There has been a hotel on the southeast corner of College Avenue and Walnut Street since 1879. At first it was the Commercial Hotel, which moved there from Mountain Avenue and Mason Street, apparently to be closer to the train terminal. When the long time owner of the Commercial Hotel, D. M. Harris, died in June 1904, a group of investors bought the hotel and began to renovate it. Their goal was to make the hotel “modern in every respect.” They renamed it the Northern Hotel and the brick, three-story, 75 bed hotel opened in the fall of 1905. Here is what it looked like circa 1913.
In this photograph, College Avenue is still dirt (it will be paved in 1916), it takes a bridge to get across the gutter, the ladies are all wearing dresses or skirts, the men and boys are wearing hats, and the road is shared by a horse on the left side, bicycles in the center, and an automobile at the right edge. Cars and horses shared College Avenue from 1902, when Judge J. Mack Mills brought the first automobile to Fort Collins, a 1902 Curved-Dash Oldsmobile.
Here is an enlargement of the bottom-right portion of the image.
While it isn’t perfectly clear, I believe the object to the left of the automobile is a curbside gasoline pump. When automobiles first arrived in Fort Collins, they got their gasoline from stores that kept barrels of gas in their basements. The driver would take a pail, dip it in the barrel, and pour the gas into the car’s tank. Obviously, this caused many accidents. Soon gas pumps became available and what better place to put them than in front of their stores, right at the curb.
As more and more cars came into the city, the curbside pumps started to cause traffic backups and service stations began to take their place but curbside pumps remained a downtown feature for many years. I’ve looked at a lot of Fort Collins street scenes and this is the first curbside pump I have spotted, so “Yea!”
Here’s a different view of the Northern Hotel.
The road is still unpaved but there are a lot of cars. Because there are so many cars in the photo, I’d guess that this photograph was made a few years after the first image. Of course, it’s also possible that some car related event was happening that got our early drivers out in force. The Northern would have made a good gathering point for a road rally of some kind. It’s impossible to count the cars, certainly there are a dozen or more, and one horse and wagon going by.
This enlargement shows the main entrance and the Northern Hotel sign. The Northern Hotel entrance portico and the deck above it would remain a fixture in downtown Fort Collins for some years. I like building signs and I’ll show how the Northern sign changes over the years in Part 2 of this post.
The Northern Hotel also had a painted sign on the south end of the building, with the word “Northern” in script. It is just visible on the right side of the main photo. Here’s an enlargement of it.
Finally, let’s look at two color images of the Northern Hotel.
This street scene, with the Northern on the left side, is probably the earliest of the images I’ve shown. The trolley has arrived and one of the big Woeber electric cars, provided by the Denver & Interurban Railroad, in 1907 is center in this image. Since there are so few automobiles in the photograph, I’d guess it was taken right around 1907.
The second colored image was made years later.
The road is paved and the new lights on College are in place. The new street lights were installed when the paving was done in 1916. There were many discussions between the business leaders and the town fathers on which lights to install. The decision was between the 5-globe post shown here and a single bulb post. One gave more light and was considered more aesthetically pleasing, the other was cheaper to buy and to run. In this case, beauty won.
This particular postcard has a postmark of 1918. I would guess that this is about the date the image was made. It also has this short printed description on the back:
“Northern Hotel, Fort Collins, Colo. Built out of red pressed brick and fully modern. This is one of the best hotels in Northern Colorado.”
In Northern Hotel, Part 2, I’ll show how the Northern expanded to four floors and then to an art deco style.