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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.