At 4:00 AM on Armistice Day (November 11), 1923, a “terrifying noise” announced that Union Oil had brought in the first well in the area called the Wellington Dome. The Discovery Well, located between Fort Collins and Wellington, Colorado, was called by the local newspapers “one of the largest wells ever struck.”
While probably not a photograph of the Discovery Well, this is an image of one of the many wells in the Wellington Dome during that period. The caption on the card is hard to read. Looking at it closely, I believe it reads, “Union Oil Gas Well. Larimer Co. Colo. Empress Kodak Shop, Fort Collins, Colo.” The wells came in as gas wells and then, over the course of a few days or weeks, oil would begin to flow.
The Wellington Dome oil field was large, spreading from Terry Lake in Fort Collins to north of Wellington. Prosperity seemed assured. The newspapers predicted that the population of Fort Collins would grow from 9,000 to 50,000 by 1928. Business was booming. Spectators rushed in as shown in the following image:
This image probably ran in an early 1924 Denver newspaper, with the caption: “Two groups of Denver businessmen – just a comparatively few of a company of 500 – waiting at the Union Station for a train to the bonanza, the Fort Collins and Wellington oil fields.”
Fort Collins wasn’t prepared for the surge of visitors. Hotel space was in short supply. One of the first hotels to respond was the Northern Hotel. I’ll show their response on Sunday, with the next post “Northern Hotel – Part 2.”
A more complete post on the northern Colorado oil fields will follow in the future, suffice it to say that the bonanza was short lived.