Laporte Avenue: Horses, Trains, and Automobiles

While you shouldn’t pick favorites amongst your children, it is perfectly fine to have favorites in a photograph collection. Below is one of my favorites, a circa 1910 real photo postcard of Laporte Avenue taken from the east side of College Avenue.

Laporte Avenue, c. 1910. Looking west from College Avenue.

It certainly isn’t my favorite because of the quality of the image. The original has spots on it, almost like it was sprayed with something, and there is a fingerprint above the car. It took some time in Photoshop to clean the image. Also, the image isn’t sharp. In fact, it isn’t even sharp enough to reliably identify the car in the foreground. And what’s with the black rectangle in the upper right corner? But the photograph has a few important things going for it.

First, every Fort Collins photographer has made pictures of College Avenue. I’d estimate 75 percent of the street scenes I have are of College Avenue. Mountain Avenue and Linden Street are also common targets. Not so with Laporte Avenue. In 12 years of collecting, this is the only image of the street that I have come across. So it isn’t common, a big point in its favor.

Second, and even more important to me, this photograph was taken at a transitional point in Fort Collins’ history. In this image, horses, trains, and an early automobile are sharing the road. We have the unidentified auto in the center of the image and two or three horse and buggies, one of the left side of Laporte Avenue and one or two parked on the right side of the road. Then we have the Bert Harris Livery Co. on the north side of the intersection. Here’s a closer look at the livery.

Bert Harris Livery Co., c. 1910

Livery stables were common businesses in the early 1900s. The Larimer County 1904 directory lists seven livery stables in Fort Collins. Livery stables were in the business of housing and feeding horses and renting them to customers.

Harris apparently bought the Charles Baker Livery in 1909 or 1910 and renamed it. He ran a series of advertisements in the 1910 college newspaper, the Rocky Mountain Collegian, advertising that he provided feed, stabling, and the sale of horses as well as “cab service day or night.”

Harris was out of business by the time the 1917 City Directory was published. In fact, the only liveries listed in the 1917 directories were auto-liveries, businesses that offered chauffeured automobile transportation. Automobiles had replaced horses as the primary mode of urban transportation.

It took longer, but the automobile would also eliminate railroad passenger service. In the center of the photograph is the Colorado and Southern Railroad passenger depot on Laporte Avenue at Mason Street. Notice that there is a train across Laporte Avenue. Below is a different view of the depot from about the same period of time. The photographer must have been standing on Laporte Avenue, shooting to the north.

Colorado & Southern Passenger Depot, c. 1910

The passenger depot was built in 1899 and served Fort Collins for more than 60 years. By 1952, rail service had given way to the automobile and a decision had to be made concerning what should happen to the stone depot, which projected into Laporte Avenue and was impeding the flow of automobile traffic along the street.

That brings us to the third reason this image is one of my favorites.

I love the Colorado and Southern depot. I have a mental list of Fort Collins buildings that I wish were still around and this depot is near the top. But, until I saw this image of Laporte Avenue, I didn’t realize how much of the street the depot covered and now I can better understand the decision to raze the structure.

Sometimes a photograph is worth a host of newspaper articles.

 Scroll down and click the “autos” tag to see other posts that feature vintage cars.


Sugar Beet Demonstration Trains

In the first decades of the 20th century, sugar beets were the primary business of Northern Colorado. Farmers planted beets, counting on migrant workers to help with the seasonal work. Processing plants were built in Fort Collins, Loveland, Longmont, and in many other area towns, to process the beets into sugar and molasses. The railroads linked the process together, moving the raw vegetables to the processing plants and the finished products to the end users.

Anything that made the process more efficient helped everyone, from the farmers to the sugar beet plants to the railroads. Sugar beet demonstration trains were an early way improve sugar beet yields through the sharing of best practices.

Below are some images of the demonstration trains that visited Northern Colorado’s “sugar bowl” between 1925 and 1927.

Colorado & Southern Sugar Beet Demonstration Train, 1927

The demonstration trains ran through the sugar beet areas of Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, and Montana. The trains included display cars and an auditorium car that could be used for meetings when the weather was bad and for dinners that the railroads hosted for farmers and their wives.

A Presentation at a Beet Train Stop, 1927

There were instructional presentations at each stop made by a combination of experts from the Colorado Agricultural College, the agricultural departments of the railroad, and the experts from the Great Western Sugar Company. The trains even carried German and Spanish translators.

According to the local newspapers, the crowds were “several hundred strong, with fully 90 percent of the farmers . . . visiting the train.”

The 1925 Demonstration Train Slogan

Each year the train used a slogan. In 1925 and 1926, the slogan was “Another Ton Per Acre.” The experts calculated that one extra ton per acre in Colorado would result “in upwards of $1,000,000 annually added to payments to beet farmers.”

The 1927 slogan was changed to “A Record Yield for Every Field,” and emphasized getting the yield up on each farmer’s lower producing fields.

Inside a Display Car, 1926

The display cars were the heart of the train. One article said, “Live and growing sugar beet plants from the seedling stage through the harvest period are displayed to illustrate how best to obtain increased yields per acre.” The 1925 and 1926 displays stressed the basics – early irrigation, plant spacing, and thinning. According to the local papers, the efforts were successful with increased tons per acre of 26 percent in 1925 and 20 percent in 1926.

The 1927 train focused on better use of labor, stressing recruitment, training, and supervision of beet workers. Worker housing was a major element, the 1927 speakers saying that “no phase of the beet labor problems has been more neglected than this.” They suggested better housing, performance contracts based on beet yields, and better supervision of the workers to increase a farmer’s tons per acre.

Students (?) Visiting a Display Car, 1926

Many people visited the trains beyond the sugar beet farmers. The sugar beet industry touched many people in the local towns, from merchants to pool halls to churches and schools. Local high schools sent their students to visit the trains. These three young ladies may be part of a class visit.

Sugar beets industrialized many of the small towns in Northern Colorado. In future posts, I’ll show images of sugar beet dumps (which transferred the raw beets from wagon to train) and the sugar beet processing plants that were critical to the sugar beet industry.

Scroll down to the bottom of this post and click the “Sugar Beet” category to see all of my sugar beet posts.