Alabaster Art Shop & the Church at Owl Canon

Late last year, Barbara Fleming wrote a column for the Coloradoan on the alabaster business in the Livermore, CO area. (I’ve placed a link to her article at the end of this post.) Her column reminded me that I had a couple of images of an alabaster art shop. It took some time to put it all together but I’m going to share them with you today. I knew nothing about the art shop and had trouble finding someone who could help, and then there was the mysterious old church.

Alabaster Art Shop 782 Full B640
Charles E. Roberts’ Alabaster Art Shop, Laporte, Colo, c. 1932. Photograph by William Sanborn.

The image of the Alabaster Art Shop and the old automobiles and gas pumps are interesting in themselves but then there is the church in the background. The church dramatically raised the interest of the card.

One of the joys of historical research, at least for me, is tracking down someone who knows something about an unusual image. This image proved tougher than most. I finally sent the image to the Livermore Woman’s Club and asked if they knew anything about the art shop or the church. A few years ago, the Club wrote a book on the area, entitled Among These Hills: A History of Livermore, Colorado, and I hoped they might recognize the church. Kathy Packard was nice enough to send the request to their membership and I was finally able to connect with Tom Peden, a local who knew a good deal about the art shop and the church. Tom even had a website with information on the art shop. (I’ve placed a link to his website at the end of this post.)

First I’m going to focus on the art shop and then I’ll tell you what I was able to find out about the church. Most of the information on the art shop comes from Tom and I hope I got it right.

Charles E. Roberts started at least two limestone quarries, one in Ingleside, Colorado and one in Rex, Colorado. Limestone was used in the processing of sugar beets. He ran the quarries from around 1913 until he retired around 1930. The 1930 census shows a Charles E. Roberts with an occupation of merchant of a general store in Livermore, CO. The store was probably the combination art shop and store in this image, which at the time of construction, was on the road from Fort Collins to Laramie, WY. The the license plates on the automobiles in the photograph are also form the 1930s. You can see that Charles sold alabaster art, Aztec curios, soft drinks, and of course, gasoline. Below is a later image of the shop, circa 1940.

Alabaster 782 no 2 pm 1942 Full B640
Charles E. Roberts’ Alabaster Art Shop at Owl Canon on the Laramie Highway, Laporte, Colorado, c. 1940. Photograph by William Sanborn

In this image, the buildings are a little bigger and the church is gone. Unfortunately, there isn’t any way to date this card except that it postmarked 1942, so the image was taken before then.

Tom remembers that the road to Laramie was rerouted in 1952. This store was abandoned and the owner at that time, Napoleon Martinez, built a new store on the rerouted highway. Tom thinks that the buildings in these two images were abandoned and slowly deteriorated. He believes they were burned down in the 1980s. Now let’s move on to the church.

Church Closeup B640
Church at Owl Canon Enlargement, c. 1930

The information on the church in the early photograph was even harder to track down. Tom had some memories of it that he shared with me and, fortunately, the Catholic Archdiocese Denver had some records of the church. Neither thinks the church was ever named, so I’m calling it the Church at Owl Canon,

Tom remembers that the church was built on land owned by Charles E. Roberts in the mid-1920s. Roberts was still running the limestone quarries and was looking for a place for his mostly Hispanic workforce to worship. Tom thought that Roberts donated the building and land to the Catholic Church.

Ingleside Quarry Worker c1915 B640
Workers at Ingleside Quarry, Ingleside, CO, c. 1915. Photographer is unknown.

Karyl Klein, Archivist, Archdiocese of Denver, kindly searched their records and confirmed that the Roberts’ family donated the land to Bishop Tihen in 1930. Bishop Tihen served as Bishop of Denver from 1917 until 1931. Father Trudel, pastor of Holy Family Church in Fort Collins, CO, often worked with the migrant community and probably preached there on occasion.

Once the limestone quarries closed, the land was too far from Fort Collins and, it appears, the church was abandoned. The church records show that the land was deeded back to the Roberts’ family in 1948.

Tom thinks that the church was moved from the site and re-purposed. That must have happened prior to 1942, since it isn’t in the postcard with the 1942 postmark. Where it went and what it was used for remains a mystery.

Here is the link to Barbara Fleming’s article, “A Little Known Local Resource.”

Here is the link to Tom Peden’s website, “Owl Canon.”

Next week I’m going to share images of the Fort Collins’ sugar beet plant.