Poudre Canyon: The Rustic House and Resort

Long before the lower canyon road was opened through the Big and Little Narrows, there was access to the upper canyon. Tie hacking, cutting and delivering railroad ties to keep up with 19th century expansion into the West, was the catalyst for development of roads through the upper canyon, but interest in the prospect of gold drove road-building as well. The road ran through Livermore and ended with a terrifying trip down Pingree Hill. The hill was so steep that teamsters would often cut a log to drag behind the wagon as a make-shift brake.

With a way to the upper canyon, Fort Collins businessmen started clamoring for an extension of the road to North Park, at the time part of Larimer County. A number of alternatives were proposed; the winner was the North Park Toll Road, incorporated in May 1879. Samuel B. Stewart was a member of the three-person board of directors, the man given the job of managing construction of a wagon road following the existing tie trails from the base of Pingree Hill past Chambers Lake, over Cameron Pass, and into North Park. By July 1880 the road was open for business, with connections to the new mining towns of Lulu City and Teller City.

Stewart was an entrepreneur. He believed travelers would flock to his toll road and realized the value of a hotel at the junction of Pingree Hill road and the canyon toll road. On March 4, 1880, the Fort Collins Courier announced that Stewart was putting the finishing touches on his hotel, complete with a large kitchen from which travelers could get something to eat, as well as beds for spending the night. Stables and sheds were also available so that stage lines could change out their tired horses. Stewart named the hotel the Rustic House, though most people shortened it to The Rustic, and the name carried over to the little town that sprang up around it. Quickly, Stewart was advertising both his toll road and his hotel, as shown in this advertisement from the November 25, 1882 Fort Collins Courier.

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North Park Stage Line & Rustic House Advertisement, Fort Collins Courier, November 25, 1882.

The hotel was 24 feet by 31 feet and advertised as one and a half stories high. It was finished with board and batten siding (closely spaced boards, with narrow wood strips over the joints). Below is a real photo postcard of the hotel, dated August 1909, along with a close-up of the group on the porch for those of you who like period clothing.

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Rustic House, August 1909.
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Rustic House Visitors, August 1909.

By August 1909, the Rustic had changed hands a few times and in 1909 it was owned by Nathan E. Moffit. If you are interested in a detailed history of the Rustic, make sure you see A Place in Time: The Legend of the Rustic Resort by Linda Arndt Leigh. Leigh tracks the ownership of the property from when Stewart opened the Rustic House until the devastating fire in 2008.

The reverse side of the postcard carries this message, “Here is a picture of some very interesting people we met at the Rustic. . . . Part of them said they were from Kansas.”

The Rustic House not only went through a number of changes in owners, but also in name and appearance. A big change occurred in the early 1930s when the new owners, Will and Alice Richardson, refaced the building with lodgepole pine slabs. They also added five rental cabins and changed the name to the Rustic Lodge. The building went through cycles of repair and disrepair until it was finally closed in 1969 and then torn down in 1978.

The Richardson’s also built and opened a small store and gas station on the south side of the road. It opened in 1932. Below is a photograph of the store and gas station after it was expanded in the late 1940s.

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Rustic Resort, Poudre Canyon, Postmarked 1954. Photograph by Mark Miller.

According to Leigh, Charles and Iva Frost bought the resort in 1947 and, over the next few years, made a number of improvements. One of the improvements was an expansion of the store, adding a café on the west side of the structure and living quarters on the back. The message on the back of the postcard is from Pink and Velma Davis, who bought the facility in 1951. They called it the Rustic Resort.

Below are three images of the resort from approximately the same period.

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Rustic Lodge, Poudre Canyon, c. 1954. Photograph by Mark Miller.

This is an unusual image of the resort, showing it from the river side.

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Rustic Lodge Interior, Poudre Canyon, c. 1954. Photograph by Mark Miller.
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Rustic Resort Cabins, Poudre Canyon, c. 1954. Photograph by Mark Miller.

The lodge continued to change over time. Below is a photograph of it circa 1956. As you can see, the appearance has been modified significantly.

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Rustic Resort, Poudre Canyon, c. 1956.

This is an advertising postcard, with the following information on the reverse side:

“Rustic Resort. 40 miles northwest of Fort Collins on Highway 14. Pink and Velma Davies, Bellvue, Colo.

“Altitude 7,200 feet. 13 housekeeping cabins on the bank of the Poudre River, where fishing is always good. Just the spot to enjoy a restful vacation or an exciting fishing trip. General Store, Souvenirs, Snack Bar and Dining Room.”

The resort’s final chapter closed in June 2008, when a fire destroyed the store, gas station and restaurant.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.






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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 and to Part 2 of the Armstrong post.

Northern Hotel: Part 1

Northern Hotel: Part 2

Armstrong Hotel: Part 2


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:

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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.)

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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.

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

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.
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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.

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 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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

Poudre Canyon from the Big Narrows to Eggers and the USFS Photo Archive

When Barbara Fleming and I were working on our photo book on the Poudre Canyon for Arcadia Publishing, I stopped at the United States Forest Service office on Centre Avenue in Fort Collins, CO and asked about photographs. As it turned out they had an underutilized photo archive, open and free to the public, and staffed by very helpful people, including Sue Struthers, Heritage Program Manager.

Barbara and I spent many hours searching through folders and notebooks, many that probably hadn’t been opened in decades, looking for unusual photographs of the Poudre Canyon. We found quite a few of them and, though my blog is designed to share my personal photographs and postcards, I decided to include three great USFS photographs of this stretch of the Poudre as well. You can see many more of their images in our book, Poudre Canyon (Images of America).

The last section of the Poudre Canyon I covered was posted on March 5, 2017 and entitled “Lower Poudre Canyon: Mishawaka, Tunnel, and Totem Rock.” That post ended with the canyon road completed through the Baldwin Tunnel, in the summer of 1916. Once the tunnel was completed there was an easy three- or four-mile stretch, before the very difficult Big Narrows section was reached. Work progressed slowly and, in September 1918, a very difficult section of rock was reached. A decision had to be made on whether to tunnel through it or blast it out of the way. Here is how the September 13, 1918, Fort Collins Weekly Courier summarized the decision.

“Superintendent Asher of the road camp was before the county commissioners this morning asking for instructions as to whether to try to round the point of rocks at the narrow [section] or to tunnel through. . . . A discussion as to which would be the cheapest took place. Mr. Asher said . . . that his opinion was that the tunnel would be the most satisfactory as in rounding the point so much rock might be thrown into the river that a dam would be created that would back the water on the upper side so high that the . . . road would have to be raised up into the cliffs which would be avoided if the tunnel is built.

“Engineer Edwards seconded these ideas [and added that] the tunnel can be worked from both ends at the same time which was not possible at the Little Narrows  and will be 40 feet long. The work can be carried on faster.

“The commissioners and Engineer Edwards will visit the spot Friday and decide just what to do.”

Below is a USFS image of that meeting, held on September 20, 1918.

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County Commissioners at Big Narrows, September 20, 1918. Unknown Photographer. USFS Photograph.

The results of their meeting was reported in the Weekly Courier that same date.

“The county commissioners with Engineer Edwards went to the end of the Poudre Road to view the work of the road builders and decide as to further constructions of the road. After deliberations it was decided to shoot [dynamite] the rock at the point of the Big Narrows instead of tunneling. This will make the cost of construction cheaper and plans have been made whereby with no unforeseen accidents the grade above will not have to be changed.”

The November 29, 1918, Weekly Courier again reported on the progress of the road crews.

“County officials went to the Poudre Canon road camp yesterday on an inspection trip and they found that Supt. Asher is making rapid progress with the work. . . . The heavy blasting will be finished by the last of the month and that will complete the hardest of the rock work in the Big Narrows. Only two large places remain to be shot out.

“The men have already finished half a mile of road beyond the narrows and they will connect this up with the new road at an early date.

“In two months the road in the narrows will be completed.”

It took over two years to get through the Big Narrows but it gave us one of the most scenic stretches of the Poudre Canyon road and it opened Fort Collins to Rustic and beyond. Here is an image of the Big Narrows taken circa 1925.

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The Big Narrows, Poudre Canyon, c. 1925. Photograph by Bruce Wiswall

Taken for the Denver Tourist Bureau, this photograph was published in an unknown newspaper with the following caption, dated August 8, 1928:

“In the Big Narrows, Poudre Canyon. The pure joy of motoring over a wide, solid roadbed in the Cache la Poudre canon, out of Fort Collins, has its romantic angle when one recalls the pioneer days when Indians and Frenchmen battled for supremacy of a region where fur-bearing animals were numerous and the trapper’s trade was highly profitable.”

While I can’t see this caption bringing hordes of tourists to the Poudre Canyon, it is a really nice image of the Big Narrows and a classic automobile. If you think you recognize this car, you are paying very strict attention to my posts. It is the same car, probably a 1921 Marmon Model 34, which is shown in my earlier post on the Baldwin Tunnel. The auto and the young ladies have moved up the canyon a little and had their pictures taken again. This time, a close up of the car allowed me to find out something about the photographer. Here is a close-up of the automobile.

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Close-up of Automobile in Big Narrows, c. 1925

In the close-up, you can see some writing on the windshield. There is enough of it showing that I was able to determine that the car was from the Wiswall Tavern, in Grand Lake, CO. The proprietor of the tavern was Bruce Wiswall, who was also a photographer for the Denver Tourist Bureau. Wiswall occasionally used models in his shots and that may be the case with the young women in this photograph. One of the articles called Wiswall, “One of the most expert photographers on out of door pictures.”

Notice the wide running board and the ladder-like object at its edge. One of the experts on the Antique Automobile Club of America website identified it as a collapsible luggage rack built for the Marmon by a third party manufacturer.

The road up the Poudre Canyon was built mostly with convict labor. As construction moved along the canyon, the camp for the convicts moved with it. Here is another USFS photograph of the camp when, according to Case, it was located in what is now the Narrows Campground. It was moved to this location shortly after the heavy work was completed in the Big Narrows.

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“Convict” Camp near Today’s Narrows Campground, c. 1919. Photographer H. N. Wheeler. USFS Photograph.

Stanley Case, in his book The Poudre: A Photo History, discusses this photograph. Case says it was taken by H. N. Wheeler, better known as the Supervisor of the Colorado National Forest, than as a photographer. Case says the camp was located at milepost 101.6 and that the pointed rock, on the right edge of the photograph, is still visible from the road.

In 1921, work started on a road from the Poudre Canyon road to the college’s new Pingree Park campus. A bridge had to be built over the Poudre River to connect the two roads. Although today the bridges in the canyon are made of steel and concrete, early bridges were all timber construction. This picture, the last of the three USFS photographs, shows the construction of the bridge.

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Construction of Pingree Road Bridge, 1921. Unknown Photographer. USFS Photograph.

This bridge is called a “three-span bridge,” with the first span going from the north shore to the first wooden trestle, the second span bridges the two trestles, and the third span connects the second trestle and the south shore. From the photograph, it seems like the river must have been partially diverted. Building a bridge in 1921 was obviously a pretty manual event. In this photograph, the bridge is pretty far along, with the decking being laid.

It was built some distance above the current steel Pingree Park bridge and was torn down years ago.

Recognizing the business opportunity the junction provided, Fred and Alma Eggers applied for and received a Forest Service lease to start building a little town named Eggers, Colorado. By 1922, construction was underway on the south side of the Pingree Park bridge. Here is an early view of Eggers, from a real photo postcard, circa 1925.

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Eggers, Colorado, c. 1925. Image by Fishback Studio, Fort Collins, CO.

You can see the south end of the bridge in the bottom, right corner of the image. The two buildings in the foreground are the store/post office and a very small gas station. The last three views of Eggers are all from a circa 1935 real photo postcard.

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Eggers, Colorado, c. 1935. Unknown Photographer.

This full view shows the store/post office and gas station in the far right foreground, a couple of private homes in the center, and the Eggers School on the far left edge. Here are two close-ups from the same image.

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Close-up of Store/Post Office & Gas Station, Eggers, CO, c. 1935.

According to Case, the Eggers Post Office opened on April 23, 1926, and closed on April 30, 1944.

Mr. and Mrs. Eggers decided that their three sons and other local children needed a school. Construction of the school was a 1933 Works Progress Administration (WPA) project. While the CCC employed young men, the WPA employed older out-of-work men on public-works projects. This close-up shows the Eggers School.

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Close-up of the Eggers School, Eggers, CO, c. 1935.

Closed in 1959, the building was moved near the Poudre Canyon Chapel and is today a museum of canyon history.

Case says all the Eggers buildings but the school house were gone by 1951, leaving only foundations.

My intention was to take this post through the Indian Meadows Resort but there were just too many images for one post. So, I’ll continue the trip up the canyon next Sunday, with images of Rugh Ranch and the Indian Meadows area. If I have the time, I may throw in a very short, one-image post on Wednesday to break up the trip through the canyon.

I appreciate everyone who views my blog and remember, if you ever want to comment use the Comment Box at the end of each post or email me directly at mcneil0115@comcast.net.

Thanks for your support.

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

The Fort Collins Sugar Beet Factory: The Smell of Prosperity

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Fort Collins Sugar Beet Factory, North Side, c. 1910. Real Photo Postcard by F. P. Clatworthy.

Perhaps more than any other single event, the arrival of a sugar beet factory propelled Fort Collins, Colorado into the 20th century and the industrial age. The high-plains climate and terrain in the area proved well suited to this large root crop; by the turn of the century processing factories began to appear in Colorado, but not in Fort Collins.

Denver entrepreneur Charles Boettcher and others saw the potential for a Fort Collins plant. So business and community leaders formed a committee to raise capital for a sugar factory and to secure guarantees from farmers for 5,000 acres of sugar beets. On October 13, 1903, the committee made its first payment to Kilby Manufacturing for the Fort Collins factory. The factory was even underway before the first official payment. Below is a construction photograph, dated October 18, 1903.

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Construction of the Fort Collins Sugar Beet Plant, October 18, 1903. Unknown Photographer.

You can already see some of the gears, pipes, and vats that will make up the processing plant. If you look closely, one young man’s face is circled. On the back of the photograph is his name, John Siebenaler. Unfortunately, I was unable to find any information on him or the Siebenaler family in Fort Collins.

The plant opened here in 1904, near the Poudre River and the railroad tracks on the east side of the small town. At 10 o’clock on Monday morning, January 6, 1904, the Fort Collins sugar beet factory began to refine sugar. The Fort Collins Weekly Courier reported that the “event was signalized by the blowing of whistles, the ringing of bells, the firing of cannon and the hearty rejoicing of the people.”

Here is an image of the plant taken within a year or two of its start-up.

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Fort Collins Sugar Beet Factory, South Side, c. 1905. Printed Postcard.

This postcard has a message that gives some idea of the pride the plant brought to the community. “Uncle Ed: This is the Sugar Factory. I do wish you could see the beets they are hauling here. The crops are fine. Some of the beets weight from six to ten pounds. Addie.”

The 120-acre complex was located on the southeast corner of Vine and Linden Streets. It had seven major buildings, the central building measuring 70 feet by 300 feet and standing four stories tall. The facility cost a staggering $1.2 million and employed hundreds of workers.

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Fort Collins Sugar Beet Factory, West End, c. 1930. Printed Postcard

The factory received sugar beets from farmers’ wagons and from railcars and sent them through a complex, multi-stage process that produced refined sugar. But the sugar beet business was more than a factory. It also was an agricultural hub of beet farmers, rail sidings, beet dumps, irrigation ditches, and a host of suppliers, all funneling money into the Fort Collins community. (See an earlier post entitled “The Sugar Beet Dump.”) The 150-foot smoke stack declared that big agribusiness had arrived in Fort Collins.


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“Extracting Beet Sugar” Diagram by the Great Western Sugar Company, c. 1920

As this diagram from a bulletin produced by the Great Western Sugar Company shows, sugar refining was as much a chemical as an agricultural process. Pumps, pipes, slicers, distillers, centrifuges, and filters were all part of a highly technical process that produced an average of 10 teaspoons of refined sugar from each beet. The Fort Collins factory also included a Steffen House, a secondary process that extracted more sugar from molasses, usually a waste product of the refining process. The Greeley, Eaton, and Windsor factories shipped their molasses to Fort Collins for processing.

Experiments by the agricultural college and others found that the waste products of the beet industry, the beet tops cut off in the fields and the beet pulp and molasses from the factory, made nutritious feed for livestock. This fostered the cattle and sheep industries in Northern Colorado. Although beet pulp had an unfortunate odor (the pungent smell compared to “a slaughterhouse in midsummer,” by one man), Colorado’s former governor Benjamin Eaton said, “I smell prosperity.”

The 10 teaspoons of sugar per beet adds up when your are processing millions of beets. Below is a photograph of the bags of sugar, circa 1930.

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Bags of Sugar, Fort Collins Sugar Beet Factory, c. 1930. Photographer Unknown.

The Great Western Sugar Company reported that the Fort Collins factory annually produced the equivalent of 10,000 one-hundred pound bags of sugar and employed around 100 people continuously, increasing to over 400 during the beet processing “campaigns.”

Even before the factory was completed, beet farms sprang up around Fort Collins. Beets required precise farming techniques and were very labor intensive, but they generated more income for the farmers than any other crop. The factory paid almost $300,000 to local farmers in 1905, which increased to $500,000 by 1910.

 Wars, the economy, trade policies, and weather all impacted the profitability and viability of the sugar beet industry. Drought and high winds in the mid-1950s reduced the sugar beet acreage. The Fort Collins factory announced in 1955 that it would not operate, moving the harvested beets to other plants for processing. It never reopened. In 1967, the major buildings were razed and the area left to reinvent itself.

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Fort Collins Sugar Beet Site in 2008. Photograph by M. E. McNeill

Here is a photograph I took in 2008, looking at the site from approximately the same spot that Clatworthy did years ago. The view is much less impressive. Three of the original buildings remained, purchased by the city as a home for the street department. But thanks to the industry, Fort Collins had grown and become a real player in the new 20th century economy.

Next week, I’m going to return to the resorts of the Poudre Canyon and share some images between the Tunnel and Rustic.

Scroll down to the bottom of the page can click the “Sugar Beets” category to see the rest of my Beet posts.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.