A few months ago, I posted a two part history of the Northern Hotel, one of the premier early hotels of Fort Collins, Colorado. In case you missed them, here are the links.

Northern Hotel, Part 1: “Modern in Every Respect”

Northern Hotel, Part 2: The Place to Stay in Fort Collins

I used a number of images of the hotel in the two posts but I saved this one, one of my favorites, to show on its own. I thought it deserved its own post. I hope you do to.

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Water Wagon in Front of the Northern Hotel, c. 1912

The image is from a real photo postcard, postmarked 1912. We have a great image of the Northern Hotel, at the corner of College Avenue and Walnut Street, when it was three stories high. In 1924, a fourth floor was added.

At this time, the Northern Hotel was the place to go for food and entertainment. The message on the back of this postcard was sent from “DRD” to Miss Merele Young, Portland, Ore. It reads, “Just came up here yesterday to a meeting. Banquet and Ball last evening. Finest time I’ve had since Jan. 1st. Wish I could have had three dances with you.”

The photograph was taken in the transitional period when Fort Collins was moving from the horse and wagon to the automobile era. There is a horse drawn water wagon front and center in the image but we also have a horse and buggy and an automobile, too blurry to identify, on the far left side.

The right side has a large group of vehicles. Below is a close up of that section of the image.

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Right Side Enlargement

Even enlarged, it is hard to determine what vehicles are parked along the road. There are certainly a number of buggies, maybe one or two automobiles, and what appears to be a covered wagon at the end of the row. There are also a couple of bicycles parked at the main entrance to the hotel. In 1916, after College Avenue was paved, the hitching posts were removed and horses were banned from the downtown area.

To me, the water wagon is the star of the image. Let’s take a closer look at it.

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Water Wagon Filling up at Hydrant, c. 1912

In the early 20th century in Fort Collins, water wagons were primarily used to wet down dusty streets during the summer. In this image, the driver is filling up his wooden water wagon from a city hydrant. The horizontal pipe under the wagon probably dispensed the water as the horses pulled the wagon down the streets.

This image is sharp enough to read the sign near the door behind the wagon. As you can see, the Fort Collins Bank & Trust Co. occupied the space Starbucks fills today. There is also writing on the top of the driver’s umbrella. It appears to be an advertising message but I couldn’t read it.

By the way, water wagons gave rise to a couple of expressions we still use today. In the early 20th century, “to be on the wagon” implied that the speaker was drinking water from the water wagon rather than drinking alcohol. He was an abstainer. Of course, he could always “fall off the wagon.”

I hope you enjoyed this wonderful image.

On Sunday, I’m going to post a series of images from Camp Wayne, a 1920s YMCA summer camp in Red Feather Lakes, Colorado.

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