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


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.

Motels of North College Avenue, 1952 – 1960

In this post, I’m going to continue our trip along North College as motels began to expand to the north. The first post in this series introduced the Motels of North College Avenue, 1929 – 1950. This post covers the motels that opened in the next 10 years or so on North College, seven locations with 13 different names. I’ll list all the names but I’ve only been able to find images for four of the motels. Below are the three locations without images.

Motel                                      Address                       Open   Close

Casa Linda Motor Court        1750 North College    1952    1956

Sweet Dreams                         1804 North College    1951    1963

Golden Horse Shoe Motel      1908 North College    1960    1979

One of the most interesting motels opened in 1952 under the name Rustic Rail Cottage Camp at 1513 North College Avenue. Over the years it has had six different names, still operating today as the Budget Host Inn. Here are the names and the approximate dates I have been able to find.

Motel                                      Address                       Open   Close

Rustic Rail Cottage Camp      1513 North College    1952    1953

K – Bar – D                             1513 North College    1953    1974

Town & Country Motel          1513 North College    1974    1993

Budget Town & Country        1513 North College    1994    2005

Chang & Inn                           1513 North College    2006    2009

Budget Host Inn                      1513 North College    2010    Open

101 Town & Country Sign B680
Town & Country Motel Sign, c. 1975. Fort Collins Archive (T02976b)


Even with this many names and a long working life, images are very scarce. I don’t have any historic images of the motel in my collection and the Fort Collins Archive had only one, an image of their sign when they were the Town & Country Motel. Here it is.



Operating as the Budget Host Inn, the motel is one of four motels still operating along North College Avenue.





102 Budget Host Inn CU 111117 B680

Budget Host Inn, November 2017. Photograph by M. E. McNeill.

The next motel to open was the Plainsman Motel. It opened around 1955, with a great sign.

Motel                                      Address                       Open   Close

Plainsman Motel                   1310 North College    1955    1997

103 Plainsman 1 B680
Plainsman Motel, c. 1955.

This image of the Plainsman probably accompanied its opening. The advertising blurb on the back declares, “New, Ultra-modern, Clean, Comfortable, Restful. Home of Colorado A & M College, Near Estes Park and the Mountains.” Below is a second image of the Plainsman taken a few years later. The Plainsman closed around 1997 and, I think, the property now has a pool supply store. I’d love to know what happen to the great sign.

104 Plainsman 2 B680
 Plainsman Motel, c. 1960.

The next motel to open was the Montclair Lodge.

Motel                                      Address                       Open   Close

Montclair Lodge                    1405 North College    1960    Open

Below are three images of the motel, which is still in operation today and still using the Montclair name.

105 Montclair 1 B680
Montclair Lodge, c. 1962.
106 Montclair 2 B680
Montclair Lodge, Postmarked 1962.
107 Montclair 1980 B680
Montclair Lodge, Dated 1980.

The 1980 postcard included a review of the hotel on the reverse side. Here it is:

“Fair place – 1 bed, 2 easy chairs, desk, air conditioning, plenty of lamps, towels, etc. Bad faucets, hard to turn. Shower nothing to brag about, but plenty of hot water. Here for two nights.”

Finally, the last motel to open on North College Avenue was the Lamplighter Motel, which opened in 1961 or 1962 and is still operating today but as the America’s Best Value Inn.

Motel                                      Address                       Open   Close

Lamplighter Motel                1809 North College    1961    2008

America’s Best Value Inn      1809 North College    2009    Open

108 Lamplighter B680
Lamplighter Motel, c. 1965.
109 Americas Best Value 2 102617 B680
America’s Best Value Inn, October 2017. Photograph by M. E. McNeill.

In a few weeks, I’ll share postcards of the motels that opened along South College Avenue in the same period.

Motels of North College Avenue, 1929 – 1950

As automobiles got cheaper and more reliable, and as improved roads were built, tourists flooded into the West. Many of the tourists were looking for low-cost lodging. Western towns, including Fort Collins, responded by opening municipal campgrounds and then tourist cabins, which I cover in an earlier post entitled “City Park Campgrounds and Tourist’s Cabins.” Businessmen also responded opening lodgings for tourists that used many names – cottage camps, courts, and lodges. The name “motel” came along later, blending the two words “motor” and “hotel.” Since it is the name we use today, I’m going to call all of the facilities motels.

The new motels sprang up along the main travel roads; College Avenue in the case of Fort Collins. They opened to the north and south of the town, where cheaper land was available. In this post and the next, I’m going to cover the motels that appeared on North College Avenue. In a later post, I’ll cover the South College Avenue businesses.

As far as I can find, there were 21 named motels along North College. Four still remain as motels. The 21 named motels were at 13 different addresses. Some of the motels changed names. One motel had six different names. I’ll share images of nine of the 21 named motels, though I’ll mention more of them. I’m going to go chronologically, starting with the earliest motel, and I’ll break the post into two parts by when they opened, 1929 – 1950 and 1952 – 1960. Because of the gaps in city directories, the opening and closing dates are approximate.

Motel                                      Address                  Open   Close

All States Cottage Court        1023 North College    1929    1951

Cozy Court                             1023 North College    1951    1983

The earliest motel on the north side of town (and, I think, the earliest motel in the entire town) first appeared in the 1929 Fort Collins city directory. It was called All States Cottage Camp and was located at 1023 North College Avenue. Here is an early postcard of the camp.

01a All States 1 c1930 B680
All States Cottage Camp, c. 1930. Photograph by Sanborn.

The design is similar to the design of the first municipal tourist cabins that were built a year earlier in City Park, small cottages that were separated by covered spaces where automobiles could park. You cans see the small store and gas station on the right side of the image. Here is a close-up of the store and station.

01b All States 1 Closeup c1930 B680
All States Cottage Camp Close-up, Colo. C. 1930.

The sign above the store advertises “Tourist Cabins.” The automobile has been identified by the Antique Automobile Club of America as possibly a 1929 Nash and it is getting gas from a Gilbert & Barker gas pump. This was a visible gas pump with the glass cylinder marked in gallons similar to a large science beaker. It not only showed you how many gallons you had pumped but let you see the clarity of the gas at a time when impurities were a significant issue.

Here is another image of All States a few years later:

02 All States 3 c1938 B680
 All States Cottage Camp, Fort Collins, c. 1938.

As you can see, there have been some major changes in just a few years. The cottages are gone and a building that looks more like motel can now be seen. Also, the store has been enlarged and electric gas pumps have been installed. The sign on the far left, probably impossible for you to read, says “All States Camp.”

Around 1951 or 1952, All States was sold and changed names to “Cozy Court.”

03 Cozy Court c1955 B680
Cozy Court, Highway 287, Fort Collins, c. 1955.

The gas pumps are gone and the store now looks more like a home than a commercial building but the rental rooms look pretty much the same.

Cozy Court closed sometime in 1983 or 1984. Today, Advance Auto Parts is in its place.

Motel                                      Address                  Open   Close

Riverside Cottage Camp        620 North College      1933    1957

Gaston’s Cottage Court          1303 North College    1940    1950

Stonecrest Court                     1303 North College    1950    1987

The second motel on North College Avenue was the Riverside College Camp that was open by 1933 at 620 North College Avenue. I don’t have an image of it but I do have postcards from the next motel. There was a seven year gap until Gaston’s Cottage Court opened at 1303 North College. In 1950, it changed hands and became the Stonecrest Court. Here is an early postcard of it, after the name change.

05 Stonecrest B680
Stonecrest Court, c. 1950

The short advertising blurb on the back of the card reads, “Steam heat – cool in summer – kitchenettes. Accommodations from two to six persons, Telephone 2151.”

As near as I can tell, the Stonecrest operated as a motel until around 1987 and then must have begun renting out its units as apartments or small businesses. It still exists today under the name Stonecrest Rentals. Below is a photograph of it taken yesterday.

05a Stonecrest111117 B680
Stonecrest Rentals, November 11, 2017. Photograph by M. E. McNeill

The two foreground buildings remain but the motel units in the back seem to have been replaced by a trailer park.

Motel                                      Address                  Open   Close

Mountain View Court                        740 North College      1939    1972

06 Mountain View 2 B680
Mountain View Court, c. 1943.

Mountain View Court is the last of the group of motels that opened on North College before World War II. This postcard exemplifies the problem with motel names, at this time. The front of the card uses “Mountain View Court,” the sign (which you probably can’t read) uses “Mountain View Cabins,” and the reverse side calls it “Mountain View Cottages.”  They have most of the variations covered.

The design is similar to the design of the first municipal tourist cabins and the earliest cabins at All States, with small cabins separated by covered spaces for automobiles.

Below is a scatter diagram displaying the North College Avenue motels by opening year, on the x-axis, and street address, on the y-axis.

06a scatter plot North College Motels B680

You can see the gap between the first two motels and the second pair of motels and the larger gap to the next group of motels, mostly explained by World War II. You can also see how the motels opened farther north as the years went by.

Motel                                      Address                  Open   Close

Shady Lane Trailer Camp      North of Fort Collins  1946    1949

Shady Lane is an interesting entry. It open and closed between city directories, which weren’t printed during WWII. It did show up in the 1940s telephone books but without a street address, just “North of Fort Collins.” I assume it was on North College Avenue, but I haven’t been able to confirm the location.

The end of WWII kicked off another major tourist boom for the west and new motels started to spring up again. The first of this group was considered the city’s most luxurious motor lodge, offering a swimming pool and a popular dining room.

Motel                               Address                  Open   Close

El Palomino Lodge     1220 North College    1949

07 El Palomino 1 B680
El Palomino Lodge, postmarked 1952.
08 El Palomino 2 B680
El Palomino Motel & Restaurant, c. 1960

It is interesting to compare the two postcards, made eight to ten years apart. In the first postcard, the Palomino is a “Lodge,” in the second it has been renamed a “Motel.” Unfortunately, the great “Lodge” sign is gone in the 1960s version. The descriptions on the back of the cards probably tell us what was important to hotel guests in the two periods.

Here is the 1950s description:

“Northern Colorado’s newest and finest unit motor lodge and café located in the cool shadow of the Rockies. . . . Gateway to the beautiful Poudre Canon, Colorado’s Trout Route.”

And here is the 1960s version:

“42 units designed for the complete comfort of our guests, with the ultimate in comfortable furnishings – excellent dining room and snack bar – heated swimming pool and sun deck – free 21” television in all rooms – refrigeration air conditioning – thermostatically controlled heat.”

Though I don’t know for sure, I’d guess that the swimming pool wasn’t part of the original lodge. If it was, certainly the early image and description would have included the upscale feature.

Palomino is the first of the early motels still serving guests. Below is a recent photograph of it.

09 El Palomino 102617 B680
El Palomino, October 26, 2017. Photograph by M. E. McNeill

Next week I’ll finish our trip up North College Avenue, sharing images of the more recent motels.

Barbara Fleming’s Hidden History of Fort Collins

Barbara Fleming’ newest local history book was released this week. Entitled Hidden History of Fort Collins, it covers some of the lesser known stories and images of Fort Collins. It uses a number of images from my collection, including the five shown below that are paired with Barbara’s stories. I hope you enjoy both the photographs and the stories.

01 Points B420
Folsom Man Weapon Points from Lindenmier Site North of Fort Collins, c. 1935


Long before the Wild West emerged in the 19th century, other people inhabited these lands. In 1927, A. Lynn Coffin and his father, Judge Roy Coffin, unearthed artifacts that established the presence of Paleo-Indian tribes about 11,000 years ago, as evidenced by these Folsom points. In the 1930s the Smithsonian Institute excavated the site. Today it is part of the Fort Collins Soapstone Prairie Natural Area, where a buffalo herd thrives.

See my post on the Coffins and the Lindenmier site by clicking here.





02 Bike Shop B680
Folsom Man Weapon Points from Lindenmier Site North of Fort Collins, c. 1935

Women loved the bicycle, which necessitated wearing split skirts or pantaloons and offered them freedom they had never had before. They quickly formed riding clubs. Along with this new mode of transportation came bicycle repair shops like this one, photographed in 1908 somewhere downtown.  No doubt it was one of several scattered around the town. The first bicycle, called penny-farthings, had a very high front wheel and small back wheel, making them a challenge to ride, but people did.


03 Dad Morton B420
Dad Morton, Timnath, CO. c. 1932

A local blacksmith, recalled only as “Dad” Morton and pictured here in 1932, plied his trade during the daytime and played his fiddle at night. During the Great Depression, many farmers still used horses to plow their fields because tractors were too expensive, so his skills remained in demand, as were his nimble fingers to accompany square-dance callers. For a good many years square dancing, born in barns across the frontier in the 19th century, dominated social life in rural America.




04 Byron Whites House B680
Byron White’s Wellington Home, c. 1982.

John F. Kennedy and Byron White met in England in 1939. White, whose childhood home is shown here, served in the Navy during World War II, was valedictorian of his college class and played professional football before being named to the Supreme Court in 1962, after his friend John Kennedy became president in 1961. A moderate, White served for three decades.

05 Tolliver Kinney B680
 Toliver-Kinney Building, c. 1945

Not many people have lived here long enough to remember Toliver’s Hardware Store, which began in the 1920s as a gas station and hay merchant and expanded to hardware. In the 1940s the company was still selling gas, as the photograph shows. After being on the northwest corner of College Avenue and Mason Street for several decades the store moved around the corner into a Mason Street storefront, discontinuing gasoline sales. Long-timers perhaps recall going into the store, with its creaky floors and knowledgeable clerks, who could meet any hardware request, no matter how unusual.

Barbara’s book is for sale at many book outlets, including Old Firehouse Books, Barnes & Noble, Walgreens, Jax Outdoor, and Al’s News Stand.

City Park Campgrounds and Tourist’s Cabins

As automobiles got cheaper and more reliable, and as improved roads were built, tourists flooded into the West. Many of the tourists were looking for low-cost lodging. Western towns, including Fort Collins, responded by opening municipal campgrounds like this one, located in City Park and photographed in the 1920s.

01 Municipal Campround 1 c1925 B680
City Park Municipal Campground, c. 1925.

According to Carol Tunner’s, “An Overview of the Fort Collins Park System,” which was the source of my information for this post, the campground opened in 1919 in what was an old tree nursery. Initially, 26 lots or campsites were laid out for tents, the lots averaging 30 x 60 feet. A few water faucets, seven fireplaces with free wood, and a sanitary toilet provided the services for the campers. For their part, the campers were expected to burn their own trash, keep the area clean, and not damage the trees. Here’s a second image of the campground, probably from the 1930s.

02 Municipal Campround 2 c1930 B680
City Park Municipal Campground, c. 1930.

Initially, the use of the campground was free but in 1924 a fee of 50 cents per night was established.

In 1923, the Fort Collins contracted with the park concessionaire, Robert W. Lampton, to build a two-story community house. The lower floor would provide services to the tourists – an assembly room, dining room, gas plates for cooking, a laundry room, and a small selection of groceries. Lampton would use the second floor as his residence. A few years later, a combined toilet and tool house was built next door to the community house. Below is a photograph of the two buildings, probably taken sometime in the 1930s.

03 Community House c1935 B680
Community House, c. 1935

Towards the end of the 1920s, towns were beginning to offer small cabins for tourists wanting lodging a little more upscale than a campground, but still economical. In 1927, Lampton approached the city with the idea of building 16 tourist cabins. In the fall of 1928, two mirrored buildings, with eight connected cottages each were built at 1544 W. Oak Street. The cabins were called the Paramount Cottage Camp. Here is a photograph of the facility, circa 1930, along with a close-up of one side.

04 Paramount Camp c1935 B680
Paramount Cottage Camp, c. 1930
05 Paramount Camp Closeup c1935 B680
Paramount Cottage Camp, West Side, c. 1930

By 1930, Lampton was also listed as the proprietor of the service station on the left side of the image, facing Bryan Street.

When Paramount stopped being used as a tourist camp is unknown, but by 1954, the units were being listed as apartments for permanent residents. In 2009, the owners of the property, Maureen Plotnicki and Stephen Weber, filed an application to get a Fort Collins Landmark designation for the property. It was approved in 2009 and the owners worked to bring Paramount back to its historical look. As you can see in the photograph I took this past week, they have done a great job.

06 Paramount 102717 B680
Paramount Cottage Camp, October 27, 2017, Photograph by M. E. McNeill.

Even before the Paramount Cottage Camp was complete, Lampton petitioned the City Council for permission to build 16 more cabins, this time in City Park. The Council agreed and decided there should be eight two-unit cabins. Like the Paramount, the two structures would mirror each other, four units on a side, under unbroken roofs with covered spaces between them where cars could be parked. Below is a postcard showing the cabins shortly after their construction in 1928. I’ve also included a close-up of the left-side cabins.

07 Municipal Tourist Cabins 1 c1927 B680
City Park Tourist’s Cabins, 1928.
08 Municipal Tourist Cabins 1 Closeup c1927 B680
City Park Tourist’s Cabins, Close-up, 1928.

You can see a building at the end of the left line of cabins. I believe it is the shower and toilet building for the 16 cabins. The cabins were officially named the Municipal Cottage Camp.

Demand for the tourist’s cabins was great and immediately Lampton and the city decided to add five more two-unit cabins with open garages, with one of the cabins to be used as a laundry. Below is another postcard image after the expansion.

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Municipal Cottage Camp, Ft. Collins, Colo, c. 1935. Photograph by Sanborn.

My postcard has this message on the back, postmarked June 17, 1939:

“Municipal Cottage Camp, Cabin #16. Reached here last night after a nice trip and visit at Rapid City. Rode up a nice road into the mountains this pm. We are at the foot of the Rockies – Beautiful!”

Unfortunately, the Depression was already affecting business. Lampton and the City reduced cabin rates in 1932, from $1.25 to $1.00 per day, hoping to keep the cabins filled but business continued to drop. By 1933, revenues from the campground and cabins wasn’t covering the costs. By the end of 1935, Lampton gave up the City Park concessions. The City tried to keep the facilities running but it seems like they gave up in 1940.

The cabins were used as low-income housing for awhile but eventually the City Park cabins were removed. A few were moved up to the Fort Collins water treatment plant in the Poudre Canyon. Others just disappeared, with no record of a new use.

An interesting era in City Park was over but a new commercial era was starting; motels were springing up along College Avenue. I’ll cover the motels in two future posts.

Poudre Canyon: The Glen Echo Resort

A few weeks ago, I did a post entitled “Poudre Canyon: The Rustic House and Resort.” The Rustic was one of the earliest hotels and resorts in the upper Poudre Canyon, opening in 1880. A neighbor, the Glen Echo Resort, moved in just to its west in 1921.

Glen Echo, on land which once belonged to pioneer settler Norman Fry, was for a time the headquarters for the Racine Mining, Milling and Power Company. The property, after the Racine headquarters building had burned down, was purchased by John and Carrie Cook and H.L and Edith Harris. By 1921, it housed a small store.

The first mention I could find of Glen Echo was a two paragraph article in the December 11, 1921, Fort Collins Courier:

“Glen Echo is just the beginning of a summer resort owned by Mr. and Mrs. H. L. Harris and Mr. and Mrs. John F. Cook. They are all making their homes at Glen Echo which joins the property of the Rustic. . . . In fact, people often think Glen Echo belongs to the Rustic, as it is so near the hotel.

“Messrs. Cook and Harris are building a barn, ice house and garage for four cars. They will serve meals and rent cottages in the coming summer and run a general store at Glen Echo. It will be a pleasant place to spend a few weeks during the warm months.”

Like the Rustic, the original store was located on the north side of the road and, like the Rustic; it was moved across the road to the south side. According to Stanley Case, the original store building was hauled across the road by two teams of horses, probably in 1924 or 1925. Once in position on the east side of the canyon road, the store was joined by four rental accommodations, initially wooden platforms with tents.

The Cooks and Harris lost the property during the depression and by early 1931 Glen Echo was sold to Herman Welter, who would own it for a number of years. Welter quickly added an addition on the back of the store as his living area and painted and generally fixed up the place. He also added five rental cabins. Below is an image of Glen Echo, from this period, along with a close-up of the store and cabins.

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Glen Echo, c. 1933. Photograph by Mark Miller.
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Glen Echo Close-Up, c. 1933, Photograph by Mark Miller.

Mark Miller was a long-time Fort Collins photographer who enjoyed working in the canyon. Many of the Poudre images we have were taken by Miller.

Below is a later Miller photograph of the resort.

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Glen Echo, 1937. Photograph by Mark Miller.

As you can see, Welter has refinished the building a darker color, added a front awning, and a much bigger Glen Echo sign. Also, in much smaller letters, it says “Herman Walter’s Place” over the Glen echo sign. He now also has a gasoline pump in front of the store.

The two cars on the south side of the road are believed to be 1936 Fords, while the nearer auto is probably a 1935 Pontiac. The image is so sharp that the license plate on the Pontiac is readable. It is a 1937 Colorado plate, giving us a solid date for the photograph.

Case tells a story in his book, The Poudre: A Photo History, that Welter guaranteed that every guest would catch their limit of fish, even if he had to occasionally help. Welter was an excellent fisherman and was nicknamed “the blue heron.”

Herman Welter sold the property to Earl and Elizabeth (Dolly) Stonemets in 1946. They built a new store that completely enveloped the old store. They also put on an extension to the east. Here’s what the Stonemets’ version of the Glen Echo store looked like circa 1950.

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Glen Echo, 1950. Photograph by Mark Miller.

The beautiful automobile parked at the store is a 1949 Buick Super. Below are two images of the interior, from this same period.

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Glen Echo Resort Store Interior, c. 1950. Photograph by Mark Miller.

Unfortunately, the people in the photograph aren’t identified. Forced to guess, I would pick Earl Stonemets as the man in the tie and Dolly as the lady behind the ice cream counter. If any of you know for sure, please contact me.

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Glen Echo Resort Dining Room, c. 1950. Photograph by Mark Miller.

The cabins, of course, were important to the success of the resort. Miller made a number of photographs of the cabins. I’ve picked two of them to share.

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Glen Echo Cabins, Postmarked 1946. Photograph by Mark Miller.
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Glen Echo Cabin #1, c. 1950. Photograph by Mark Miller.

When Miller took this photograph, circa 1950, it was the most important and historic cabin at the resort. Notice the outhouse to the right and rear of the cabin. Called Cabin # 1, it was the Cooks’ home when they started the resort back in 1921. Around 1931, when Herman Welter added a living quarters to the back of the store, the building became a rental cabin for large parties. It served guests until 1984 when it was taken down to make room for a laundry and a recreation center.

In April 2003 the main building burned down; it was replaced a few years later and still offers a restaurant, store, cabins and campsites.  Here’s a recent photograph I took of the Glen Echo store.

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Glen Echo Store, June 5, 2017. Photograph by M. E. McNeill.

Centrally located on Highway 14, at almost 100 years old, Glen Echo is still serving guests visiting the Poudre Canyon. I hope the current owners, Dean & Tami Mazzuca and Dan & Denice Anderson, are planning a big celebration for 2021.

Stephen H. Seckner and His Fort Collins Photographs

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The Hunting Party, c. 1891. Photographer “Seckner, Fort Collins, Colo.”

Stephen H. Seckner’s arrival in Fort Collins was mentioned in the July 15, 1880, Larimer County Express. He had arrived from Portland, Michigan, accompanied by his brother, H. D. Seckner. The July 15, 1880, Fort Collins Courier said the Seckner Brothers were inviting “one and all to step in and examine their stock of groceries, their prices, [and] their style of doing business.” Stephen Seckner ran the grocery for years, even after he became a photographer. But let’s back up a little.

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Stephen H. Seckner. Image from Ansel Watrous’ History of Larimer County.

Stephen H. Seckner was born January 27, 1847, in Lewis County, New York. His father, John, was a farmer. Seckner was 16 years old when he enlisted with Company K, New York 5th Heavy Artillery Regiment. He mustered out on in 1865 as a corporal. By 1870, Seckner was living in Michigan, where in 1873 he met and married Ida Ayres. They stayed together until Stephen Seckner’s death in 1923.

Seckner’s Fort Collins’ grocery business was quite successful and by 1883, he had his own building on Linden Street. How Seckner got into photography and exactly when he started taking photographs isn’t clear, but in the 1885 Fort Collins City Directory, Seckner is listed as both a grocer and a photographer, probably as a partner with Edward F. Bunn.

Bunn is one of my favorite Fort Collins photographers and I’ll do a post on him sometime in the future. For now, suffice it to say that Bunn arrived in Fort Collins in around 1885 and he and Seckner began working together immediately. Below is one of the Fort Collins’ images that they produced during their partnership.

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House on Eastside of South Mason Street, between Mountain and Oak Street, c. 1885. From the “Artist Studio of E. F. Bunn and S. H. Seckner, Fort Collins, Colo.”

Two of Fort Collins top historians, Rheba Massey and Wayne Sundberg, were nice enough to trace the location of this great, ivy-covered house. It was located off of South Mason Street on an unnamed alley, with part of the original Larimer County Courthouse shown in the background. The house shows up on some of the early Sanborn Fire Maps. Below is a portion of the 1891 Sanborn Map, with a red arrow pointing to the dwelling, courtesy of Lesley Struc and the Fort Collins Archive.

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Portion of the 1891 Sanborn Fire Map.

The house is gone now and, I think, a parking lot is in its place.

Seckner and Bunn mostly produced cabinet cards, thin photographs mounted on a hard card stock, usually 4 ¾ by 6 ½ inches. These cards frequently identified the name of the photography studio, either on the bottom of the card or on the reverse side. I’ve shown the complete studio identification in the captions of the photographs.

The larger size of cabinet cards made them more attractive to customers and by the 1880s; they were the preferred photographic format, especially for portraits. Here is another building the duo photographed, which, according to a handwritten caption on the back, is “Mrs. Robinson’s house.”

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Mrs. Robinson’s House, C. 1885. From the “Artist Studio of E. F. Bunn and S. H. Seckner, Fort Collins, Colo.”

During this period, having your house photographed was a big thing. Residents tended to showcase the things they prized most. Mrs. Robinson apparently loved her white horse and her lawn sprinkler. Here is a close up of the family group.

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Close-up of Mrs. Robinson’s House, C. 1885.

Hopefully, you can see that the young man, holding this horse, also has a rifle leaning against his leg and that the family cat is on the table in front of the woman in white.

Many local history buffs have tried unsuccessfully to identify the location of this house. Mrs. Robinson might be the wife of then Larimer County Judge Thomas M. Robinson. If that is correct, their home might have been at Remington and Olive Street. A society announcement from this period mentioned the intersection as a location for the Judge’s home. Of course, Robinson is a common name. If you have a thought on the location of Mrs. Robinson’s home, please let me know by commenting at the end of this post or emailing me at

On July 24, 1890, the Fort Collins Courier ran a short article on the partners. Seckner and Bunn had purchased an existing photographic studio and were now in position “to take first class ‘shadows’ of persons and things animate and inanimate.” But by early 1891 the partnership had dissolved and the Seckner and Bunn were running competing photographic studios. By the end of May 1891, Seckner was advertising that the “best arranged gallery in the state north of Denver [was] open to the public.” It used the second floor of his grocery store at 216 Linden Street.

While buildings interest me much more than portraits, portraits were (and probably still are) the bread and butter of photographers. Seckner was no exception. Seckner’s early portraits were simplified by turning the backgrounds almost white and by putting a vignette around the subject. It certainly made the person the subject of the photograph. I have a number of Seckner’s portraits in this style. I’ve chosen the one shown below because I was able to find something about the subject, Adolph Anderson, in the Colorado Historic Newspapers.

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Portrait of Adolph Anderson, c. 1891. “S. H. Seckner, Red Front, Linden St. Fort Collins, Colorado.”

Adolph Anderson, a transplant from Sweden, is shown as a farmer in census records. His plot was small for a farm, only 15 acres. Anderson called it a garden but he ran it very efficiently. The July 26, 1894, Fort Collins Courier ran this article on our Swedish farmer.

“Six years ago Adolph Anderson came to Colorado fresh from the snow clad hillsides of Sweden. When he got off the train in Fort Collins his pocket contained ten double eagles which embraced the sum total of his worldly wealth. He secured employment right away as a farm hand and stuck to his job for two years.

“In the fall of 1890 he bought 15 acres of garden and grassland from W. F. Watrous for $1,000. With the money he had accumulated he purchased a team of horses, harness and wagon, an outfit of garden tools and a year’s supply of provisions. He went to work and fitted up ten acres of his land for gardening, keeping the other five for meadows and pastures.

“Every year since then he has harvested and sold from his ten acre patch, $1,200 to $1,500 worth of onions, cabbages and potatoes. . . .  He also has a small catch of strawberries, raspberries and blackberries, besides a few fruit trees that will soon come into bearing. He is a worker from the word go and hires but little help. He has made and is making market gardening pay in Colorado.”

By 1898, Seckner was out of the grocery business and, in 1905, Seckner opened a new studio at 317 Walnut Street, in the rear of the Frank Miller block. Seckner’s photographs were used in a number of projects, including in articles H. A. Crafts in Harper’s Magazine and Scientific American in 1897 and 1899. I shared those images in a post entitled “Building the Skyline Ditch.” You can see that post by clicking here.

But Seckner was an artist as well as a photographer. One of the earliest mentions of him in the Fort Collins newspapers reported on his “nice pen drawings.” In 1880, he had a pen and ink drawing of James Garfield displayed in the post office. In 1891, Seckner’s crayon drawing of General Sherman was used in a local memorial service and the local newspaper even praised the blackboard drawings he made to “elucidate” his Sunday school lessons. Often, Seckner tried to raise his photography to art as you can see in the following portrait.

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Portrait of Josephine (left) and Elbert Covington, c. 1893. “Seckner, Fort Collins, Colorado.”

Gone are the simplified portraits, replaced by involved studio settings. The parents of these children were H. C. and Josephine Covington. H. C. had numerous exploits reported in the local newspapers, including this one from the April 24, 1890, Fort Collins Courier.

“H. C. Covington successfully performed the daring feat of roping a wildcat while riding the range last week. The beast was discovered while hunting and finding that safety in retreat could not be depended on, assumed a defiant attitude and showed fight. A deft cast of the lariat caught the cat at a disadvantage and Covington then proceeded to secure his prize in a novel manner. Untying his overcoat from the saddle, he thrust a sleeve over the cat’s head and drew it over the animal as one would an arm. It was a tight fit, but after a chapter or two of angry growls the victim settled down in his incommodious quarters and gave up the balance of the day to a trip with Mr. Covington. At the ranch the menagerie attraction was emptied into a cage, apparently none the worse for wear.”

Seckner actively took photographs in Fort Collins at least until September, 1911. In the 25 or so years that Seckner worked as a photographer in Fort Collins, he must have taken thousands, if not tens of thousands, of photographs of Fort Collins and its people.

In 1920, Seckner and his wife moved to San Diego, California, and a year later to Spokane, Washington. On January 24, 1923, the Fort Collins Courier ran his obituary under the headline “Stephen E. Seckner Dies Suddenly at Spokane, Wash.” His body was coming back home to Fort Collins for the funeral and burial.

Vietnam Protesters and the Burning of Old Main

The spring of 1970 was a time of student unrest at Colorado State University and across the country. Student demonstrations, building sit-ins, and firebrand speakers were common. One of those speakers was Abbie Hoffman.

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 Abbie Hoffman Speaking at CSU, April 7, 1970. Courtesy Fort Collins Archive.

Hoffman, one of the Chicago Seven who disrupted the 1968 Democrat National Convention, was a well-known activist speaker. A crowd of 2,000 awaited him as he entered the Student Center, stood on his head on the stage, blew his nose on an American flag handkerchief, and said that he believed “in the violation of every law including the law of gravity.” In a speech filled with obscenities, he predicted “a long hot summer and a burning fall and winter.” For CSU the “burning” would come sooner than predicted.

Within one month of Hoffman’s speech, two national events would incite strikes and violence across the country’s schools. The first event occurred on April 30, 1970, when President Richard Nixon announced that U. S. ground forces were going to enter Cambodia. The expansion of the hated war led to campus protests including a multiday protest at Kent State University, in Kent, OH. Demonstrations were held, the Kent State Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC), a frequent target of war demonstrators, was burned down, and threats were made against town businesses. The Ohio National Guard was called in and on Tuesday, May 4, they fired into a crowd of 2,000 student protesters, killing four students and wounding nine more. Campuses around the country erupted, including CSU.

CSU students and some of the faculty immediately began a moratorium, boycotting classes and holding antiwar rallies. A highlight of the event was a speech by Ralph Abernathy, the President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, who gave an antiwar/antiracism address to 1,400 CSU students on Wednesday afternoon, May 6. He supported the students in their call for a class boycott and criticized the CSU administration for their involvement in Vietnam and in racism.

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Students at Demonstration Event, CSU. May 1970. Courtesy of the University Historic Photograph Collection, Colorado State University.

Rallies, like the one shown above, were held on the Student Center Plaza and a group of more than 2,000 persons marched to the Fort Collins City Hall to elicit anti-war support from local officials. Of course, not all the students supported the war protests and the disruption of classes and many Fort Collins residents thought the protesters had gone too far. Some counter-protests were held like this parade by the American Legion.

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American Legion Counter-Protest, May 1970. Courtesy of the University Historic Photograph Collection, Colorado State University.

This photograph was taken in front of the Campus Shop, which was located on the northwest corner of Laurel Street and College Avenue. Barbara Fleming wrote about the Campus Shop in the Coloradoan just a week or two ago. Below is a link to her article:

On the evening of May 8 the College Avenue Field House was the location of a debate and vote  on a possible student strike and the Gymnasium was given over to a special moratorium concert. These activities remained singularly free of violence until late Friday evening, when, with the concert in progress, one or more arsonists set fire to Old Main and unsuccessfully attempted to burn down the R.O.T.C. Firing Range Building as well.

Here is a series of five photographs of Old Main, from before the fire to the deconstruction of the burned building. Where available, I’ve included the captions that ran with the photographs.

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Old Main, June 24, 1966.

This beautiful portrait of Old Main ran in the June 28, 1966 Denver Post with this caption: “This is Old Main, built in 1878 and put into use in 1879, on the Colorado State campus. The building, the oldest structure there, opened with 19 students and just three teachers. The school was originally an agricultural and mechanical college.”

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Old Main “Devoured by Flames,” May 9, 1970.

This was an Associated Press Wirephoto. It carried this caption: “Devoured by Flames – Flames leap into the sky as they break through the roof of the ‘Old Main’ building on the Colorado State University campus just after midnight today. The general alarm fire went out of control moments after two explosions scattered fireman. The building, built in the late 1800s, was a total loss. Several other fires broke out on campus and it had not been determined if they were related to student antiwar protests.”

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 Fire Damages Historic Building, May 9, 1970.

Another AP Wirephoto: “Fire damages historic building at Colorado University. Officials in Fort Collins, Colo. are investigating causes of the blaze. Students rushed to the scene to help man fire hoses.”

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Fire Investigator and Fire Chief, May 9, 1970.

Denver Post: “Fire investigator, Lt. Jerry Harrison (left) talked with the Fire Chief of Fort Collins, Ed Yonker, at the [Old Main] fire scene.”

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 Knocking Down the Walls of Old Main, May 9, 1970.

Denver Post: “A crane knocks down walls of Old Main following the Friday night fire on the campus of Colorado State University. The fire was being investigated Saturday by the fire department of Fort Collins.”

The fire was almost certainly caused by one or more arsonists, whether by students or non-student activists was debated by the school and community. Some classes, mostly art classes, were still held in Old Main but mostly it was the symbolic heart of the campus, which probably made it the target of the arsonists. No one was hurt and no one was ever charged with the crime.

Talk of a strike, which had been approved on Friday night, quickly faded in the face of the fire. Students went back to class, took their final exams, and, when the returned after the summer break, the violent inclinations of early 1970 were gone. There were still protests but they were more focused and non-violent. Calm returned to the Colorado State campus but it came at a high price.

Here are links to two earlier posts on student demonstrators:

Protesters of the Vietnam War Period

Student Protesters and the Gasoline Engine

P. S. Thanks to the Fort Collins Archive and CSU for the use of some of their images to complete this story.