The Armstrong Hotel: Part 1

The Armstrong Hotel opened on April 7, 1923, on the northwest corner of South College Avenue and Olive Street, to serve the auto-tourists who were flooding westward as cars became cheaper and more reliable and roads more accessible. The Armstrong joined the Northern Hotel (see links at the end of this post) in lodging the tourists and business people visiting Fort Collins. Below is an image of the hotel shortly after it opened.

01 Armstrong MEM c1923 B680
Armstrong Hotel, Ft. Collins. Unknown Photographer, c. 1923.

The Armstrong was built by investor Charles G. Mantz and his wife, Caroline. It was named after Caroline Mantz’s father, Andrew Armstrong, a pioneer builder of Fort Collins. The original plan called for a two-story building but, auto-tourism was growing so fast, Mantz added a third-floor, delaying the opening a few weeks. When it opened, the Armstrong was the tallest building in Fort Collins.

The ground floor contained the public rooms, including two dining rooms capable of seating 182 guests, and a number of retail businesses. The two upper floors sported 40 guest rooms. Below are two close-ups of the retail space.

02 Armstrong 1923 CU South B680
Armstrong Hotel, Retail Space South, c. 1923.

The lobby entrance to the hotel was originally on the southeast corner of the building, behind the brick column, just as you enter Mugs Coffee Lounge today. You can see the sign for the Billiard Parlor running below the hotel windows but, I think, it was located in the basement of the hotel, accessed by the stairs on Olive Street.

03 Armstrong 1923 CU North B680
Armstrong Hotel, Retail Space North, c. 1923.

The lonely car in the photograph is a 1922 Buick. Notice the little boy in the passenger seat.  A barber shop sign runs below the windows but, again, I think it was in the basement. If you go back to the south end image, you can see the barber pole on the Olive Street side. Smith’s Sweets and what looks like a hat shop complete the retail line-up along College Avenue.

Here is another early photograph of the hotel.

04 Armstrong MEM Sanborn c1930 B680
Armstrong Hotel, Fort Collins, Colo. Photograph by Sanborn, c. 1928.

Sometime in the mid-to-late 1990s, an effort began to get the Armstrong Hotel listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Two arguments were made for its inclusion in a 1996 cultural resources survey. The first argument was an historical significance argument. “The Armstrong Hotel is historically significant for its direct association with the boom in automobile tourism that reached its zenith in the early 1920s, as well as for its role in the development of the College Avenue commercial district of Fort Collins.” The second argument was based on architecture. “The Armstrong Hotel is an outstanding local example of early 20th century hotel architecture, and it retains much of its original physical integrity.”

Examples of early 20th century commercial architecture are typically modest buildings, with patterned masonry surfaces, parapets at the roofline, and large rectangular windows arranged in groups. You can see in this photograph how well the Armstrong meets the architectural criteria of an early 20th century commercial building.

The effort was successful and the Armstrong Hotel was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in August 2000.

05 Armstrong MEM Sanborn c1943 CU College B680
 Armstrong Hotel, Sanborn, c. 1928. Retail Space Close-Up.

As you can see in this close-up, the Armstrong is decorated in flags and banners, probably as part of a July 4 celebration. Smith’s Sweets is gone and Fishback Photos has taken its place. Fishback was a long time Fort Collins photographer, moving into the Armstrong in 1928 or 1929 and staying at that location into the mid-1960s.

06 Armstrong Map MEM c1936 full B680
The Armstrong Hotel Advertising Postcard, c. 1938.

This postcard was probably used by the hotel to advertise the Armstrong. Interestingly, nothing is mentioned about the accommodations of the hotel. The postcard is aimed at potential visitors coming to enjoy the Colorado outdoors. The small map features Rocky Mountain National Park and the words say, “A convenient base from which to make one, and two-day mountain and fishing trips.” The back of the card advertises the Armstrong as the “Gateway to Estes Park and [the] Poudre Canon,” and mentions trout fishing and big game hunting. There is no doubt who the Armstrong saw as their customer base.

Two changes are obvious in this image. First, a new sign is in place on the front of the building. It might have been the reason for a new photograph of the hotel. Also, a conical roof has been installed over the corner entrance.

07 Brick Pattern Aug 2017 B400
 Armstrong’s Masonry Pattern


The brick for the Armstrong is laid in a modified Flemish bond, consisting of five rows of red bricks laid lengthwise and a sixth row that alternates lengths of red brick with the ends of black bricks. The black brick is also used on the sills and lentils of the windows and for a decorative strip that extends above the third story windows. You can clearly see the decoration on the next image.






08 Armstrong w Corvette MEM c1957 B680
Hotel Armstrong, Color Image, c. 1957

It’s hard to miss the two cars in this photograph. On the left, is a 1957 Cadillac and, on the right, is a 1957 Corvette convertible. Also, the hotel sports another, much larger sign, which advertises “Family Rates.” Another big change is that the lobby door is now in the center of the building, right under the sign, and the Fort Collins Finance Company has taken over the corner position. Also, Fishback Studios now has a neat camera sign and Larry’s Coffee Shop is at the north end of the retail space.

You can see the black brick decorative line across the top of both the College Avenue and Olive Street facades. Also, there are four white cartouches, two on each of the College Avenue and Olive Street facades. A cartouche is a painted or low relief decorative element often used on commercial buildings of this period. Though I haven’t looked at them with binoculars, I’ve read that they have a floral or leaf design.

09 Armstrong Ektachrome c1963 MEM B680
Armstrong Hotel Street Scene, c. 1963


Except for a short period during WWII, when the building served as a barracks for the soldiers taking classes at CSU, the building functioned as a hotel without interruption. But changes were coming. In the 1950s, the interstate highway system opened and I-25 took a lot of traffic and tourists from College Avenue and, during the 1960s, the city’s business center was shifting to the south, taking some of the hotel’s business customers. The Armstrong’s business dropped off and the hotel began to fall into disrepair. One article in the 1970s said it was “shabby, with dirt cheap rooms . . . and a rough crowd.”

In 1973, the hotel changed names. It became the Empire Motor Hotel. In 1979, it changed its name again and became the Mountain Empire Hotel. It also changed its business model and began renting its rooms as apartments. Below is a Fort Collins Archive photograph of the Mountain Empire Hotel.

10 Mountain Empire Hotel H16955 1988 B680
Mountain Empire Hotel, c. 1988. Courtesy of the Fort Collins Archive (H16955)

By the mid-1990s, the hotel was described as a “flophouse” and it closed in the year 2000. It looked as if the long history of the Armstrong was over but along came Steve and Missy Levinger.

The Levinger’s bought the hotel in 2002 and began an almost two-year renovation project. On the outside, they repointed the brick work and replaced and repaired the windows. All their efforts were aimed at taking the hotel back to its best years. They installed new awnings to match the awnings they saw in historic photographs and they installed a reproduction of an earlier Armstrong Hotel sign. The sign required a special waiver but I’ll cover the sign and the interior changes in Part 2 of this post.

In June 2004, the Levinger’s reopened the Armstrong as a boutique hotel. Below are two photographs of it that I took in 2008.

11 Armstrong from SE Nov 2008 MEM B680
Armstrong Hotel from Southeast, 2008. Photograph by M. E. McNeill
12 Armstong Today North MEM 2008 B680
Armstrong Hotel from Northeast, 2008. Photograph by M. E. McNeill

The awnings are striped and you can see similar awnings in the 1928 photograph by Sanborn and the sign is similar to the sign in the 1936 advertising postcard.

The renovation won several awards, including the Colorado Governor’s Award for Downtown Excellence. Recently the Levinger’s sold the hotel to a group of investors from Jackson, WY and it remains to be seen what the future holds for this wonderful building.

Next Sunday, in The Armstrong Hotel: Part 2, I’ll cover the Armstrong signs and share images of the interior of the building. Also, time permitting; I’m going to update a post I did on an 1877 photograph of Fort Collins by James Shipler. I recently received some information on the image from a Shipler family member that I think you’ll find interesting.

Finally, below are the links to the posts I did earlier on the Northern Hotel.

Northern Hotel: Part 1

Northern Hotel: Part 2

CSU’s Braiden Hall

Barbara Fleming wrote an article on Braiden Hall, at Colorado State University, that was published in Monday’s, August 7, 2017, Coloradoan. I have a few images of the building and decided to share them with you, using quotes from Barbara’s article. I hope you enjoy them.

01 Braiden Hall Arch Sketch Groves 1946 B680
Braiden Hall, Colorado A&M College; 1946 Eugene Groves Architectural Sketch.

“A successful Denver architect, who had settled there in 1914, [Eugene] Groves was innovative in his use of materials and varied architectural styles. He developed a long-standing relationship with CAC, for which he designed and built numerous structures including Ammons Hall . . .”

02 Braiden Hall H17842b c1950 B680
First Men’s Dormitory, Colorado State. Photograph by Mark Miller, circa 1953.

“Back in the late 1940s, when an influx of World War II veterans began coming to the college on the GI Bill, housing was in short supply. While re-purposed Quonset huts helped house families, single men had no place to live on campus. So in 1948, Braiden Hall was built as the first men’s dormitory . . .”

03 Braiden Hall Student Services Now 072317 B680
Braiden Hall, Now as the Student Services Building. Photograph July 2017 by M. E. McNeill.

“Now, upgraded, it is the Students Services building. A newer dormitory . . . was built in more conventional style. Today, [Braiden Hall] sits sedately among several other Groves buildings and many newer structures, intriguing the curious with its history.”

You can read Barbara’s complete article by clicking the link below:

Come back Sunday to see a post on the Armstrong Hotel, once the tallest building in Fort Collins.


Lone Pine Inn, Poudre Canyon

A few months ago, I bought a real photo postcard on eBay. It’s a picture of a tent near a river with a handwritten caption, “Lone Pine Inn, Poudre Canon” and the word “Webster.” Here it is:

Lone Pine Inn mcneill B680
Lone Pine Inn, Poudre Canon, c. 1925.

I’ve written a lot about the Poudre Canyon and its historic resorts but I had never heard of the Lone Pine Inn. I checked my copy of Stanley Case’s The Poudre: A Photo History. It had a few lines in it on the Lone Pine Inn, but not very much. So I sent a scan of my image to Jan Gueswel. Jan, a Poudre Canyon resident and the editor of a monthly newsletter for lower Poudre Canyon residents, has become my go-to person on Poudre Canyon questions.

It turns out that Jan had a similar experience with a much better Lone Pine Inn image and had written about it in her newsletter. Here is Jan’s image and her story. (You can see the tent in my image just left of center in Jan’s image.)

lone pine inn Jan image B680
 Lone Pine Inn, Poudre Canyon. Courtesy Jan Gueswel.

Finding facts about Poudre Canyon is like looking for needles in a haystack. The fun part about it is that you find these things in the most unexpected places. 

Recently I was looking through old post cards and found one labeled “Lone Pine Inn, Poudre Canyon”.  I think I know the canyon pretty well but this was a new one on me. I looked at the picture – no bells went off immediately and then I noticed that someone had written the elevation on the card also, 5,700 foot altitude. (That is Poudre Park.)

The second clue was on the back of the postcard. Handwritten on the back was, “Mrs. Mace E. Webster, Bellvue, CO Transcontinental Highway link Fort Collins to Salt Lake.” More Clues!  The Webster’s lived in Poudre Park.

The mountain behind my house is called Mount Webster. Now I look at the photo again and realized I do know where this is.  The house is where the Dimmicks lived for many years before they built the current structure now on the property at 10326 Poudre Canyon. What I recognized was Hewlett Gulch from the highway.

Upon further research Bruce Dimmick told me that indeed it was an Inn, with a couple of lean to bedrooms where people could stay.  His parents bought the cabin, remodeled and then tore it down and built the home they lived in for many years.

Interestingly enough, the name Webster has ties to the mountain and some suggest that the mountain was named for this family.

After the Webster’s left, a family named Porter owned the property.  Louie and Helen Gueswel remember that in the 1940’s they had a small snack shack in front of the house where you could stop and buy candy and pop when you went fishing in the Poudre.

The other interesting thing was the note about this being the “transcontinental link between Fort Collins and Salt Lake City.”  This is puzzling since the road was closed from late October until early May each year from snow.  It could only have been used about half the year.

If you know more details about this please let me know.

Having the transcontinental highway cross Colorado along the Poudre Canyon was a dream of the early movers and shakers in Northern Colorado. Obviously, it never happened and southern Wyoming became the location for the highway.

In this coming week, time permitting, I will do two posts. First, Barbara Fleming has an article on CSU’s Braiden Hall coming out in the Coloradoan on Monday. I hope to post some pictures of the building on Wednesday or Thursday. Then on Sunday, I’ll do the first of two posts on the Armstrong Hotel, one of the great Fort Collins’ landmarks.

Souvenir Images of Fort Collins: Part 2

This is the second and final installment of my Fort Collins souvenir folder collection. Part 1 has some background information on these collectibles. If you haven’t read Part 1, and you want to, here is the link to it: Souvenir Images of Fort Collins: Part 1.

These last four sets of images are all different from each other in one way or another. The first set is the only set of color postcards I’ve seen.

01 Souv Folder Woolworth B680
Souvenir Folder of Fort Collins, Colorado. Published by F. W. Woolworth Co. 4 ¼” x 3 1/4.” Postmarked 1923.

If you are older, you know Woolworth’s. Started in the late 1870s, Woolworth became one of the biggest, and for a long time, one of the most successful chains of five and dime stores in the country. You probably remember their soda fountains but did you know there were one of the country’s largest publisher and retailer of postcards?

In 1912, Woolworth was a national chain of over 600 stores. They paired up with Curt Teich & Co., one of the largest printers of color postcards in the United States, and in no time at all, Woolworths was selling millions of postcards. Most of their postcards featured commercial streets and prominent buildings of the towns that were home to their stores. They sold their full-sized postcards for ten cents per dozen, driving the price of postcards down across the country.

This accordion folder was printed by Curt Teich & Co., located in Chicago, IL. Below are two of the images from the folder.

02 woolworth irrigation bld B680
Irrigation Building, State Agricultural College.

The Civil and Irrigation Engineering Building, now the Statistics Building, was built in 1908 and is located on the southwest section of the loop at CSU. It is in the Colorado State Register of Historic Properties and I will do a post on it someday. For now, enjoy this image of the building courtesy of Woolworth’s. Of course, as happens often with early color postcards, don’t believe the colors. Currently, the roof of the building is gray, not red, though I wish it were.

03 Souv Folder Woolworth City Park B680
City Park, c. 1920

Probably an image of a Sunday afternoon at City Park, it is a great image of a time that has passed. The two images do show how good a job Teich did in printing color postcards.

The next set of images was published by the Sanborn Souvenir Co. It is a set of small photographs, each about 3” x 2 ¼,” inserted in a slightly bigger folder. Here’s what the folder looks like:

04 Selected Photographs Sanborn B680
Selected Photographs: Colorado State College of Agriculture and Fort Collins, Colorado. 3 3/4” x 3.” C. 1940. Sanborn Souvenir Co.

The college changed its name in 1935 from Colorado Agricultural College (CAC) to Colorado State College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts. This set seems to have been produced after that name change, so probably around 1940.

The images are real photographs but quite small. (All the other sets I have are printed postcards.) The photos are inserted loose in the folder. I have eight images, but it probably isn’t a complete set. All but one of the images is marked with the Sanborn name. The Sanborn family were Denver commercial photographers who took thousands of images of Colorado and Wyoming and distributed them in many ways – real photo post cards, four color printed cards, and souvenir sets.

The Sanborn’s called these “miniature sets.” The sets were made to be mailed to friends in other parts of the country or the world or, as the small print on the folder says, they could be collected and mounted in albums. Below is one example from the set.

05 Selected Photographs Sanborn Armstrong B680
Armstrong Hotel, Fort Collins, Colo. Photograph by Sanborn.

Because of their small size, these sets aren’t valuable to someone interested in photographs but they are another Fort Collins collectible.

Now let’s look at two much newer (and larger) collections of Fort Collins postcards. We’ll start with a set from the Fort Collins Museum, published in the late 1990s.

06 Fort Collins Museum B680
Fort Collins Museum Picture Postcards, The Museum Shop at Library Park. 7” x 4” c. 1998.

This variation of the folder is called the postcard booklet. The postcards were sold bound together under a cover, but were made so the 4 x 6 inch cards could be torn out and mailed individually. A postcard with one perforated side is a sign that it came from one of these booklets. They came out in the early 1900s and went through a revival n the 1990s.

The cover image is the Fort Collins Band that had just won the State Band Contest in 1914.

For an image collector, one of the nice things about the postcard folders and booklets is that you get images that you will never see for sale anywhere else, like this image from Bellvue, CO.

07 Museum Flowers Bellvue B680
 B. F. Flowers General Merchandise Store, Bellvue, Co, c. 1894.

Owned by Benjamin and Jacob Flowers, the store was managed by Benjamin, nicknamed Benji. Jacob Flowers had founded Bellvue in the 1880’s. None of the people in the photograph are identified.

Here’s is second image from the set that is rare, at least to me.

08 Museum Avery B680
The Avery House, 328 West Mountain Avenue. C. 1900.

This photograph of the Avery House, 328 West Mountain Avenue, with two children dressed in white on the porch, was taken after the 1893 addition was completed.

Hard as it might be to believe, in all the years I’ve collected Fort Collins images, I have never seen an image of the Avery House for sale. How is that possible when the Avery House is one of our most visited landmarks? Help me out; offer to sell me an interesting Avery House image. My email is shown at the end of this post.

Finally, here is my most recent postcard collection and a short story about it.

Barbara Fleming and I had just completed our first book for Arcadia Publishing, Fort Collins: The Miller Photographs. Arcadia called to tell us they were going to try something new. They wanted to select 15 images from our book and offer them as a postcard collection and they wanted to use our images as their trial balloon.

We, of course, approved and proceeded to get the permissions we needed for the images that weren’t mine. The collection came out in 2009 and is shown below.

09 Fort Collins Miller B680
Postcards of America Fort Collins: The Miller Photographs by Barbara Fleming and Malcolm McNeill, Arcadia Publishing, 2009.

Fifteen 4” x 6” individual postcards are between two covers in a plastic sleeve. Arcadia selected the 15 images from the 130 or so photographs in our book and printed them as postcards, with a caption, stamp box, and room for a message and address on the back.

The cover image is a Miller photograph taken at the Fourth of July Parade in 1911. Miller was just getting started in photography and was working for a professional photographer named Claude Patrick. The horses and riders are moving south on College Avenue and have just passed the old post office, now the Fort Collins Museum of Art, and the Hotel House, which is now gone. The original image belongs to the Fort Collins Archive (H02743).

I’ll end with two more postcards I love from this collection.

10 Fort Collins Miller Bookmobile B680
Bookmobile, Fort Collins, CO, 1939.

Do you remember bookmobiles? Barbara and I sure do and we included two bookmobile images in our Miller book. Arcadia used one of them in the postcard collection. Here’s the caption for the photograph:

“For families in outlying areas, the yellow bookmobile with its collection of more than 4,000 books was a welcome sight. Financed through Work Projects Administration funds in 1939, the Larimer County Bookmobile also visited schools. There were no fines for overdue books, and a lost library card was not a disaster.”

The original of this image also belongs to the Archive (H18188).

Now, a one-question quiz. Barbara, who grew up in Fort Collins, thinks she remembers the nickname for the Fort Collins bookmobile. Her answer is shown at the end of this post. You long time locals can see if you agree with her.

11 Fort Collins Miller School Wagons B680
Laporte Cache La Poudre District 60 School, c. 1913.

This last image is also from the Archives (H03019). Barbara and I liked it so much that it is one of a small number of images that were printed full-page in our book. Here is the caption from our book:

“In the second decade of the 20th century, school consolidation was in the air in rural Northern Colorado. Laporte, a few miles northwest of Fort Collins, became a central local for seven rural schools. Officials laid the cornerstone of the Laporte Cache La Poudre District 60 School on July 4, 1913, before a crowd of 300. On October 10th, the new school opened with 181 students. Six routes had been established to get students to and from school via six wagons purchased from the Delphi Wagon Company in Indiana. One writer said the wagons ‘were not unlike the wagons used . . . for conveyance of prisoners from one jail to another.’ The wagons were fitted with side curtains to protect students from the weather. That same year, during one of the worst winters in Northern Colorado history; wheels were replaced with bobsleds to get children to school.”

I hope you enjoyed these postcard books and their images. For those of you guessing the nickname of the bookmobile, Barbara believes it was called “Yeller Feller,” for its yellow color. Let me know if you think she is right or wrong.

Use the Comment Box below this post or email me at the address shown below with any comments or Avery House offers.

Next Sunday, I’m going to publish a guest post by Jan Gueswel on the Lone Pine Inn.

Souvenir Images of Fort Collins: Part 1

In the last part of the 1800s, a new printing technique known as halftone reproduction was invented. It used dots to simulate the continuous tones of black-and-white photographs by varying the size and spacing of the dots. The first commercial use was a crude halftone image of a hotel in the December 2, 1873 issue of the New York Daily Graphic’s newspaper.

By the turn of the 20th century, halftone reproduction had improved in quality and gone down in price. Halftone reproduction made souvenir books of images a common tourist commodity and Fort Collins wasn’t left behind.

Below is the earliest souvenir book of Fort Collins in my collection.

01 Souvenir Fort Collins Killgore Bookstore B680
Souvenir Book of Fort Collins, Col., 1904. 7” x 5 ¼” Published by John Latimer, Proprietor of the Killgore Bookstore.

Traveling agents from a publishing company, in this case the Albertype Co., of Brooklyn, N.Y., visited bookstores, stationers, and other merchants in small towns and cities. They were trying to commission a series of 10 to 15 local views. If the agent was successful, the images would be selected, halftone printed, and bound in a simple booklet. This example has three punched holes and was apparently bound with red ribbon, though very little of the ribbon remains on my copy.

The souvenir books were cheaply printed and sold for around ten cents per copy. This book was published by John Latimer, who owned the Killgore Bookstore, 105 South College Avenue. According to the local newspapers, Latimer bought the book store in July 1903 and sold it in 1905. In mid to late 1904, Latimer was advertising “Dainty souvenir books and postal card views of Fort Collins.” He was probably advertising this book.

My book has 15 images in it, though, because they are unbound, it is hard to know if I have a full set. All images are of Fort Collins or the college. The most interesting image is a tri-fold street scene of College Avenue and Linden Street.

02 Sov of FC Killgore Trifold B680
Fort Collins, Col., with handwritten caption “College Ave. Linden St,” c. 1904.

Unfolded, the image measures just over 12 inches long, too long for the bed of my scanner. It is 3 1/4 inches wide. The photograph appears to have been taken from the top of the First National Bank, shooting towards the northwest, though I could be wrong.

Below is another image from the book.

03 Sov of FC Killgore High School B680
High School, c. 1903.

This image measures approximately 5 ¼ x 4 inches. Looking at the trees, it seems like the image must have been taken shortly after the high school was built in 1903, on Meldrum Street where the present Lincoln Center stands.

The souvenir book was replaced quickly by the post card folder. Post card sized images were attached accordion fashion to each other and folded into a printed cover. The entire folder was designed so that it could be sealed and mailed as one piece. The postage was very reasonable, one cent or 1 ½ cent stamps were very common.

I have three accordion style postcard folders. Below are scans of the covers and one or two of the images from each of them that I especially liked.

04 Souv Folding Post Card Wood B680
Souvenir Folding Post Card, Fort Collins Series No. 58. Published by Jesse R. Wood, Fort Collins, Colo. 5 ¾” x 4”. C. 1910.

Series No. 58? Can it mean that Jesse R. Wood published 58 different postcard folders of Fort Collins? I think, if true, I would have seen more of them over the years. Unfortunately, I was unable to find any information Wood.

Assuming my set is complete, the folder consists of eight Fort Collins postcards printed only on one side. As you’ll see, many publishers printed images on both sides of the paper. Wood didn’t take the photographs. A number of them, including the YMCA image below, still carry the original photographer’s name – Stephen Seckner, a long time Fort Collins photographer.

05 Souv Folding Post Card Wood YMCA B680
Y. M. C. A. Building, Fort Collins, Colo. Seckner Photos. C. 1910.

I chose this image because I just did a post on the YMCA building and because I love the big dial in front of the car on East Oak Street. The YMCA must have been running a fund raiser and were using this dial to track their progress.

The YMCA opened in 1908 and had electricity service a year or two later. I barely can see the electrical wires on the original image.

Seckner started his photography business around 1880 and was out of the business sometime in 1911. 1910 seems like a close guess for the date the original photograph was taken.

06 FC CO So Folder B680
Fort Collins, Colorado Souvenir Folder.  6” x 4 ¼”.  C.1915.

Here is the second accordion style postcard folder. Unfortunately, there isn’t any information on the publisher or printing company. On the other hand, it has 20 great images of Fort Collins, the college, and the Poudre Canyon. They are printed back to back and are a very nice quality. Notice that the whole package only cost one cent to mail.

I’ve chosen two images to share with you.

07 FC CO So Folder Ammons B680
Ammons Hall, The Woman’s Bldg, C. A. C., Fort Collins, Colo. C. 1925

Ammons Hall at the college has to be one of the schools most photogenic buildings. Someday I’ll do a post on it, using some wonderful interior and exterior images I have in my collection. I’m sure I have nicer images of the building than this but none of them show the in-ground sprinklers.

Originally called the Woman’s Building, it was completed in 1921. It was named Ammons Hall in 1925, so this image (and this set) must have been published after 1925.

08 FC CO So Folder Poudre B680
Scene in Poudre Canyon, near fort Collins, Colo. C. 1913.

I decided to show this image of the Poudre Canyon because I have an original photograph of it. My photograph was used in a newspaper article and is dated August 24, 1913. The image shows how narrow the Poudre Canyon Road was in those early days.

The caption used with the photograph is affixed to my copy but it is incomplete. What I can read says, “The Cache La Poudre Canon on the proposed northern link of the transcontinental highway. [Missing words] character of scenery through which the road passes and the kind of work performed by Colorado convicts.” Of course, the transcontinental highway never passed through the Poudre Canyon.

Here my third accordion folder:

09 FC and PC Souv Folder Sanborn B680
Souvenir Folder of Fort Collins and Poudre Canon, Colo. 6” x 4 ¼”.  Sanborn Souvenir Co., Denver, Colo. C. 1935.
10 FC and PC Souv Folder Sanborn PO B400
Post Office and Sugar Factory, Fort Collins, Colo. C. 1930. Photographs by Sanborn.

The Sanborn Souvenir Co. opened sometime in the 1920s, giving Harold Sanborn, a commercial photographer from Denver, another outlet for the images he made of Colorado and Wyoming. My copy of this souvenir folder has only 10 images in it, printed back to back accordion style. I think it is too few postcards to be a complete set. Three of the ten postcards have two images on them as shown below:


These two images are really hard to date. I think they could have been taken around 1930.

Below is a strange postcard from the same set.





11 FC and PC Souv Folder Sanborn Street B680

View of the Business Section, College Avenue, Ft. Collins, Colo. C. 1930. Original photograph by Sanborn.

The image doesn’t look real. The cars almost look like model cars. Then I remembered seeing a printed colored version of this image in my collection. So here it is:

12 sanborn color street scene
View of the Business Section, College Avenue, Ft. Collins, Colo. Published by Sanborn Souvenir Co. Denver, Colo. C. 1930.

The image in the folder was obviously made from this printed color version of the photograph. Photographs were often simplified when they were made into four-color postcards. You’ll see the simplifications when you look at the original real photo postcard that is shown below.

13 College Ave Sanborn n263 B680
College Avenue Business District, N 263. C. 1930. Photograph by Sanborn.

As you can see, flags, a person, and some signs on the buildings have been removed, probably to make the colorizing process easier. Why Sanborn didn’t use this image as the basis for the image in the souvenir folder is unknown.

Next Sunday, I’ll complete the souvenir folder collection with images from four more folders. I think you’ll enjoy the unusual photographs.

Did Amelia Earhart Visit Fort Collins? What Does the Smithsonian Think. (An Extra Post)

A little over one month ago, I posted a photo of Amelia Earhart’s autogyro parked at Christman Field in Fort Collins in the early 1930s. You can see that post and the photograph at “Did Amelia Earhart Visit Fort Collins?

Since that post, I did some more research and found a detailed itinerary of her cross-country autogyro trip. Here is a link to that site:

As you’ll see, Earhart flew from Cheyenne, WY to Denver, CO and back to Cheyenne in June 1931, without stopping at Fort Collins. But, her plane was obviously here. I asked the Smithsonian for some help. I got their response today.

The Smithsonian agrees that Earhart did not stop in Fort Collins during her cross-country effort. However, she continued to fly the autogyro (which the Smithsonian spells “autogiro”) in exhibitions for Beech-Nut throughout 1931. They think it is possible that she landed in Fort Collins during that time.

Beech-Nut sold the plane on June 11, 1932 to the S. Sidney Pike Skywriting Corporation in Howard Beach, NY. They repainted the plane and used it to advertise different companies, as shown in the image below that the Smithsonian sent with their response to my question.

Earhart aerogiro after sale
Earhart’s Plane after Sale to Pike Skywriting Corporation. C. 1932. (Courtesy Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.)

So, the best information we have is that Amelia Earhart flew her autogyro into Fort Collins sometime in 1931. We just don’t know exactly when.

Virginia Dale, Part 2

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

The Fort Collins YMCA in Color Postcards

In the later part of 1906, Reverend Sylvester E. Ellis, pastor of the Methodist Church, began to pull together a coalition of church and business leaders to explore the possibility of starting a Young Man’s Christian Association in Fort Collins. Within a year, money was raised (around $90,000 for the building and furnishings), architects selected (Montezuma Fuller and Arthur Garbutt), and a location for the building was chosen (the northwest corner of East Oak and Remington Streets).

On June 11, 1907 the cornerstone of the YMCA was laid and the next day the Fort Collins Courier ran a two page spread on the new building. Included in the article were the building illustration and the floor plans shown below.

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 Fort Collins Courier Illustration of YMCA, June 12, 1907.
02 YMCA Floor Plans FCC 06121907 B680
Fort Collins Courier Floor Plans of YMCA, June 12, 1907.

Lots of column-inches were spent on the description of the building’s interior and the variety of rooms, from the separate swimming pool building (which “will have few equals in the county”), to the bowling alleys, gymnasium (“a splendid room”) and locker and shower facilities, to the dark room, biblical library, and to the 29 dormitory or sleeping rooms (each having an outside window and a closet). But even the boosterism of the local newspaper had trouble finding things to praise about the exterior. Here’s what they said:

“It will be seen that this exterior is devoid of ornamentation except upon the porch. It is believed, however, that the combination of white brick walls and red tile roof will make the building more attractive than one can first imagine.”

Since color is so important to the exterior, I’ve decided to show you four early colored postcards of the YMCA building. The first card is very early and may have been made during one of the opening events in late February or early March 1908.

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Y. M. C. A. Building, Fort Collins, Colo. Postmarked 1908.

The red roof tiles against the white walls is attractive and the early automobiles and all the people add to the charm of this image. A couple of weeks ago, I did a post on the Anderson Postals, the images the Chamber of Commerce used to promote Fort Collins. A Courier article mentioned that in 1908 they added three more images to their set of 16 postcards. One of those mentioned was a YMCA postcard. This postcard is very common.  I think this it is probably the YMCA postcard they distributed.

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Y. M. C. A. Building, Ft. Collins, Colo. C. 1910.

Here is a second early image of the building. It must have been taken a little later, since this image has a power pole and lines that is missing in the 1908 postcard.

The building was a three-story building with a basement. Since the basement is partially above ground, it gives the effect of a four-story building.

Both these postcards were four-color printed postcards. Let me show you a very early hand-colored version.

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Y. M. C. A. Building, Ft. Collins, Colo. C. 1908. Photographed by A. T. Gilbert.

There are a number of things I’d like to mention about this image. First, I love the picture angle, letting us see up Oak Street to College Avenue. It lets us see some of the other buildings in the area. Second, because the power lines are missing, I think this is another 1908 image. Third, this postcard is made using the Albertype process, a printing process that made finely detailed black-and-white postcards that were wonderful to hand-color. The Albertype Company sent photographers all over the country to take photographs that they would print and often hand-color. I’ll do a future post on Albertype images of Fort Collins. Finally, of course, is the elephant in the room, the green tile roof.

One of the problems with colored postcards is that the people who colored the cards often had no information on the real colors of the buildings. Obviously, they didn’t know our YMCA had a red tile roof. But, it can get worse as this next postcard shows.

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Y. M. C. A. Building, Ft. Collins, Colo. Postmarked 1915.

Now our building has a green or blue roof and reddish bricks. Never trust the colors on early colored postcards.

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Water Wagon in YMCA Image.

Notice the water wagon in the right foreground. While downtown Fort Collins had city water by 1915, water wagons continued to make deliveries to remote homes and businesses. They also were used to wet down dusty streets, as I covered in a post entitled “Water Wagon in Front of the Northern Hotel.

I’m going to end with two more images that conclude the history of the YMCA building. In 1939, the YMCA building was bought by the Elks to use as their lodge. They made extensive renovations to it, removing the front portico, changing some windows, and, apparently, even changing the roof line. Here is an image of the Elks Club, from around 1947.

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Elks Club, Fort Collins, Colo., 1947. Photograph by Swanson.

Melvin Swanson was a Fort Collins photographer who made a series of downtown images in 1947. This is probably one of that series.

On the morning of April 26, 1977, a downtown explosion rocked the city. Apparently caused by a gas leak, it destroyed a number of city business and seriously damaged the Elks Club. The Elks had to make a decision about what to do. They decided to stay where they where and to essentially build a new outer structure around the original building. Here is a photograph of it that I took in 2009.

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Elks Building, 2009. Photograph by M. E. McNeill.

No hint of the original YMCA remained. More recently, the building was sold and the demolished in 2012. All that’s left is a fenced empty lot.

Next Sunday I’ll share the rest of my Virginia Dale images.

The Railroad Sheep (An Extra Post)

Some postcards just draw me in. This is one of them. When I won this card on eBay the other day, I couldn’t wait to share it.

Ella the Lamb c1910 B680
 Railroad Sheep, North Mason Street. C. 1910.

This real photo postcard doesn’t have any real historic value. It does show a little bit of the rail yard that was on Mason Street, north of Laporte Avenue. The water tank shows up in a number of Fort Collins railroad photographs.

It’s not a great photograph technically. The dog’s head peeking in on the bottom left probably isn’t what you want in a winning image. It’s pretty old, probably around 1910, but nothing like the 1867 photograph of the Overland Trail that I posted a few days ago.

I don’t know anything about sheep but I’m willing to bet that this sheep was a prize winner. Why else would this man pose for a picture with this animal? Anyways, it just looks like a prize winner.

Finally, and the thing that really sold me on the image, was the information on the back. The only name recorded for posterity is the sheep’s.

Let me introduce you to Ella, the railroad sheep.

Virginia Dale Part 1: The Overland Trail and Stage Station

I have too many Virginia Dale images to cover in one post. So, today I’m going to post an 1867 image of the Overland Trail and some images of the Virginia Dale stage station, including a few images I took this week. A couple of weeks from now I’ll post the rest of my Virginia Dale pictures, including images of the Virginia Dale church and the post office/gas station that seems to have become an Internet favorite.

Also, I know very little about the Overland Trail, the stage station, or Jack Slade, so this post will mostly be about the photographs, with just a little history. I hope you enjoy the images.

In July 1862 alterations were made to the Overland Mail service route, which moved it into Colorado and through Laporte, the Forks, and Virginia Dale. Mail service ran across the Overland Trail six days per week, with the coaches carrying the mail and up to nine passengers. In 1863, Indian problems forced all east-west traffic to follow the Overland Trail. According to one report, “it was not uncommon to see from fifty to one hundred wagons with their loads of merchandise and freight encamped at the [Virginia Dale] station.” No wonder the trail became so worn, as you can see in this 1867 stereoview image.

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“296, Virginia Dale, on the Overland Stage Route.” October 1867. Photograph by John Carbutt.

I was able to find a lot of information about this image. It was taken by John Carbutt, a Chicago photographer who was hired to take photographs for a number of railroads, as they expanded west. One of his repeat customers was the Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR).

In October 1867, Carbutt received a contract to photograph the UPRR’s “Editorial Party Excursion,” given for members of the eastern press. Carbutt went with them all the way to the Colorado Rockies, where he stopped for one-month to take images for his own business. He called the series “Views of the Rocky Mountains and Vicinity,” and his stereoviews in the series were numbered from 286 to 315. This image is one of the stereoviews from his Rocky Mountain Series.

I showed the image to local historian Wayne Sundberg who said he thinks Carbutt was “probably looking east, coming into Virginia Dale. Table Mountain is just barely visible in the background. The stage station . . .  would be out of view to the left, around the curve.”

You can see a horse and wagon on the road and a couple of men in the right foreground. Here is a close-up of that section of the photograph.

Overland Trail Wagon Men B680
Virginia Dale, on the Overland Stage Route, close-up.

In 1868 the completion of the Union Pacific Railroad to Cheyenne, WY ended the transcontinental mail and passenger service by stage, although the stagecoach continued to operate for many years in regions to which the railroad did not run.

Now let’s move on to the Virginia Dale stage station itself. Below is a brief introduction to it and to Jack Slade, taken from the current information sign, as you drive onto the property.

“Established in 1862 by Overland stage agent Joseph A. (Jack) Slade, the stage station may have been named after Slade’s wife, Virginia. The bullet riddled station served as a refuge from Indian attacks for the travelers and local residents. Slade himself gained notoriety for the killing of Jules Beni, one time Overland stage agent at Julesburg. It is said that Slade cut off Jules’ ears after the killing, nailed one to a post in the corral, and carried the other on his watch chain. Slade was widely suspected of being in league with stage robbers during his tenure at Virginia Dale, and the mountain to the northeast became known as Robbers’ Roost, because of the thieves who hid there. Slade later led an outlaw gang in Virginia City, where his career came to a sudden and violent end in 1864, when he was hanged by the local vigilance committee.”

The Virginia Dale stage station was a “home” or “division” stage station, which supplied food and even sleeping accommodations to the passengers. Both horses and drivers were switched at these larger stations and a large barn, corrals, and a blacksmith shop were part of the original facility. The smaller “swing” stations were located about every ten miles, so that the horse teams could be switched out.

The stage station stopped operating in 1868, but the building continued to serve as a post office and store until around 1932, when the post office was moved to Highway 287.

The stage station went through a number of owners and changes. The Hurzeler’s built a house on the property, when they owned and operated the station as a store and post office. The house is still there, very close to and just west of the stage station. The original station had a front porch that was gone by the early 1940s. Both the following real photo postcard images were taken after the post office had closed and the front porch had been removed.

Stage Station c1935 B680
“The Old Stage House, 1862 – Virginia Dale. Circa 1940. Photograph by Shelby Fishback.

Shelby Fishback was a long time Fort Collins photographer, with a downtown studio, from around 1925 until the early 1970s. I’m guessing that this image was taken not long after the porch was removed.

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“The Old Stage Station at Virginia Dale, Colo.” Circa 1955. Photograph by William Sanborn.

This image of the station was taken after 1950. The windmill has been replaced with an electric light pole and the white clapboards have aged. Notice in both images, that the original logs are only visible on the west end of the building.

In 1936, Fred and Maude Maxwell, local ranchers, gained ownership of the property. In 1964, they donated the stage station and the Hurzeler House to the Virginia Dale Community Club. In 1985, the Virginia Dale Stage Station was added to the National Register of historic Places. Recently, the Club has taken on the restoration of the station and they have done a beautiful job. Below are four photographs I took of the property last week.

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Entrance to the Stage Station Property, June 2017. Photograph by M. E. McNeill.

To get to the stage station, turn off 287 just north of the historic marker. (I think it is CR 43F.) Take the dirt road and follow the signs to the property. It is between one and two miles. You will come to a fork. Stay left and you will be fine.

The Hurzeler House can be seen to the left side of the image and the stage station to the right. There would have been a large barn in the left foreground. It was moved to an adjacent ranch at some point.

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Stage Station Rear 062917 B680
Images of the Stage Station from Two Sides, June 2017. Photographs by M. E. McNeill.

The log structure was built using “piece-sur-piece” construction. This construction method was described on the National Register as having “vertically notched horizontal timbers . . . placed into grooves of vertical timbers set at regular intervals.” Now that the clapboards are gone, it is easy to see the construction technique. This method made it easier to build large log structures without mechanical equipment.

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Front Porch of the Stage Station, June 2017. Photograph by M. E. McNeill.

The replacement of the porch is the latest renovation of the stage station by the Community Club. It is beautiful. My wife and I had the pleasure of having lunch on the porch, sitting in the shade on wooden benches and leaning against logs that are over 150 years old. The only thing that would have made it better was the arrival of a stagecoach and horses.

Below is the website address for the Virginia Dale Community Club. I’m sure they’d appreciate any help we can give them with this wonderful project. Donations can be mailed to:

Virginia Dale Community Club

844 CR 43F

Virginia Dale, CO 80536

Next Sunday I plan to post images of the Fort Collins YMCA. I hope you will take a look at them.