Dr. C. W. Bingley: Early Photographer of Fort Collins

Bingley Advertisement, June 30, 1881, Fort Collins Courier

Dr. Charles William Bingley announced his presence in Fort Collins with his advertisement for photography services. His March 31, 1881, advertisement in the Larimer County Express gave his location as “Jefferson Street, nearly opposite the Tedmon House” and offered his services for portraits as well as “views of scenery, buildings, horses, cattle, or dogs.”

Bingley was born and educated in England. He had a doctorate in Chemistry from Sheffield College of Medicine. A number of articles written by him appeared in scholarly journals of the 1850s. He may have immigrated to Charleston, SC in the 1860s, at least there is a C. W. Bingley living there at that time. This Bingley enlisted as a private in K Company of the South Carolina 6th Infantry during the Civil War.

The 1880 Colorado State Business Directory lists Dr. Bingley under photographers in Golden, CO. and, according to Harber’s “Directory of Early [Colorado] Photographers, 1853 – 1900,” he was there through 1880. During this period, Bingley wrote a few articles for the Western Photographic News that can be found online. Why he left Golden and moved to Fort Collins isn’t known.

Bingley ran almost weekly advertisements in Fort Collins from March through August, 1881. During the summer of 1881, Bingley shared his studio with another early Fort Collins photographer, James William Shipler. I’ve shared some information and an early photograph of Shipler’s on an earlier post and update. The links to them are shown below.

Fort Collins, September 17, 1877

Update: Fort Collins, September 17, 1877, Posted September 2, 2016

The September 8, 1881, Larimer County Express reported that Bingley had to move his business because of some new construction on Jefferson Street.

The loss of his studio may have hurt his business because Bingley’s name doesn’t show up again in the local newspapers until the December 28, 1882, Fort Collins Courier covered the attempted suicide of his wife, calling it an “unfortunate case of trouble.”

The article reports that Bingley disappeared from Fort Collins on December 20, 1881, maybe because of the “dullness of business,” and speculates that he had gone to England. His wife, only referred to as “Mrs. Bingley,” had opened a boarding house to support herself. She seemed to be doing well but had tried to poison herself with laudanum shortly after the one-year anniversary of Bingley’s disappearance. One of her boarders interrupted her before she could finish the poison and got medical help. Calling it a “temporary aberration of the mind,” the newspaper believed she would regain her health.

Colorado records show that an Anna Bingley, of Larimer County, filed for divorce on August 6, 1884.

During his short stay in Fort Collins, Bingley managed to leave some interesting images. I’ll start with a Bingley image that the Fort Collins Archive was nice enough to share with us and then cover the two Bingley images I own.. All three images are cabinet cards.

Interior of F. P. Stover’s Drugstore, 1881. Photograph by Dr. C. W. Bingley. (FCLHA H01467)

This is the only photograph in the Fort Collins Archive attributed to Bingley, but it is a great one. The Archive uses a date of c. 1890 but it must have been taken in 1881, the only year Bingley worked in Fort Collins. Stover’s Drugstore was on the corner of Linden and Jefferson Streets, close to Bingley’s studio.

While the first soda dispensers appeared in the United States as early as 1810, Stover’s Drugstore had the first soda dispenser in Fort Collins. This photograph probably commemorated its arrival. The pulls at the bottom of the machine are labeled “Cream Syrups,” and the three pulls on the right side are for Birch Beer, Blackberry, and Orange. The syrups would have been mixed with a carbonated beverage from the large spigots above the pulls. The right spigot is labeled “Seltzer.” The left one is illegible. The “Do Not Handle” sign on the bottom indicates that this wasn’t a self-service machine.

Tomlin’s Dry Goods and Tedmon’s Hardware, 1881. Photograph by Dr. C. W. Bingley.

This building was located on the northeast corner of Linden and Jefferson Streets. Though you can’t read the window sign in the photograph, there is a billiard hall between A. B. Tomlin Dry Goods and the H. E. Tedmon Hardware Store. The smaller building to the right of the hardware store was a carriage painting shop.

Fort Collins Town View, 1881. Photograph by Dr. C. W. Bingley.

This is the most fascinating of the three photographs to me. Obviously, Bingley took the photograph from an elevated location. But where was he? I think I can answer that question with certainty.

Lesley Struc (the Fort Collins Archivist) and I used an enlargement of the “downtown” area to identify some landmarks that we could accurately place on the Archive’s oldest Sanborn Fire Maps. Here is the enlargement with the landmarks labeled.

Close-up Fort Collins Town View Landmarks, 1881.

The big building on the left side is the Welch Building. It was/is at the northwest corner of Mountain and College Avenues, where Austin’s American Grill is today. I’ll come back to it at the end.

The church to the right of the Welch Building and a little forward of it was, I think, the first Presbyterian church in Fort Collins. It was at the southwest corner of Linden and Walnut Streets, where The Right Card is located today. Finally, the Collins House, a stone building with a mansard-like roof was on the south side of Jefferson Street between Chestnut and Linden Streets. It is on the right side of the image.

We speculated that the only building tall enough and properly located for Bingley’s perch was the Lindell Mill, now Ranch-way Feeds at 546 Willow Street. Using the Sanborn Maps and imaginary lines form the landmark buildings to the mill, we were able to find the house shown in the foreground of the image. Though we couldn’t find the owner’s name, we know it was at 801 Willow Street, when this photograph was made, or 501 Willow Street, when the numbering of Willow Street was changed. Of course, the house is gone today, replaced by commercial buildings.

Bingley must have been on the top of the mill, with a telephoto lens aimed at the Mountain and College intersection.

Let’s look even closer at the Welch Building.

Close-up Fort Collins Town View, Welch Building, 1881.

The first time I saw a photograph of this iteration of the Welch Building I thought it surely wasn’t in Fort Collins. It was, but not for long.

A fire in 1880 destroyed the original Welch Block, at the corner of College and Mountain Avenues. Jacob Welch quickly rebuilt it into a grand, three-story edifice that, among other businesses, housed the elegant Windsor Hotel.

Bingley’s photograph captures the building at its peak. The building was so impressive that a local newspaper ran a photograph of the Welch Building and suggested readers buy extra copies to mail to their friends so they would know that Fort Collins was no longer a one-horse town.

Another fire in 1885 damaged the building and the corner section was rebuilt but without the third-floor. The corner building remains two-stories today.

Next Sunday we’ll continue our trip up the Poudre Canyon, hopefully with some images you have never seen.