Poudre Canyon: Indian Meadows and the Miller Cabin

At the end of the last Poudre Canyon post, “Poudre Canyon from Big Narrows to Eggers,” I said I would cover Rugh Ranch and Indian Meadows next. Since that time, I found I had the wrong location for Rugh Ranch. I thought Rugh Ranch was located at Eggers but it really was west of Rustic. So, I’ll get to it in a later post.

If you drive approximately two-miles past the bridge to Pingree Park, you’ll come to Indian Meadows. It is a very large meadow on the north side of Highway 14, at milepost 94. There are a few parking spots at the center of the meadow with a foot path to the north that will take you to the Poudre River. It is a popular fishing spot and a beautiful place to picnic. It also has an interesting history.

01 Indian Meadows Miller c1943 B640
Heading East on Poudre Canyon Road towards Indian Meadows, c. 1940, Photograph by Mark Miller.

Indian Meadows, described by Norman Fry in his book, Cache la Poudre: The River, was a gathering place for Native Americans roaming in the canyon. About the naming of the large meadows, Fry said, “In the River’s upper mountain parks . . . it seemed that the Arapaho, Cheyenne, and the Ute Indians had through the years camped, hunted, and fished. Even refugee Cherokees from the State of Georgia, I was told, had traversed the section looking for a new home. These really were the ‘Indian Meadows’ then!”

Born in England, Fry arrived in Fort Collins in 1888 at age17 on his way to try his hand at ranching in the Poudre Canyon. He worked a variety of jobs in the canyon and had memorable experiences which he later recalled in his book. Fry worked for six-years at the large Indian Meadows Ranch that encompassed over 1,000 acres, including Indian Meadows and the Indian Meadows Resort, which I’ll discuss next.

02 Indian Meadows 060517
Indian Meadows Today, Looking West from the Footpath, June 5, 2017. Photograph by M. McNeill.

Continue west on Poudre Canyon Road for just over one-mile and you’ll come to the Indian Meadows Resort, located on the south side of the highway.

Indian Meadows Lodge began in 1928 as a store, with living quarters in the back, and a few small cabins. Motorists could purchase gas along with engine oil, fan belts and other minor-repair automobile parts. According to Stanley Case’s, The Poudre: A Photo History, the original owner and builder was Guy Slonecker, who operated the business until he retired in 1933 or 1934. It went through a number of hands over the next 80+ years.

Below is a series of photographs of the resort from circa 1928, close to when the resort opened, until today.

03 IMR c1925 Sanborn B640
Indian Meadows Store and Camp, c, 1928. Photograph by William Sanborn.
04 Indian Meadows Gas c1925 Sanborn B640
Close-up of Gas Pump, c. 1928

My guess is that this photograph was taken by Sanborn shortly after the opening of the resort. Notice the gas pump. There isn’t a building yet, just a swing behind the pump.

05 Indian Meadows Resort Miller 1943 B640
Indian Meadows, Poudre Canyon, Dated July 1943. Photograph by Mark Miller.

By 1943, a small gas station is in place, with slightly newer gas pumps. The Indian Meadows sign on the right edge advertises cabins, cottages, and an up to date store, with lunch, candy, cigarettes, and film. Fishing is also mentioned.

06 IMR Full 1953 B640
Indian Meadows Resort, Poudre Canyon, c. 1953. Photograph by Mark Miller.

If you’ll notice, the main building has been extended on the left side, changing the roof line. The main building went through a number of modifications to add a bar, dining room, and space for live music.

07 IMR Strip Cabins pm 1956 Miller B640
Indian Meadows Motel, c. 1956. Photograph by Mark Miller.

Sometime in the mid-1950s, a “modern” motel was added to the property, on the east side of the main building. You can see the edge of the main building on the right side of the image. This postcard is postmarked 1956.

08 Indian Meadows Resort 060517
Indian Meadows Resort, June 5, 2017. Photograph by M. McNeill.

Above is a photograph of the resort, which I took earlier this month. More recently the resort was hosting weddings and other events but it looked closed to me when I was there this month.

Not far from the Indian Meadows Resort, and on the other side of the road, was the cabin Mark Miller and his family owned. These two images are from the Miller Family Album, which I discussed earlier in two posts, starting with “Mark Miller: Images from the Photographers’ Family Album – Part 1

09 Cabin B640
Miller Family Cabin near Indian Meadows Resort, c. 1940. Photograph by Mark Miller.

With some other buyers, Mark Miller purchased land there based on an agreement with the seller that building cabins would insure their ownership of the land. Traveling up on weekends, materials on board, Miller built the cabin where John Miller, his son, recalls spending the happiest days of his childhood.  One big room with a screened porch across the front, the cabin had no plumbing or electricity.

10 Miller Children Fishing at Cabin
Miller Children Fishing near Cabin, c. 1935. Photograph by Mark Miller.

Despite their mother’s fear of the water, the children often went down to the river to fish or skip rocks.  None of the children recalls any close calls. In the daytime, whenever she had the chance, Effie, Mark’s wife, set up her easel and painted, and of course Mark Miller, who loved to fish, always had his camera handy in case an opportune moment came along. A tight-knit family, they played card games or Monopoly in the evening by the light of a lantern.  Sometimes they sang, as they often did when the family was together.

Sadly for Mark Miller, who had dreamed of someday turning his cabin into an outdoor learning facility for youths, he eventually lost the cabin, and it was torn down during World War II.

 

Next Sunday I will post a set of important images from the early 1900s, known as the Anderson Postals.

Scroll down to the bottom of the page can click the “Poudre Canyon” category to see the rest of my Poudre posts.

The Automobile Comes to Fort Collins

When I arrived in Fort Collins 15 years ago, I started buying vintage photographs and postcards of our area. I began to notice, in the street images, how quickly Fort Collins changed from a horse and buggy to an automobile town. As you’ll see from these images of the College and Mountain Avenue intersection, the town changed blazingly fast.

Fort Collins’ first automobile was purchased by County Judge J. Mack Mills. It was a 1902 Curved Dash Oldsmobile that he purchased in Denver and drove to Fort Collins, with an overnight stop in Berthoud. Years afterwards, Mills daughter Freda wrote about his arrival at their home at 702 South College Avenue:

“It had rained all night the night before so that the mud was about a foot deep in places. About dusk, we looked out the window and saw in our driveway what looked like a mud statue of a man sitting in an automobile. He was as proud as a peacock.”

It was Friday, June 27, 1902. Fort Collins’ first car was home.

It would take over a year for the next two cars to be bought by Fort Collins residents, both Curved Dash Oldsmobiles and both bought by doctors – Dr William A. Kickland and Dr, S. T. Quick. So, it isn’t surprising that there isn’t an automobile in sight in the photograph shown below from around 1904.

01 College and Mountain c1905 B640
Intersection of College and Mountain Avenues, c. 1904

Looking northeast across the intersection of College and Mountain Avenues, the photograph shows a sleepy town, with a horse team watering in the center of one of the busiest intersections in the city. Two years after Mills arrived with the town’s first automobile, Fort Collins was still a horse and buggy town, but then cars began to arrive more quickly. Here is the same intersection circa 1910, when around 140 cars were registered with the city clerk.

02 College Mountain c1910 Full B640
Intersection of College and Mountain Avenues, c. 1910

The most obvious change in town is the arrival of the trolley system. I wrote about the 1907 arrival of the streetcars in an earlier post, “The Denver & Interurban Railway Corporation Streetcars in Fort Collins, Colorado.” But, an automobile is also in the scene as you can see in this enlargement.

03 College Mountain c1910 Med B640
Left Side Enlargement, Intersection of College and Mountain Avenues, c. 1910

While the car isn’t perfectly sharp in the image, some automobile experts have dated it to around 1910, one expert even going further and speculating that it is an EMF Model 30 Touring Car. EMF was a short-lived Detroit automobile company that produced cars from 1909 to 1912, before being taken over by Studebaker. The single automobile in the photograph is still outnumbered by the many horse and buggies parked to the left of it.

The next few years brought changes both to the automobile industry and to Fort Collins. In the automobile business, Henry Ford started producing his Model T, fulfilling a pledge he made in 1908 to “build a motor car for the multitude . . . so low in price that the man of moderate means may own one.” As the number of automobiles grew, Fort Collins responded. In 1916 the town began paving the major streets, horses were banned from downtown, and the hitching posts were removed. Here is an image of the same intersection taken in September 1922, with the precise dating made possible by the movie advertisement on the streetcar.

04 Fort Collins Street Scene Sep 1922 B640
Intersection of College and Mountain Avenues, 1922

Taken just 20 years after the arrival of our first automobile, the streets are now paved and the town is bustling with automobiles. In two decades, the automobile went from a toy for our wealthiest citizens to a necessity of everyday life. Notice, also, that the bigger Interurban streetcars have been replaced by the smaller Birney cars. That happened in 1919.

Let’s jump ahead another 20 years and look at this same intersection, circa 1943.

05 College Mountain c1943 b&w Full B640
Intersection of College and Mountain Avenues, c. 1943

Of course we have newer cars, but really not much else seems to have changed. The Birneys are still running. The buildings that we can compare are the same and the number of cars on the road certainly hasn’t increased. (World War II gas rationing may have had something to do with that.) If you look closely at the left side of the image, you can spot one change – traffic signals have made it to Fort Collins. Below is an enlargement of that section of the image.

06 College Mountain Traffic Signal c1943 B400
Traffic Signal, College and Mountain Avenues, c. 1943

The traffic signal is in the center of the intersection, probably where the watering tank was in the 1904 image. I’ve tried to research the history of traffic signals in Fort Collins, but I failed. I’ve heard that the earliest traffic signals in Fort Collins were some kind of semaphore signal, with stop and go flags. I haven’t been able to confirm that in the local newspapers. I also haven’t been able to find out when the first traffic lights were installed in Fort Collins. If you happen to know, email me at the address shown below or tell all of us by using the Comment box following this post.

You might have noticed that this 1943 image was made by Mark Miller, a long time Fort Collins photographer. Some years ago, I had the chance to interview John Miller, Mark Miller’s son. He told me a story about this image that I thought I’d share with you, even though it is off topic.

Mark Miller loved this photograph. He thought it showed the best parts of our town – the historic buildings, the wide streets, and the trolley system. He thought this photograph should be the one the Chamber of Commerce used to promote the city. According to Mark Miller, a publishing company used the image without his permission to make a printed, colorized postcard, Printed in high volumes, the colored postcard, rather than Miller’s black-and-white real photo postcard, became the more recognized image of downtown Fort Collins. His name was removed from the card, so he received no credit or recognition for the photograph.

Below is the colorized version. It’s interesting to compare the two postcards to see the changes and simplifications that the publishing company chose to make in their printed versions, long before Photoshop was around to help.

07 College Mountain c1943 color Full B640
Colorized and Printed Version of Miller’s Real Photo Postcard, c. 1943

Next Sunday I’m going to post some images of an alabaster art shop and a very short-lived Catholic church.

If you want to reach me directly, my email is mcneil0115@comcast.net

Scroll down to the bottom of the page can click the “autos” tag to see other posts that reference early automobiles.

 

The Lower Poudre Canyon: Waterworks Through the Pine Vu Resort

I’ve shared Poudre Canyon images in two earlier posts. I started where every canyon trip starts, at Ted’s Place, and then continued up the lower canyon, with images of Stearley’s Cabins and Picnic Rock. The links to the two earlier posts are shown below:

This post will take us up the lower canyon a little farther, starting at the waterworks, now Gateway Park, and then visiting three more lower canyon resorts.

waterworks-hill-vert-miller-pm1937
Waterwork’s Hill. Photo by Mark Miller, Postmarked 1937.

In 1903, Fork Collins residents voted to extend the water supply pipes up the Poudre Canyon to a point just upstream from the junction with the North Fork, making the Poudre Canyon Waterworks Plant an early fixture in the lower canyon. This image, circa 1937, shows the entrance to the plant located at MP 116.0. Look east as you turn into the park entrance to see the scene shown here. The hill was called Waterwork’s Hill.

This photograph was taken by Mark Miller, a long time Fort Collins’ photographer. He loved the Poudre Canyon and probably took more photographs of it than all the other 20th century photographers combined. He turned them into real photo postcards and sold them through the canyon resorts. When Barbara Fleming and I wrote Fort Collins: The Miller Photographs, we had a chance to interview two of his children, John and Beth, about their childhood and their trips up the canyon with their father.

When John and Beth started going up the canyon with their father on photo trips, it was in an overloaded Model T Ford. Dirt and gravel, the one-lane canyon road was narrow and steep, with no guard rails. (Paving was not completed throughout the canyon until the 1950s.) Coming to a particularly sharp grade, perhaps the one at Waterworks Hill, Miller would first attempt to persuade the vehicle upward. When it balked, as if often did, everyone got out, and Miller turned the car around and backed up the hill.

Two earlier posts sharing images from the Miller family photo album. They were called Mark Miller: Images from the Photographers’ Family Album – Part  1 and Part 2.

waterworks-2-blog-640
Waterworks Plant. c. 1955.

Completed in the spring of 1904, the system was expected to supply the city with four million gallons of water a day, enough, according to a local newspaper article, to provide “a great plenty for sprinkling lawns at all hours of the day.” Over time, facilities and equipment were added to ensure cleaner and safer water to the city. This photograph shows how the plant had expanded by the mid-1950s. Now Gateway Park, offers hiking, picnicking, and a launching point for rafts and kayaks.

yaugers-1-blog-640
Yauger’s Resort and Suspension Bridge. Photograph by Sanborn, c. 1925.
yaugers-2-ten-cars-blog-640
Yauger’s Resort. Photograph by Miller, c. 1925.

Alvi and Louis Yauger were early homesteaders along the Cache la Poudre River. Sometime around 1917, they opened Yauger’s Resort, consisting of a store and some cabins. The resort, gone now, was located near Milepost113. With the lower Poudre Canyon road completed past this point, local residents drove to the resort for ice cream and to watch Louis whistle in fish from the suspension bridge shown in this image.

Obviously, Yauger’s was a busy place. In the second photograph, I count ten cars parked around the resort.

The next resort, as you want up the canyon, was Columbine Camp. Below are two images of the camp, from different time periods.

columbine-1-1937-blog-640
Columbine Camp. Photograph by Miller, Postmarked 1937.
columbine-2-1944-blog-640
Columbine Camp Trail Ride. Photograph by Miller, Postmarked 1944.

This resort, at Milepost 112.0, began as Columbine Camp in the late 1920s, with a grocery store, five cabins, a campground, and a pony ring. It was started by Archie Jordan, a Fort Collins grocer, and has had a long string of owners over the years.

[Image Removed. See Lower Poudre Canyon Correction.]

Columbine is still in business but now under the name Columbine Lodge and Rusty Buffalo Campground.

woman-in-canyon-sept-1910-blog-400
Woman in Poudre Canyon, September 1910. Photographer is Unknown.

Here is a short break from resorts and buildings, a young lady relaxing in the Poudre Canyon in September 1910. There isn’t any more information on the postcard – not her name or where she is in the canyon. I believe she is somewhere in the lower canyon, since in 1910, even a round trip from Fort Collins to the lower canyon, in either a wagon or an early automobile, would have taken the better part of a day.

Certainly, hiking fashions were different in 1910. Men often wore ties and, as you can see, women wore dresses and, apparently, spectacular hats. I’ve emailed this image to CSU’s Avenir Museum of Design to see what they can tell us about the young lady’s clothing. I’ll pass on any information from them in a future update.

But now, one more resort – Pine Vu Lodge.

pine-vu-lodge-1950s-blog-640
Pine Vu Lodge. Photograph by Miller, c. 1950.
pine-vu-cabins-1950s-blog-640
Pine Vu Lodge and Cabins. Photograph by Miller, c. 1950.
pine-vu-interior-1950s-blog-640
Pine Vu Lodge Dining Room. Photograph by Miller, c. 1950.

 

Located very close to Columbine, Rainbow Ridge (not pictured), a resort with cabins and a store, opened in the early 1940s under the management of Pete and Mary Townsend, but road rebuilding in 1947 sliced off one edge of the property, so the Townsends gave up their resort. That same year, Gordon and Idella McMillan bought the land and built Pine Vu Lodge (originally spelled Pine View). These three images by Mark Miller show the Lodge, its dining room, and the rental cabins, all taken around 1950.

On September 24, 1991, Pine Vu’s main building burned down and the resort never reopened.

When I come back to the Poudre Canyon on a future post, I’ll start with the Thompson Resort, better known to us today as Mishawaka, but next Sunday I’ll share some early images from Windsor, Colorado.

Scroll down to the bottom of the page can click the “Poudre Canyon” category to see the rest of my Poudre posts.

The Pioneer Museum in Fort Collins

The Pioneer Museum opened in 1941, through the efforts of the Indian Relic and Hobby Club, the Pioneer Association, and the Daughters of the Colorado Pioneers. It was located in Library Park, facing Peterson Street and made from red sandstone to match the Carnegie Library building that shared the park. Below is a real photo postcard of the museum made by local photographer Mark Miller.

exterior-miller-blog-640
Antoine Janis – Pioneer Museum, c. 1941

Though it is hard to date this image, I would guess that Miller made it when the museum first opened and he would have the best chance of selling copies.

According to the caption, the image also shows part of the Antoine Janis Cabin in back of the museum. Janis was one of the first white settlers in what would become Larimer County, Colorado, building this cabin around 1858. The Indian Relic and Hobby Club purchased the cabin in 1936 and moved it from Laporte, Colorado to Library Park.

clyde-with-tusk-screened-blog-400
Clyde H. Brown with Elephant Tusk, c. 1951

According to a biography in the Fort Collins Archive, Clyde Brown was the son of James Brown and Adelaide Carnrike and lived in Fort Collins most of his life. He attended school in Fort Collins, including two years at Colorado Agricultural College. He worked on his father’s ranch raising cattle and in the family hardware store that was located at 117 Linden Street. From 1943 until he retired in 1963, Brown was the curator of the Pioneer Museum.

Brown is shown on this printed postcard standing next to an elephant tusk, with a picture Jack Slade over his left shoulder. Slade was a stagecoach and pony express superintendent, instrumental in the opening of the American West and the archetype of the Western gunslinger.

 

 

interior-view-full-blog-640
Interior of the Pioneer Museum, c. 1941

Another real photo postcard by Mark Miller, this interior view of the Pioneer Museum was probably taken about the same time as the exterior view.

Like many small local museums, its collection was probably built through donations of items gathered by local families, without regard to a collecting plan or strategy. More like a 17th century Cabinet of Curiosities than a modern museum, the collection was an eclectic mix of items from African animal heads to spinning wheels to hunting knives. While not what we would expect today, the museum was probably fascinating to the local children who often tied trips to the library with a visit to the museum.

exterrior-color-blog-640
Exterior View of the Pioneer Museum, c. 1960

This is another image that is tough to date. The old state abbreviation, Colo, is used for Colorado, so the image was probably made before 1963 when the postal service started using the two letter state abbreviations.

In the mid-1970s, the decision was made to build a new library on Library Park. The Pioneer Museum had to be torn down to make room for it. In 1976, the Pioneer Museum was closed and the collection moved to the Carnegie Library Building and renamed the Fort Collins History Museum, with a collecting plan and a professional museum staff but maybe with a little less charm.

Forgotten Fort Collins did a longer article on the Pioneer Museum on April 28, 2013. Here is a link to it: http://forgottenfortcollins.com/the-pioneer-museum-a-virtual-tour/

In Thursday’s post, we will move the Poudre Canyon a short distance looking at an early resort and an attempt at running a railroad through the canyon.

Mark Miller: Images from the Photographers’ Family Album – Part 2

In Sunday’s Mark Miller: Images from the Photographers’ Family Album – Part 1, I introduced Mark Miller, a premier photographer in Fort Collins from 1914 through 1970, gave a little background on how I came to have the use of the Miller Family Album, and shared a dozen or so of the family images. Part 1 used images of Miller’s studios, his marriage to Effie Hall and their early years together, and introduced their four children. Part 2 is going to focus on what the family did for fun, starting with this composite image of his young children and their simple toys.

14-kids-compsoite-blog-640
The Miller Children and Their Toys, 1920 – 1925

On the left is John, with the light hair, playing with his best friend’s pedal car. John said the photograph was taken around 1929, when John was about six-years old. The middle image is also John but at around two-years old playing with his blocks. Somehow little sister Beth got her two big brothers Warner (left) and Keith to take part in her tea party in this image from 1920. Beth would have been one or two-years old.

But children’s events could also become a very big deal as shown below in this photograph of a very large Tom Thumb wedding.

16-tom-thumb-wedding-c1922-blog-640
Tom Thumb Wedding, c. 1922

In 1863, General Tom Thumb (born Charles Stratton) and Lavinia Warren, both little people, were married. Circus entrepreneur P. T. Barnum promoted and managed Tom Thumb and made Tom Thumb weddings a popular American fad in the 1920s, though they continued for awhile as fundraisers for school or churches.

Traditionally, children, usually under 10-years old, dressed up and played all the parts in the ceremony. Probably this was a school or church sponsored Tom Thumb wedding, since I count around 60 children in the photograph. According to a handwritten caption in the Miller Family Album, Warner took the role of Grandpa Thumb, Keith was the best man, and Beth was the ring bearer.

Children weren’t the only ones to play dress-up at this time. Adults also liked costume parties. Below is an image of what the Miller’s called a Kid’s Party, with the adults all dressed up as youngsters.

18-kids-party-c1921-blog-640
Kid’s Party, c. 1921

I think Mark Miller is sitting on the floor on the left side of the image and Effie is standing, in the polka dot dress on the right side. Their album contains a number of costume events. Costume events must have been very popular in the 1920s.

20-camping-chambers-lake-1924-blog-640
Camping at Chamber’s Lake, 1924

The Millers also spent a good deal of time in the Poudre Canyon, where Mark could mix work with a family vacation. Beth Miller told us about their trips up the canyon. By the time they piled all the photography equipment and supplies, and all the camping gear into the car, there was barely room for her parents and the four children. She also said that the car was so overloaded and underpowered that they often had to pile out, turn the car around, and go up the steeper hills in reverse.

Miller took photographs of the resorts and the resorts sold them from racks in their stores. The sold for a nickel each, with Miller getting two cents. As the children got older, it was their job to restock the racks in exchange for an ice cream. Beth said it was a good deal.

22-fishing-chambers-lake-1924-mark-blog-640
Warner and Mark Ready to Fish, 1924

Above is a photograph of the family site at Chamber’s Lake in 1924 and to the right is a photograph of Warner and Mark getting ready to try their fishing luck.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Miller children told us that they spent so much time in the canyon that their father finally decided to buy a summer cabin for them. Below is a photograph of the cabin, c. 1925.

23-millers-at-poudre-canyon-home-c1925-blog-640
Miller Family Cabin, c. 1925

Mark and Effie are on the left side but the couple on the right is unknown. The cabin was located near Indian Meadows, milepost 93, still a favorite fishing location in the Poudre Canyon.

Cultural activities were also popular. Here are two examples from the Miller Family Album. The first one was taken at a Chautauqua held locally in 1923.

24-chatauqua-blog-640
Chautauqua Group Photograph, c. 1920

Chautauquas provided education combined with entertainment in the form of lectures, concerts, and plays, which were modeled after activities at the Chautauqua Institution of western New York. Theodore Roosevelt called Chautauquas “the most American thing in America.”

This may be a photograph taken when a Chautauqua visited locally in July 1920. Entertainment was provided by bagpipers, singers, and a comedian, while a presentation on the secrets of science provided an educational opportunity. The Chautauqua was headlined by “Gatling Gun Fogleman,” a master salesman and orator, with a rapid fire delivery style.

28-poudre-art-class-1925-cover-book-blog-640
Gustaf L. Carlson Painting Class, 1925

In August 1925, several aspiring artists, including Effie Miller (standing, left), took part in a class taught by landscape painter Gustaf L. Carlson (standing, center). The local newspaper called Carlson an Arizona landscape painter and a friend of Western writer Zane Grey. The class was painting the scenery along the Poudre River near Bellvue, a town northwest of Fort Collins. The three women seated at easels are (left to right) Mrs. Morrish, Mrs. Plaz, and Miss Hardinger. The woman standing at the far right side is unidentified.

A crop of this image was chosen by Arcadia Publishing for the cover of Fort Collins: The Miller Photographs.

One thing the Millers did for a number of years was to make their own Christmas cards. One year it was a simple family photo printed with a holiday greeting. Another time it was individual silhouettes of the family members. But my favorite is the one shown below, a photograph of their home, with each card sent individually hand colored by Effie Miller.

30-miller-xmas-card-c1927-blog-640
Hand Colored Christmas Card, 1927

I hope you enjoyed this look at one family in Fort Collins in the early part of the 20th century.

Sunday’s post will cover the Pioneer Museum in Fort Collins.

Mark Miller: Images from the Photographers’ Family Album – Part 1

02-mill-with-large-format-camera-1920-blog-400
Mark D. Miller, c. 1930

Mark Miller was the dominant photographer of 20th century Fort Collins. He ran a studio at 146 South College Avenue from 1914 until his death in 1970. The Fort Collins Archive has over 70,000 of his photographs, mostly portraits, which were the bread-and-butter of small town photographers, but also images of the town and the Poudre Canyon. He was also the subject of the first book Barbara Fleming and I did for Arcadia Publishing – Fort Collins: The Miller Photographs.

One of the joys of doing local history books is the chance to talk to some of the principals and hear their stories first hand. In this case, we were lucky enough to interview two of Mark Miller’s children, Beth Miller Schieck and John Miller. They shared stories of their father and of their life in Fort Collins. They also shared their family photo album, images taken by their father and lovingly arranged by their mother, Effie Hall Miller. Beth and John allowed us to scan the photographs and encouraged us to use them in our book and to share them with the town they love.

Thanks to the generosity of Beth and John, here is a peek into one family’s life in early 20th century Fort Collins.

04-mark-effie-just-married-dec-1913-blog-400
Mark and Effie Miller, 1913

Miller started working at H. C. Bradley’s Fort Collins photography studio during high school. With that experience and knowledge in hand, Miller opened his own studio in Longmont, Colorado in 1912. He was 20-years old.

About the same time, Miller met Effie Hall at the Longmont First Episcopal Church. After a brief courtship, they were married on January 1, 1913. Their marriage is the starting point for their family album and this photograph is one of a series of the young couple shortly after their wedding.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

06-effie-millers-hats-blog-640
Effie’s Hats, 1913

Many of the images in the family album are of their four children growing up but in the early pages, Effie was Miller’s favorite subject and, as this composite of three images shows, Effie loved hats.

The center image is special. It shows Effie in her wedding clothes. The caption called them her wedding “trigs,” an old word meaning “sharp” or “neat.” Certainly her pointy hat fits the description.

08-longmont-studio-1912-blog-640
The Longmont Studio, 1912 or 1913

Miller’s Longmont studio was probably in the front rooms of the young couples’ house at 438 Collyer Street. As I remember, I checked when we wrote the Miller book and this house no longer existed.

You can see Miller helping a customer at the counter, while a large studio camera is visible to the right. His photographs – mostly portraits – decorate the walls and glass cabinets.

In 1914, Miller was given the opportunity to take over the Fort Collins’ photography studio owned by H. C. Bradley. Bradley had given Miller his start in photography, when Miller was in high school. Now Bradley was involved with automobiles and happy to turn his studio over to Miller. The Longmont paper reported on May 29, 1914 that Miller was in Fort Collins purchasing a studio.

09-miller-studio-building-c1928-miller-rppc-blog-640
The Miller Studio Building, c. 1928

Now the Miller Studio, it was located on the second floor of 146 South College Avenue, the small building sandwiched in this photograph between the Alpert Building and Clammer’s Grocery. The entrance was a staircase on the right side of the building. While not in the Miller Family Album, this image is a crop from a real photo postcard taken by Miller in the late 1920s. The building that housed the Miller Studio still exists, with the White Balcony at street level and, I think, apartments above.

10-second-house-146-half-s-college-blog-640
Apartment in Miller Studio, 1914

Just as in Longmont, their home was part of the studio, very typical of mom-and-pop businesses at that time. Miller was the photographer, while Effie ran the front counter during busy times. Their business was successful from the start but, with a baby on the way, the small apartment was unworkable. They needed a separate home and they found one at 315 Whedbee Street.

11-home-on-whedbee-blog-640
315 Whedbee Street, c. 1914
11a-whedbee-house-after-remodel-nd-blog-640
315 Whedbee Street, No Date

The Miller’s moved into the Whedbee home in 1914 and lived there the rest of their lives. Like the other homes in the area, the lot was deep, leaving room for a big garden. Happily, the house was only two doors away from the Amos Miller home, making it convenient for grandmother Mary Miller to take care of the growing family when Effie was needed at the studio.

At some point, the family remodeled the home. Unfortunately, the image isn’t dated. The shed that you see on the right side of the remodeled house was used to store older negatives from Miller’s growing business. Today, the house looks much the same.

11a-no-co-photographers-picnic-forks-hotel-1925-blog-640
Northern Colorado Photographer’s Association Picnic, 1925

John Miller worked as a photographer with his father before John moved to Pennsylvania and opened his own studio there. He told us a number of stories about the local photographers in Fort Collins. The photographers were as much friends as rivals. They helped each other with supplies, shared the taking of school photographs, and often met to discuss new techniques and technology. They formed the Northern Colorado Photographer’s Association and the Miller Family Album contains a number of images of the Association’s family picnics. Unfortunately, I was unable to find any information on the organization. If you know something about this history of this organization, please let me know by using the comment box below.

12-effie-family-c-1925-blog-400
Effie Miller and Children, 1925

Like any family album, the Miller album is filled with casual pictures of their children, as well as professionally made family photographs like this one from 1925. The Millers had four children, all seen here with Effie. From left to right are Beth Elaine Miller (b. 1919), Mark Warner Miller (b. 1914), John Charles Miller (b. 1923), and Keith Miller (b. 1917).

Thursday’s post will conclude the Miller Family Album, with photographs of the things the family did for entertainment.