The Avery Block, Golden Rule Store, and Electroliers in 1905 Fort Collins

Vintage street images let us see what our town and life was like in the past. A flat bed scanner and a program like Photoshop can let us walk down the streets. Occasionally, I’ll take an early photograph of Fort Collins and share some of the details of the image with you. Today, I’m using a 1905 photograph of the College and Mountain Avenue intersection.

01 Mtn College 1905 8x10 Full B680
College and Mountain Avenue, c. 1905. Photograph by L. C. McClure.

Louis C. McClure was an early Denver photographer. He was a student of William Henry Jackson. Jackson is considered one of the best photographers of the American West. McClure opened a gallery in Denver and from the 1890s through the 1920s made some of the best images of his city. He closed his studio in the 1940s and donated his entire negative collection to the Denver Public Library. It is the only Fort Collins image I have seen by McClure.

This is an image of the Mountain and College Avenue intersection and Linden Street, which at the time of this photograph, extended all the way to Mountain Avenue. Now, of course, the pedestrian mall has replaced this portion of Linden Street. McClure took the photograph from the southwest corner of Mountain and College Avenue, maybe from the top of a building. Two large buildings anchor the edges of the photograph; the Northern Hotel on North College Avenue on the left side and the Elks Building (I think) at Linden and Walnut Streets on the right side. In the center is the Avery Building, a key building in Fort Collins history and a Fort Collins Landmark building.

Below is a section of a 1906 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map of this section of town.

02 Sanborn Map 1906 Section B680
1906 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, College, Mountain, and Linden Area.

My copy of the image is an 8 x 10 inch print. The print has a handwritten caption on the back that identifies the image as a 1905 photograph of “the busy hub of another turn-of-the-century town scene.” What says “busy” more than horses drinking at a water tank in the middle of the busiest intersection in town?

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Horses at Water Tank, College and Mountain Avenues, c. 1905.

Below is an enlargement of the left side of the image. It isn’t very sharp but you can see the new Northern Hotel at the left end. I’ve shared images of the hotel in the past. You can see those posts by clicking this Northern Hotel link.

04 Mtn College 1905 8x10 My Pano Left B680
College and Mountain Avenue – Left Side, c. 1905
05 Northern Closeup
Close-up of Northern Hotel, c. 1905.

The Northern Hotel opened in the fall of 1905, which fits the date on this photograph. I wish that this part of the image were sharper. It is certainly an early image of the Northern Hotel. There isn’t a sign that I can see so maybe the hotel was still under construction. Also, what’s up with the strange narrow awning over the main door?

The person who captioned the photograph also said, “If one looks carefully, ‘1’ auto can be identified.” Certainly it’s possible that an automobile was parked along the curb. Fort Collins had a handful of cars in 1905 and certainly early adventurers were out and about in their vehicles. The person who captioned this photograph must have had a much better magnifying glass than me, if he is sure about the automobile. Below is a super enlargement of the only thing I could find that vaguely resembles a car. It is in the center of the left-side enlargement. You can decide if it is an early automobile.

06 Left End Possible Car B420
Close-up of Possible Automobile, c. 1905.

The center of the photograph is much sharper than the left or right sides. It is essentially a photograph of the Avery Building, which, as you can see on the top of the building, was built in 1897.

07 Mtn College 1905 8x10 My Pano Center B680
College and Mountain Avenue – Center, c. 1905

Franklin C. Avery was a key figure in Fort Collins history. He platted our town, including the wide streets and the interesting triangular lots, like the one that the Avery Building fills. Avery also became the president of the First National Bank and built the Avery Building partly to house his bank. It was located on the southeast corner of the Avery Building. You can just see the door into the bank in this photograph. The Avery Building moved the Fort Collins’ shopping area south, providing a bridge between Old Town and the new business district at College and Mountain Avenues.

You might have noticed a circle with an “X” in the photograph. It seems that the thing that most interested the past owner of this photograph was the street lighting. Here’s what he said: “All these scenes were taken before the ‘Cluster Ball Electrolier’ era. Still only ‘Arc-Lights’ did the job.” Below are enlargements of the arc-light, in this photograph, and a Cluster Ball Electrolier that would replace the arc-lights in 1916.

08 Arc Lamp B420
Close-up of Arc-Light Street Lamp, c. 1905
09 Cluster Electrolier B420
Close-up of Cluster Ball Street Light, c. 1916

A little research uncovered a couple of interesting facts on the two lights. The arc-lights were apparently so bright that very few were needed to light a town. Usually one was enough to light a city block. On the other hand, they were so bright that they were almost uncomfortable to walk under.

The cluster ball street light made it to Fort Collins as part of street paving, which started in the fall of 1916. It was named by Thomas Edison, with “Electrolier” being a combination of “electrical” and “chandelier.” One selling point for the five lamp fixture was that they could be turned on in two stages. The top light could be turned on at dusk and the other four lights turned on when it was completely dark, reducing electricity usage for the town.

Owl Drugs takes up a big portion of the Avery Building in this photograph. I couldn’t find the date when Owl Drugs moved into the Avery but they were there from at least 1902 until they became Nash Drugs in 1919. An interesting sign can be seen with a magnifying glass in front of Owl Drugs. Here it is:

10 Golden Rule Store B420
Close-up of Bell Telephone Sign and Golden Rule Store, c. 1905.

It looks like a Bell Telephone sign, indicating that Owl Drugs had pay telephones for their customers. I’m always surprised by how early telephones made it to Fort Collins. The first telephones were in place in 1887. I did an earlier post on the telephone exchange. Below is a link to it:

The Telephone Exchange, 1911.

Just to the north of Owl Drugs is an interesting business, the Golden Rule Store, which you can see behind the telephone sign. The Golden Rule Store chain was owned by two Fort Collins entrepreneurs, Thomas Callahan and Guy Johnson. They believed that the golden rule, “do unto others . . .,” was the best business policy and they featured it in their store’s name. They had stores in Colorado and Wyoming, including stores in Fort Collins, Loveland, and Longmont, CO.

In 1898, they businessmen hired a young man, James C. Penny, to work in their Longmont store. The men loved Penny’s work ethic and in 1899 made him a partner in a new store in Kemmerer. WY. By 1907, Penny owned the whole chain and in 1913, with 34 stores, he changed the name to the J. C. Penny Company.

The Golden Rule Store, shown in this image, was one of the first businesses to move into the Avery Building, announcing its intent in the Fort Collins Courier in January 1897. The store ran the width of the Avery Building, from North College Avenue to Linden Street, much as Alpine Arts does today. According to an early advertisement, they sold “dry goods, clothing, suits, men’s furnishings and trunks.”

The Golden Rule Store was in place in the Avery Building until at least 1919.

Below is the Linden Street side of the image.

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College and Mountain Avenue – Right Side (Linden Street), c. 1905

I’m going to end this post with a close-up of a cute young girl in a horse drawn buggy. You may ooh and aah.

12 Mtn College 1905 8x10022

Northern Hotel, Part 1: “Modern in Every Respect”

There has been a hotel on the southeast corner of College Avenue and Walnut Street since 1879. At first it was the Commercial Hotel, which moved there from Mountain Avenue and Mason Street, apparently to be closer to the train terminal. When the long time owner of the Commercial Hotel, D. M. Harris, died in June 1904, a group of investors bought the hotel and began to renovate it. Their goal was to make the hotel “modern in every respect.” They renamed it the Northern Hotel and the brick, three-story, 75 bed hotel opened in the fall of 1905. Here is what it looked like circa 1913.

Northern Hotel, c. 1913
Northern Hotel, c. 1913

In this photograph, College Avenue is still dirt (it will be paved in 1916), it takes a bridge to get across the gutter, the ladies are all wearing dresses or skirts, the men and boys are wearing hats, and the road is shared by a horse on the left side, bicycles in the center, and an automobile at the right edge. Cars and horses shared College Avenue from 1902, when Judge J. Mack Mills brought the first automobile to Fort Collins, a 1902 Curved-Dash Oldsmobile.

Here is an enlargement of the bottom-right portion of the image.

Possible Curbside Gasoline Pump
Possible Curbside Gasoline Pump

While it isn’t perfectly clear, I believe the object to the left of the automobile is a curbside gasoline pump. When automobiles first arrived in Fort Collins, they got their gasoline from stores that kept barrels of gas in their basements. The driver would take a pail, dip it in the barrel, and pour the gas into the car’s tank. Obviously, this caused many accidents. Soon gas pumps became available and what better place to put them than in front of their stores, right at the curb.

As more and more cars came into the city, the curbside pumps started to cause traffic backups and service stations began to take their place but curbside pumps remained a downtown feature for many years. I’ve looked at a lot of Fort Collins street scenes and this is the first curbside pump I have spotted, so “Yea!”

Here’s a different view of the Northern Hotel.

Northern Hotel, c. 1916
Northern Hotel, c. 1916

The road is still unpaved but there are a lot of cars. Because there are so many cars in the photo, I’d guess that this photograph was made a few years after the first image. Of course, it’s also possible that some car related event was happening that got our early drivers out in force. The Northern would have made a good gathering point for a road rally of some kind. It’s impossible to count the cars, certainly there are a dozen or more, and one horse and wagon going by.

Northern Hotel Main Entrance, c. 1916
Northern Hotel Main Entrance, c. 1916

This enlargement shows the main entrance and the Northern Hotel sign. The Northern Hotel entrance portico and the deck above it would remain a fixture in downtown Fort Collins for some years. I like building signs and I’ll show how the Northern sign changes over the years in Part 2 of this post.

Northern Hotel Sign, c. 1916
Northern Hotel Sign, c. 1916

The Northern Hotel also had a painted sign on the south end of the building, with the word “Northern” in script. It is just visible on the right side of the main photo. Here’s an enlargement of it.







Finally, let’s look at two color images of the Northern Hotel.

College Avenue, c. 1907
College Avenue, c. 1907

This street scene, with the Northern on the left side, is probably the earliest of the images I’ve shown. The trolley has arrived and one of the big Woeber electric cars, provided by the Denver & Interurban Railroad, in 1907 is center in this image. Since there are so few automobiles in the photograph, I’d guess it was taken right around 1907.

The second colored image was made years later.

Northern Hotel, c. 1918
Northern Hotel, c. 1918

The road is paved and the new lights on College are in place. The new street lights were installed when the paving was done in 1916. There were many discussions between the business leaders and the town fathers on which lights to install. The decision was between the 5-globe post shown here and a single bulb post. One gave more light and was considered more aesthetically pleasing, the other was cheaper to buy and to run. In this case, beauty won.

This particular postcard has a postmark of 1918. I would guess that this is about the date the image was made. It also has this short printed description on the back:

“Northern Hotel, Fort Collins, Colo. Built out of red pressed brick and fully modern. This is one of the best hotels in Northern Colorado.”

In Northern Hotel, Part 2, I’ll show how the Northern expanded to four floors and then to an art deco style.

What Will You See on Fort Collins Images?

I’m Mac McNeill and I’ve collected images of Fort Collins and the surrounding area for a dozen years or more, around 1,500 images so far. Someday I’ll donate the entire collection to the Local History Archive at the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery but, for now, I’ll share them with you. (See the “About Me” tab for more information on me and my collection.)

Street Scene College Looking Up Linden 1922
Fort Collins, Colorado 1922

The heart of the collection, around 40 percent, is images of Fort Collins. You’ll see street scenes like this one, looking up Linden Street from College Avenue, which we can date from the sign on the trolley to September 2, 1922, but you’ll also see photographs of people, places, businesses, and events. At times I’ll do a “then and now” pair, and at times I’ll post an image that I don’t understand, hoping that someone out there does.


Sheep on CAC Campus Aug 4 1940
Sheep at Colorado A&M 1940

The college has always been a big part of the Fort Collins community and it is a big part of my collection, around 20 percent of my images. You’ll see that I love the buildings around the oval, but I also like the Quonset huts that were there just after World War II and the things students did, from protesting to seeing how many of them can fit in a car, and this image of sheep on the campus in 1940, with, I think, the Weber Building on the right side of the image. The Weber, or math building, is located on the west side of the oval.

Arrowhead Lodge c1950
Arrowhead Lodge Exterior, Poudre Canyon c. 1950



Arrowhead Lodge Interior c1950
Arrowhead Lodge Interior, Poudre Canyon c. 1950

The Poudre Canyon is Fort Collins’ playground and a destination for photographers since the 1880s. These two images of Arrowhead Lodge, taken circa 1950, are by Mark Miller, a longtime Fort Collins’ photographer and the subject of the first book I wrote with Barbara Fleming, Fort Collins: The Miller Photographers. You’ll see I like Miller’s work but you’ll also see I love the images by iconic early photographers like G. T. Wilkins, Stephen Seckner, Edward Bunn, and H. C. Brady. Images of the canyon are about 15 percent of my collection.

Johnstown CO Beet Wagons on Street Bigger
Johnstown, Colorado c. 1909

I try to match the images I collect with the collecting interests of the Fort Collins archive. The archive is interested in much of Larimer County, but they don’t want to duplicate work going on in Loveland and Estes Park, for example. So I collect images of the smaller towns around Fort Collins, including Livermore, Red Feather Lakes, Timnath and Wellington, and some of the towns that have disappeared, like Log Cabin and Manhattan. You’ll see images like this one of Johnstown, Colorado, with beet wagons in the street, between the blacksmith shop and the saloon, postmarked January 1909. You’ll also see that I like images that tell the stories of the early industries, especially the sugar beet industry and the oil and gas exploration of the 1920s.

Let me end this first post with one more image.

Tank on Car April 1948 Bigger
Sherman Tank Crushing Car 1948

That’s a 36-ton Sherman tank that accidently drove onto a parked sedan, on the south end of the Colorado A & M campus, during a parade on August 28, 1948. The Coloradoan commented, “No contest – something had to give and it definitely wasn’t the tank.”

I showed this image to my son, who lives here in Fort Collins, and he said, “You need to get some of these images online.” Well, here’s the start. I hope you’ll stay with me through the process.

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