Two weeks ago, I posted some images of Virginia Dale, including an 1867 image of the Overland Trail and some images of the stage station. You can see that post by clicking here: Virginia Dale Part 1. Today, I’m going to complete my Virginia Dale images by posting pictures of the Virginia Dale Community Church, a number of images of the gas station/café/post office, and one image of an early Virginia Dale Ranch.

Virginia Dale, Colorado is located on US Highway 287, a few miles south of the Colorado/Wyoming state line. If you are driving north from Fort Collins, the first Virginia Dale structure you will find is the small white church, with a small cemetery, located on the west side of the highway.

01 Church Virginia Dale B680
Church – Virginia Dale, Colo., c. 1940.

The church was built in 1880 and moved a few miles to its present site in 1884. During this move, the original logs were covered with clapboards and the small steeple was added. Early in its history, the church was Methodist and then Presbyterian before becoming non-denominational.

On November 15, 2003, an arsonist burned down the church. The arsonist, a volunteer fireman, was arrested and sentenced to prison. Cash and building supply donations poured in and, with the help of volunteer labor, the beautiful little church was rebuilt and services were started again on March 14, 2004.

Below is a photograph of the Virginia Dale Community Church today.

02 Church Now B680
Virginia Dale Community Church, 2017. Photograph by M. E. McNeill

I’m sure that the small white church on US Highway 287 is frequently photographed by tourists traveling between Fort Collins, CO and Laramie, WY, But, if an Internet search is a good indication, the most photographed building in Virginia Dale is the abandoned gas station on the east side of the highway. I couldn’t find when the combination gas station/post office/café opened but here are three images of it, stretching from the mid-1930s to the mid-1960s.

03 VD Gas PO c1932 B680
Virginia Dale Post Office and Store, c. 1935. Photograph by Shelby Fishback

Shelby Fishback was a Fort Collins photographer from around 1925 until the early 1970s. A number of things allow this image to be dated fairly accurately. First, the Virginia Dale Post Office moved from the stage station to this Highway 287 location around 1932. Second, the two automobiles, shown in the real photo postcard, were identified as 1931 or 1932 cars, with some difference of opinion on whether they were Pontiacs or Desotos. Third, an enlargement of the photograph shows a spare tire cover on the car on the right with a date that is either 1933 or 1935. Mid-1930s seems like a very close date for this image.

04 PO And Gas pm1950 B680
Virginia Dale Filling Station, Colo. Postmarked 1950. Photo by William Sanborn.

Not a lot has changed since 1935. The building looks pretty much the same but with some different signage. One of the two gas pumps also looks more modern. The biggest changes might be the arrival of electricity and three power poles and the very large Texaco sign. The 1950 postmark is probably the best guess for the date of the image.

05 PO And Gas c1965 Vern Davis B680
Hilltop Café, c. 1967. Photo by Vern Davis.

This photograph is also hard to date. The building has been expanded to the north and the Hilltop Café sign has been added to the roof top. There is also a phone booth in the photo. The only clue that helps to date the image is that it is still the Virginia Dale Post Office. The Virginia Dale Post Office closed in 1967 and was moved to Livermore, CO. My guess is that this photo was taken shortly before the closing of the post office.

06 Store PO Jun 29 2017 B680
Virginia Dale Gas Station and Café, 2017. Photograph by M. E. McNeill.

The Virginia Dale gas station, store, and café operated into the 1990s and is now abandoned along 287, maybe getting its picture taken more today than when it was open.

Finally, below is a circa 1940’s image of Woodlawn Ranch, apparently owned by Ed W. Shaffer (sp?), in Virginia Dale, Colorado.

07 Woodlawn Ranch B680
Woodlawn Ranch, Virginia Dale, Colo., c. 1940.

With some help from some people who live in the Virginia Dale area, this ranch was identified as the Two Bars Seven Guest Ranch, now owned by Polly Schaffer.

It opened in 1913 and became both a working ranch and a guest ranch around 40 years ago. It is 3,000 acres, spread across the Colorado and Wyoming border. Today its address is shown as Tie Siding, WY.

Next Sunday’s post will have to be a surprise. I just won a wonderful 1890’s image of Fort Collins. If it shows up before next Sunday, I’ll probably share it. If not, I’m going to do a post on the souvenir postcard folders of Northern Colorado.


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