, making it part of a “cyclone convergence zone.”

Fortunately, though, Weld County tornadoes tend to be small tornadoes, F0 or F1 on a scale that goes to F5. But, occasionally, Weld County does see stronger tornadoes, some of which have caused deaths.

On May 22, 2008, one of Weld County’s most destructive tornadoes, an F3, struck the town of Windsor, which sits in both Weld and Larimer counties, killing one person and injuring 78 others. The town was declared both a local and national disaster area; it sustained nearly $125 million in damages. Thankfully, tornado deaths are very unusual in Weld County and even in Colorado. Since 1950, only three tornado related deaths have occurred in Colorado.

Earlier tornado records are hard to come by but a tornado researcher has found ten Colorado tornados that have resulted in death prior to 1950. One of the ten serious tornadoes was the Johnstown tornado of 1928. Johnstown is another town shared by Larimer and Weld counties. Two women died and 50 others were injured when a tornado passed just west of Johnstown on June 29, 1928, around 11:45 a.m.

JT First House 1 B680
Johnstown Tornado Damage, House 1 Wide View, June 30, 1928.

The event was covered in detail by the Fort Collins Express – Courier. Tornado sirens were a long ways in the future and the tornado struck without warning. One man, who the newspaper called a “modern Paul Revere,” drove his motorcycle to farm after farm screaming for the residents to hide or drive away. Though they didn’t know his name, the newspaper credited the man for saving a number of lives that day.

JT First House 2 B680
Johnstown Tornado Damage, House 1, June 30, 1928.

The tornado hit mostly farm country, sparing the Johnstown downtown area. A number of farm houses, like those shown in these photographs, were destroyed. The Fujita scale of tornado intensity wasn’t introduced until the 1970s but the newspaper had its own measure. “The regulation tornado aspect of the storm is verified by the fact that chickens in the storm stretch were stripped of their feathers.” A horse was also picked up and jammed into the cellar door of one house.

JT First House 1 Car Detail B680
Auto Stood on End by Johnstown Tornado, June 30, 1928.

The Express – Courier carrier this story about a man and his automobile.

“A Ford Automobile, stripped as not even highway vultures would strip a stolen car, was left leaning upward against a tree, one end off the ground, according to Ken Brown, city fireman, who was one of the visitors to the Johnstown district.”

Here are two more images of a second (I think) destroyed home.

JT Second House 1 B680
Johnstown Tornado Damage, House 2 Wide View, June 30, 1928.
JT Second House 2 B680
Johnstown Tornado Damage, House 2, June 30, 1928.

While only two people were killed, many were injured. Doctors rushed into the area from Loveland and from a meeting of the Larimer County Medical Association that was coincidently taking place in Fort Collins.

Though small in comparison to the storms of tornado alley, in the middle of the country, the Johnstown Tornado of 1928 remains on the list of the most deadly tornados of Colorado.

Motels of South College Avenue, 1929 – 1971

01 White Cottage Court from Phamplet Image B680

While motels were opening on North College Avenue, cottage camps, tourist courts, and motor lodges were also springing up on the south side of town. You can see the north side motels on these two posts – “Motels of North College Avenue, 1929 – 1950,” and “Motels of North College Avenue, 1952 – 1960.” For the south side of town, I’m going to try to cover all the motels in one post, though I will spend more words on the two earliest south side facilities.

Searching the city directories and telephone books, I found 23 different named South College motels, at 11 different addresses. Only one south side motel is still open, the University Inn at 914 South College Avenue. At its peak in the late 1950s, eight South College motels were serving the traveling public. Only two of them opened before WWII was over. Fortunately, I can show you what both of them looked like.

02 Early South Motels List B680

According to the city directories, White Cottage Court opened in 1929, the same year that All States Cottage Camp opened on the north side of town. Its address was 1601 South College, which is the southwest corner of Prospect Road and South College Avenue. It was open for 30 years, under two slightly different names.

While I don’t have a postcard of the White Cottage Court or the White Motor Court, Lesley Struc, at the Fort Collins Archive, was able to find an image of the White Motor Court as an early 1950s advertisement in The Fort Collins Guide Published for Out-of-Town Visitors and Newcomers. The archive kindly allowed me to share the advertisement with you.

03 White Motor Court from Phamplet B680
White Motor Court “Strictly Modern,” c. 1952. Courtesy of the Fort Collins Archive.

A few years later, in 1933, Davey’s Motor Court opened at 1700 or 1702 South College (the exact address changed from listing to listing.). Below is an early image of the lodging.

04 Daveys Motor Court c1935 Miller B680
Davey’s Motor Court, c. 1941, Photograph by Mark Miller.

Notice the rounded (mission style?) faces on the cabins. Also notice the covered parking spots for automobiles, a feature of many of the earliest travel lodgings. This postcard had a review of the facility on the back, dated July 14, 1941. “We had a double cabin. $5 or $6. Mr. and Mrs. Davey are very gracious to their tourist trade. We felt we were one of the family – not just tourists.”

The facility went through three names changes. Below are images of the final two of the iterations.

05 PVML c1953 B680
Poudre Valley Motor Lodge, c. 1953.

I think, by this time, the lodge had been expanded to form an “L” shape. The back of the postcard advertised “Twenty-two modern units, some with kitchenettes.” It also bragged that the facility was recommended by Duncan Hines, one of the pioneers of reviews and ratings for travelers.

06 El Rancho Motel c1958 B680
El Rancho Motel, c. 1958.

Notice that at the same time the facility takes a Spanish sounding name, it removes the Spanish looking fronts on the original structure. Seems a little strange. A few years later, a different postcard advertises televisions, telephones, and room service, as well as a gift shop and beauty shop. It also mentions that they have housekeeping apartments for rent. As tourist travel through downtown Fort Collins feel off, many of the motels converted to apartments to stay open.

World War II, and the rationing that came with it, caused a gap in motel construction. But by 1946, the war was over and motels were being built again. The first post-WWII facility on South College was the South Side Motel at 1734 South College Avenue, which opened in 1946. As far as I can find, this is the first Fort Collins lodging facility to use the word “Motel” in its name. It wasn’t until 1954 that the city directories began to use “Motel” as a classification, rather than the older “Tourist Camp.”

Here is a list of the post-WWII South College motels in chronological order. Below the list are postcard views of many of them.

07 Later South Motels List B680

08 La Siesta p1961 B680
La Siesta Motel. Postmarked 1961.
09 X-X c1955 B680
X – X Motel, 1800 South College, c. 1955.
10 X Bar X c 1960 B680
X Bar X Motel, c. 1960.
11 Lariet Motel c1960 B680
Lariat Motel, c. 1960.
12 Town House Motel c 1965 B680
Town House Motel, c. 1965.

The Town House Motel opened in 1962 at 914 South College Avenue. From its inception, it advertised its location “Across from Colorado State University.” Around 1971 it changed its name to the University Motor Inn and, eventually, to the University Inn. As the University Inn, it is still open serving and serving visitors and students. Here is a photograph of it today.

12a University Inn 112717 B680
Best Western’s University Inn, December 2017. Photograph by M. E. McNeill.
13 Thunderbird p1966 B680
Thunderbird Motel, c. 1966.
14 Travelers c1970 B680
Traveler’s Motel, c. 1971.

The last of the South College motels to open, Traveler’s was at 4420 South College Avenue, almost to Harmony Road.

Let me end with a chart that combines all the motels on North and South College, showing how many were open for tourist by year. The chart encapsulates the history of mom-and-pop motels in Fort Collins and in many western towns.

15 College Ave Models by Year B680

As autos got cheaper and roads got better, tourists began to flood the west. They were looking for inexpensive lodging with convenient parking, two things that weren’t true of downtown hotels. Tourist camps began to spring up. Their growth was slowed by WWII but took off in the late 1940s and the 1950s. Then came the interstate highway system.

While the new interstate highways, and the chain motels that came with them, hurt the small mom and pop motels in nearly all towns, it devastated the tourist business in Fort Collins. Until I-25 opened, College Avenue, highway 287, was the main north-south highway. In 1963, I-25 reached Fort Collins and by 1968 it was past Wellington and into Wyoming. You can see the impact of the loss of traffic on College Avenue on the chart. From a peak of 17 motels, we quickly slide down to the five motels that are still in business today.

Lesley Struc, at the Fort Collins Archive, is coordinating an effort to put together an exhibit of Fort Collins motel images along with a document that captures all we know of them. If you have images or postcards of our early motels, please consider letting Lesley scan your images for possible use in the exhibit. Also, if you have stories about our early motels that you’d like to share, please email them to Lesley at the archive or to me at mcneil0115@comcast.net.


The Loveland, Colorado Sugar Beet Factory

01 Loveland Topping SB B680
Topping Sugar Beets near Loveland, Colo., c. 1910

Since my long range plan is to donate my image collection to the Fort Collins Archive, I mostly buy images that fall within the scope of their collection. The one place I go off-base is with sugar beet images. I love the early images of the sugar beet industry, from families working sugar beet fields, as in the above image, to sugar beet dumps, to the factories. Instead of limiting my sugar beet purchases to Larimer County locations, I collect images from all 13 of the sugar beet factories that once operated in Northern Colorado. Over the next few months, I’ll share those images with you starting with this post of the Loveland sugar beet factory, the first one to open in Northern Colorado.

In 1900, a group of investors approached Loveland with a proposal to build a sugar beet factory. They placed conditions on their offer, including 1,500 acres adjacent to the plant that could be planted in sugar beets, and guarantees from local farmers for an additional 3,500 acres of sugar beets that could be processed in the new factory. Loveland met the demands and in 1901 the first real industrial plant opened in Northern Colorado. Below are a few early images of the Loveland factory.


02 Building Loveland SBF c1899 B680
Building the Loveland Sugar Beet Plant, c. 1900.
03 Loveland SBF c1921 B680
Beet Sugar Factory, Loveland, Colo., dated 1921.
04 Loveland SBF Townley c1910 B680
Sugar Factory, Loveland, c. 1910. Photograph by Townley.
05 Loveland SBF Rky Mtn News c1920 B680
Loveland Sugar Beet Factory and Field, c. 1910.
06 Loveland SBF Esther c1910 B680
Great Western Sugar Factory, Loveland, c. 1920.

In 1905, the investors incorporated as the Great Western Sugar Company and began buying or building other sugar beet factories in Northern Colorado, including the factory they would build in Fort Collins in 1904. You can see my post on the Fort Collins factory by clicking here.

Just visible on the left side of the last image is a beet piler, unloading beets into the large piles that built up at the sugar factories during the harvest season. Below is a beet piler at work at the Loveland factory. I used this image previously in “The Sugar Beet Pilers” but it is too great an image not to repeat.

07 Loveland SBF Piler B680
Sugar Beet Piler, Loveland Sugar Beet Plant, c. 1945.

Finally, here are two recent images of the Loveland factory as it looks today. It is on Madison Avenue just south of East Eisenhower Blvd. Though the buildings are in disrepair, it is worth the trip to get an idea of the scale of these sugar beet plants. For their time, they were big production facilities.

08 Loveland SBF Now 2 B680
Loveland Sugar Beet Factory, November 23, 2017. Photograph by M. E. McNeill.
09 Loveland SBF Now 1 B680
Loveland Sugar Beet Factory, November 23, 2017. Photograph by M. E. McNeill.

Obviously, someone got tired of assuring visitors that this was the sugar factory.

You can see all my sugar beet posts by selecting the Sugar Beets category.