The Johnston Creamery

Meg Dunn recently posted on her blog, Forgotten Fort Collins, a story about the Poudre Valley Creamery Butterfly building, at 212 Laporte Street. It is a great post and a great building. It reminded me that I also had a creamery postcard also located on Laporte Street – the Johnston Creamery.

Johnston Creamery, 1912

The creamery was started by W. C. Johnston in 1911. It is on a 1911 list of “new industries for Fort Collins,” along with the Electric Light Company and the Poudre Valley Elevator Company. Johnston didn’t own the business long, selling it in January 1914 to a Denver businessman, D. C. Robinson, who kept the Johnston Creamery name.

The Johnston Creamery was located at 128 Laporte Avenue, on the north side of the road, in the Myron Akin building. On the east side of the building was Bert Harris’ Livery Stable. You see the livery stable fence on the right side of the creamery image. On the west side of the Akin building was the Colorado & Southern Passenger Station, which probably made this location ideal for an ice cream shop.

The two-story Akin Building was built in 1897. A few weeks ago, I did a post entitled, “Laporte Avenue: Horses, Trains, and Automobiles,” the main image on that post shows the Akin Building, behind the livery stable, around 1910. Here it is, cropped to show the north side of Laporte Avenue.

Akin Building, Laporte Avenue, c. 1910

The Akin building appears to have been built in two sections that are both clearly visible in this image. An early document calls the front section the “brick” section, inferring that the back section wasn’t brick, maybe wood?

You may have noticed that the Johnston name doesn’t show up on the storefront. Instead, the business took advantage of the two-story east wall that faced College Avenue and painted a large Johnston Creamery sign on it that appears on other images at the Fort Collins Archive.

You can see part of a circus poster on the left side of the creamery image. This poster allows us to date this real photo postcard to the summer of 1912, when the Barnum & Bailey Circus brought their “spectacle,” Cleopatra, to Denver for two performances.

Johnston Creamery Advertisement, Feb 27, 1914

Here is an advertisement from the Fort Collins Weekly Courier, February 27, 1914, showing the products sold by the Johnston Creamery, either from their storefront or delivered to your home. At the time of this advertisement, their deliveries were made by horse and wagon but by 1916, we know they had a delivery truck.

On October 13, 1916, the Weekly Courier ran an article about a “mix-up” between the Johnston Creamery delivery truck and a dog on West Mountain Avenue. The dog had a habit of attacking automobiles and had been knocked over a number of times but now, the newspaper reported, “he has had his last knock.”

The six people in this photograph are unidentified. Surely, they were employees of the creamery and not customers. Most likely, the two women worked the retail counter, selling products and serving ice cream. The three men in white aprons were probably creamery workers, separating the cream, pasteurizing the milk, and making the ice cream. That leaves the man on the left as the delivery driver, the milkman.

The creamery was still in business in 1943, showing up on the 1943 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, but it is not listed in the 1948 City Directory. So sometime between 1943 and 1948 the Johnston Creamery closed.

The Akin Building went on, with Ted Carpenter & Son Transfer (later Ted Carpenter & Son Moving and Storage) taking over the entire front of the building. Around 1978, the front portion of the building was demolished and Washington’s Bar and Grill took over the back portion of the structure.

Now we are in the midst of more change. The Washington Bar closed in April after 38 years of operation and, as reported in the Coloradoan, a new music venue will open in its place in late 2017 or early 2018. I’m glad that at least a section of the 119-year old Akin Building will continue to be part of the Fort Collins scene.