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.

01 YMCA Illus FCC 06121907 B680
 Fort Collins Courier Illustration of YMCA, June 12, 1907.
02 YMCA Floor Plans FCC 06121907 B680
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.

03 YMCA pm1908 8004 B680
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.

Glenn Morris, an Olympic Gold Medalist

Glenn Morris is one of the biggest names in Colorado State University sports history. Born in the small town of Simla, Colorado, a tiny town southeast of Denver, Morris enrolled in the Colorado Agricultural College, an earlier name of CSU, in 1930. By the time he graduated in 1934, he was a track and football star and student body president.

Morris decided to compete for a berth in the 1936 Olympics. His event was the decathlon. The tryouts were held at Randall’s Island Stadium, New York City, July 11 & 12, 1936. Below is a photograph of Glenn Morris practicing the shot put a few days before the tryouts.

Glenn Morris Practicing Shot Put, July 4, 1936, Randall’s Island Stadium, New York City, NY

Morris not only made the team, he broke the world record score for the decathlon in the process.

The 1936 Olympics were held in Berlin, Germany, with Adolph Hitler in attendance for most of the events. Morris broke his own decathlon record in winning the gold medal for the event, which was presented to him by Eva Braun, Hitler’s longtime companion. Morris’ gold medal is shown here and is now housed at CSU.

Glenn Morris 1936 Olympic Gold Medal. (Courtesy of Archives and Special Collections, Colorado State University)

Morris’ performance was a highlight of the 1936 Olympics, second only to Jesse Owens, who won four gold medals in track and field events.

Morris also had an Olympic secret that didn’t come out for years. During the Olympics, he had an affair with Leni Riefenstahl, a German actress and the director of “Olympia,” a propaganda film of the games that she directed for Hitler. Riefenstahl disclosed the affair in her autobiography published in 1987 in Germany and in 1993 in the United States. She wrote, “We couldn’t control our feelings. I imagined that he was the man I could marry. I had lost my head completely. I forgot almost everything, even my work. Never before had I experienced such passion.”

Tarzan’s Revenge with Glenn Morris

But Morris returned to the United States, married his childhood girlfriend, and got a role in a 1938 Hollywood film. He became the fourth Olympic athlete to play the role of Tarzan. Morris’ movie was “Tarzan’s Revenge,” a movie that received poor reviews. It pretty much ended his fledgling movie career.

Morris made one more try for fame, when he played professional football for the Detroit Lions in 1940. Cut after eight games and now divorced from his wife, his life was in shambles. After serving in the Navy during WWII, he returned to the United States working in a series of menial jobs until his death 1974. He was 61 years old.

Glenn Morris Field House Sign, 2016

Recently, Morris has been recognized for his Olympic performance by a number of organizations, including CSU. In 2011 they re-named the old College Avenue gym and field house after their gold-medal athlete. It is now the Glenn Morris Field House .

Sunday’s post will be a series of photographs from Mark Miller’s family photo album. Miller was a Fort Collins photographer from 1914 through 1970. His family images will give us a glimpse of life in Fort Collins in the first half of the 20th century.

Scroll down to the bottom of this post and click the “Colorado State University” category to see all of my CSU posts.

Early Football and the Rocky Mountain Showdown

Most Colorado colleges boasted intercollegiate football teams by 1890. Colorado Agricultural College didn’t have the student body to field a team until the winter of 1893.

Their first football game was played on January 7, 1893 against Longmont Academy, a small Lutheran college. The game was played in Longmont, Colorado. The Aggies, as the Colorado Agricultural College teams were known then, lost but with a respectable score of 12 to 8. Longmont Academy then came to Fort Collins and, on January 28, 1893, the Aggies had their first home football game and a crowd of 1,000 or so spectators watched the Aggies win for the first time with a score of 24 to 16.

The field was located off campus, on the east side of College Avenue between East Locust Street and East Plum Street but visible from Old Main.

CAC played a third game against the Normal School at Greeley before beginning a tradition with the University of Colorado now known as the Rocky Mountain Showdown. On February 11, 1893,CU traveled from Boulder, Colorado to Fort Collins to play the Aggies. The Boulder Daily Camera expressed their optimism this way: “Today the foot ball giants of the ‘U’ go to Fort Collins to knock out, kick and bruise the husky farmers of the Agricultural College.”

Below is a photograph that is most likely an image of that historic game.

Colorado Agricultural College vs. University of Colorado, February 11, 1893 Football Game

There were three clues to assist in the identification of this photograph. First the image was a cabinet card, a thin image mounted on a stiff backing. Cabinet cards reached their peak in the 1870s through the 1890s and declined significantly after 1900. Second, there is a penciled notation on the back that says “Fort Collins,” an obvious clue. Third, and equally obvious, are the “A’s” that look hand-painted on the back of some of the player’s shirts. Certainly it appears that this is a CAC Aggies football game, probably held in the 1890s. The only thing that allowed me to go further, was John Hirn’s book, Aggies to Rams: The History of Football at Colorado State University.

Hirn’s book includes five photographs of 1893 Aggies home games. This image matches Hirn’s image of the February 11 game against the University of Colorado. While not conclusive, this is most likely a slightly different view of the same game.

Close-up of players on left side

In 1893, football was primitive, with few rules, free-for-all fights, and little safety equipment. Injuries were common, from sprained knees to broken ribs. The basic formation was a flying wedge, with the ball carrier behind a triangle formation that flew down the field. The flying wedge was quickly outlawed because of its contribution to serious injury.

The Boulder Daily Camera reported on February 12, 1893, “The University Foot Ball team made short work of the Agricultural college team at Fort Collins yesterday. The victors will return this morning with the score of 74 to 6.” The Aggies dispute this score and say it was 70 to 6, though their official scorer says he stopped counting after 70.

Close-up of players on right side

By autumn, CAC was competing against many of the state colleges, with student interest in football equaling or surpassing all other extracurricular activities. Cheers were devised to stimulate school spirit. Here is one of the early cheers recorded in Jim Hansen’s Democracy’s College:

Hayseed! Turnip!

Pumpkin! Squash!

C! A! C! We are! By gosh!

CAC wouldn’t beat CU until 1912, though they did tie 0 to 0 in 1906. But the Rocky Mountain Showdown was underway and would continue, with some gaps, until today.

Sources for this story:

John Hirn, Aggies to Rams: The History of Football at Colorado State University

James E. Hansen, Democracy’s College in the Centennial State: A History of Colorado State University

Scroll down to the bottom of this post and click the “Colorado State University” category to see all of my CSU posts.