While you shouldn’t pick favorites amongst your children, it is perfectly fine to have favorites in a photograph collection. Below is one of my favorites, a circa 1910 real photo postcard of Laporte Avenue taken from the east side of College Avenue.
It certainly isn’t my favorite because of the quality of the image. The original has spots on it, almost like it was sprayed with something, and there is a fingerprint above the car. It took some time in Photoshop to clean the image. Also, the image isn’t sharp. In fact, it isn’t even sharp enough to reliably identify the car in the foreground. And what’s with the black rectangle in the upper right corner? But the photograph has a few important things going for it.
First, every Fort Collins photographer has made pictures of College Avenue. I’d estimate 75 percent of the street scenes I have are of College Avenue. Mountain Avenue and Linden Street are also common targets. Not so with Laporte Avenue. In 12 years of collecting, this is the only image of the street that I have come across. So it isn’t common, a big point in its favor.
Second, and even more important to me, this photograph was taken at a transitional point in Fort Collins’ history. In this image, horses, trains, and an early automobile are sharing the road. We have the unidentified auto in the center of the image and two or three horse and buggies, one of the left side of Laporte Avenue and one or two parked on the right side of the road. Then we have the Bert Harris Livery Co. on the north side of the intersection. Here’s a closer look at the livery.
Livery stables were common businesses in the early 1900s. The Larimer County 1904 directory lists seven livery stables in Fort Collins. Livery stables were in the business of housing and feeding horses and renting them to customers.
Harris apparently bought the Charles Baker Livery in 1909 or 1910 and renamed it. He ran a series of advertisements in the 1910 college newspaper, the Rocky Mountain Collegian, advertising that he provided feed, stabling, and the sale of horses as well as “cab service day or night.”
Harris was out of business by the time the 1917 City Directory was published. In fact, the only liveries listed in the 1917 directories were auto-liveries, businesses that offered chauffeured automobile transportation. Automobiles had replaced horses as the primary mode of urban transportation.
It took longer, but the automobile would also eliminate railroad passenger service. In the center of the photograph is the Colorado and Southern Railroad passenger depot on Laporte Avenue at Mason Street. Notice that there is a train across Laporte Avenue. Below is a different view of the depot from about the same period of time. The photographer must have been standing on Laporte Avenue, shooting to the north.
The passenger depot was built in 1899 and served Fort Collins for more than 60 years. By 1952, rail service had given way to the automobile and a decision had to be made concerning what should happen to the stone depot, which projected into Laporte Avenue and was impeding the flow of automobile traffic along the street.
That brings us to the third reason this image is one of my favorites.
I love the Colorado and Southern depot. I have a mental list of Fort Collins buildings that I wish were still around and this depot is near the top. But, until I saw this image of Laporte Avenue, I didn’t realize how much of the street the depot covered and now I can better understand the decision to raze the structure.
Sometimes a photograph is worth a host of newspaper articles.