Archive for the ‘Preservation and renewal’ Category

[I still don’t live in Fort Collins anymore, but once in a while I get updates or hear things. We talked about the White Pine cab before here. Here’s an update, thanks to Susan!]

The White Pine Fire Lookout was moved this week. Originally in the mountains west of Fort Collins, the cabin has been stored in various locations around Fort Collins for the past 20 years–first at Lee Martinez Park and then near the Environmental Learning Center.

Susan Epstein, a fan of fire lookouts, tells me “It will be on the city’s Running Deer Natural Area, within sight of and on a walkway from the visitors’ center. They plan to stabilize it and eventually do some interpretation.”

Karen Manci, Senior Environmental Planner, says” we hope to have the White Pine Lookout cab available to the public in 2012. We need to stabilize the  structure first , and we’d like to do some other work (staining, etc.) with the use of volunteers before we have it officially open to the public.”

 White Pine, 1952


Here are some photos of the move courtesy of the City of Fort Collins Natural Areas Program:

White Pine August 2011

White Pine August 2011


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When the National Trust for Historic Preservation announced earlier this week that Fort Collins had landed on its list of Distinctive Destinations, I had some regrets.

That’s because I always  meant to write a series of posts about the group of women who made this town worthy of the National Trust. Women who I have always wished I could be more like. Women with vision, courage, and persistence.

This was no ladies social club for dressing up and having Victorian tea parties. They didn’t play status games based on whose pioneer ancestry made them most authentic.

Rather, these were women who fought like hell and struck fear in the heart of any politician that got in the way. At least that’s how I always imagined them.

Each Heroine deserves her own post, including a photo and a list of accomplishments. But that would take more research than I have time for now. So here’s the short list:

  • Carol Tunner. She worked for the city’s preservation department for ages, fought the good fight, and sometimes won.
  • Rheba Massey. She was the library’s local history archivist and her expertise served every historic organization in town.  She helped me write my first local history (the history of my house) and showed me how to get involved in preservation in a way that could make a difference.
  • Mary Humstone. I always associate Mary with Historic Fort Collins Development Corporation, a group that helped preserve Preston Farm. According to its Web site, they were also involved in the Linden Hotel, Hoffman House, Northern Hotel.  She also worked for the National Trust and now teaches preservation in Wyoming.
  • Rose Brinks. She preserved the Bingham Hill Cemetery and opened it to the public. She’s been generous with many of her historic resources. Stories about Rose are legend.  Ask around.

Karen McWilliams probably belongs on this list too, but I never got to meet her. And an earlier group of women, like Charlene Tresner and June Bennett, might belong here too.

If only I had a little more time….

Nonetheless, without these awe-inspiring women living in our town, I think the National Trust would have looked right past Fort Collins. Without them, our town would be so much less than it is today.

Hoffman house, from history.fc.gov

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You may have read recently that the old Armory building on East Mountain Avenue is being refurbished again. This time, says owner Paul Jenson, he wants to return it to its 1907 roots as a public event hall.

Last week, one of the contractors on the project, Jeff Down, took me on a tour of the building:

Here’s the front of the building (above). Those who take historic surveys would have you note the crenelated roof line, which gives it a fortress-like appearance appropriate for National Guard Armory.

They would also tell you the architect was a Mr. Garbutt. And when you get over that, they would tell you that Garbutt (stop it) also designed the Commercial Bank and Trust (which would later become The Vault–that bar on North College with the safe still in it).

But let’s go inside the Armory…

When Jensen says he wants to return the hall to its public use roots, he means banquets, weddings. Probably dances and concerts.

I do not think he means boxing and roller skating. That’s how our predecessors used the space. Before it became a laundry. Look at that floor!

Now look up.

Now go to the balcony and look down. Jeff’s company (Down Zankey) built this staircase to the basement when Jensen first moved in. Jensen had his OneTribe Creative here for the past several years. That’s why the newer details are all so hip and cool.  I mean, thick-rimmed glasses neoMadMen  I-wish-I-were-that-cosmopolitan, black-haired cool.

Here’s the back room. Jeff’s biggest concern that day was getting enough air into the hall for a crowd to breath adequately. He’ll do that by pumping it in through the roof back here.

Cool details in the basement include old stone work and wavy bricks. Originally, National Guard practiced target shooting down here.

And apparently they kept the livestock here as well. Jeff says these are the original  livery doors. Down Zankey moved them to complete a stone conference room in the basement.

The hall is available for rent starting in March. This couple was here  exploring the space for an April wedding.


You can read more about it in the Coloradoan article (for as long as the paper keeps the article available).

You can call Amy or Paul to talk about booking the Armory Event Hall at 223-4012.

You can have Down Zankey put more air or light in your house, build you a bitchen industrial staircase, or fix up just about anything else construction related by contacting them through their web site at: http://www.downzankey.com.

As for me, I’m still leaving, and I’m still waiting to meet with Lost Fort Collins new guy to hand it all off. Very soon…

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Hell Tree

Road sign

I think the corner of Horsetooth Road and CR7 should be declared a monument to historical ignorance in Fort Collins.

Look to the Northeast and see what’s left of the Strauss cabin. One of the earliest cabins in the area, restored in the 1990s, and then burned down by some teenagers soon after.

Strauss Cabin Ruins

Que lastima.

But watch your back. Turn around and you’re looking right at the abandoned goat farm where grows the Hell Tree. The HELL TREE!!!!

That’s where a goat farmer used to hang his workers, until they rebelled and hanged him from the same tree. And now you can see ghosts swinging from the limbs after dark, they say. (Or maybe that’s goats, and the story is just a big dyslexic mix up.)

How do I know about the hell tree? Not from any old timers. Not from the museum archives. They’ve never heard of it.

I got the story from the Internet! On a web site about supernatural phenom. I’m not sure if the story was written by a  local, or whether someone far away made up the story in hopes of selling ads for local hotels on his ghost story web site.

It doesn’t matter. The Collegian parroted the story last October, and then  some accounts located it on CR7 (though others put it off North Overland, see comments below), and now College students and the internet savvy (or gullible as the case may be) are making the most of its retelling.

But if you know Fort Collins history at all, you know the story is crazy. We NEVER overlooked serial murder.  Oh, we could wink at vigilantism and we could bypass the law when struck by moral outrage. We were especially prone to moral outrage.

But hanging the help?

Not on our church-going, temperate watch.

And a goat farm? Goats=Satan. Get it? Maybe if he’d have raised sheep like everyone else, he wouldn’t have gone mad.

The story of the hell tree seems completely improbable to me.

But I will admit, the abandoned farm  and that cottonwood do look sinister, don’t they?

Hell Tree


Kendra Spanjer, author of Aldo Zelnick fame, encouraged me to look into the Hell Tree story. From what I can tell, the property was turned over to the county in the early 1970s. It’s surrounded by gravel pits and such today.

Thanks Kendra! It made for a very fun afternoon of exploring.

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The owners of the properties threatened by the Greeley pipeline project are offering free tours to the public this weekend.

Lost Fort Collins blog has written about the pipeline a couple times here and here. But here’s the short version:

Greeley is planning to run a new 60″ water pipe from its town, 30 miles east of Fort Collins, to the Greeley treatment plant in the foothills west of Fort Collins.

While Greeley has other pipelines from the treatment plant, the routes have since been allowed to be developed. The city’s current plan for part of its new route is to use eminent domain to use farm land owned by two preservationists who have turned down numerous developers over the years. While Greeley officials have said the the pipeline will only dig up “hayfields,” it is in fact threatening some beautiful historic and natural riparian areas, including the remains of a 100-year-old train line, bridges, and old stonework irrigation channels.

The owners of the Bellvue properties invite you to see for yourself.


Saturday October 3, 2009 at 10 am, 1 pm and 4 pm.

Sunday October 4, 2009 at 1 pm and 4 pm.


Meet at 2405  N. Overland Trail.

Expect to walk a couple miles through brush and across railroad bridges (I had to have someone hold my hand to get across the railroad bridge).  I recommend you bring some water and a camera.

The Greeley Salt Lake & Pacific tracks run along the Poudre River, northwest of Fort Collins, CO.

[Become a fan of Lost Fort Collins on Facebook]

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West White Pine Lookout

Of the two dozen or so fire lookout towers in Colorado, West White Pine was closest to Fort Collins, almost directly to our west.

Built in 1939, the tower remained on its mountain top until sometime in the mid-1970s.

Then, a helicopter took the cabin and more or less plopped it into the middle of Lee Martinez Park, in the north part of Fort Collins. There it remained, uninterpreted and unrestored, for years. Later, with little fanfare, it moved to the Environmental Learning Center at Drake and Ziegler, where it remains today, uninterpreted and unrestored.

You’ve probably never seen it there, have you?

They didn’t make it easy to find. Perhaps because preservationists want to restore  it before much more tourist traffic visits.

Fire towers are disappearing everywhere, says Susan Epstein, volunteer for the Forest Fire Lookout Association and a former fire lookout. Only 6 active lookouts remain in Colorado.

West White Pine, 1952

West White Pine, 1952

Epstein and I recently hiked to the West White Pine “cab” at the Environmental Learning Center. Taking one wrong turn after another, our walk turned what should have been a 20-minute stroll  into a 3-hour tour. But it made finding the “damn tower,” as we fondly called it after Hour 1, that much more rewarding.

And that’s why I’m not going to tell you exactly where it is. Set aside some time. Take a hike; look for it.

Oh, you could probably just ask someone at the ELC, but keep in mind that they can sometimes mess up directions and send you to the wrong corner of the park. (So help us, we know.)

Here are a couple hints:  You start in the main parking lot, off CO Rd. 9 and Drake. Not the Prospect Ave. side.

Hike around to the southeast corner, taking every unintuitive right turn you see. Stay close to the river.

With luck, you’ll see a corner of the tower across the river. With even better luck, the river will be low  enough to cross, but do so at your own peril.

If  you do get across, you’ll see a road and wonder why you couldn’t just drive to it in the first place.  It’s a private road, only accessible by Authorized Personnel of the City of Fort Collins.

West White Pine, 2009

West White Pine, 2009

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Each month,  the Downtown Development Authority sets aside time to hear ideas from the public. The DDA web site suggests:

These ideas should embody innovative thinking, cool and exciting project concepts, creative solutions …. The idea [need not] have existing financial backing.

Here are ideas presented to the DDA board this year (also see more in Comments below):

  • “A global village museum.” This would reside in the Carnegie Library building, soon to be vacated by the History Museum. We’d fill it with artifacts collected by locals in their travels.
  • “Renovation for the old piano at the Elk’s club.” This is a beautiful instrument. Unfortunately, they found it could be preserved or restored. But not both. It’s going to the History Museum for preservation.
  • “A charter nature school.” Kids. Dirt. Bugs. This would sit next to the Raptor Center, on Vine.
  • “Downtown botanical gardens.” Adults. Dirt. Bugs.
  • “Recycling facilities.”
  • “National newspapers to fill our news racks downtown.” Perhaps in partnership with Al’s newstand.

Some neat ideas.

Then,  there’s this idea from Geoff Robinson, a Lost Fort Collins reader. Thinking about the abandoned Steele’s Market, which replaced the Franklin school,  downtown:

  • Found school. “Wouldn’t it be interesting if the building that replaces the Steeles could have elements of the old [Franklin] School?” Geoff writes.
Franklin School

Franklin School

Yes I think so. As for me, I’d like to see an

  • Outdoor Organ Pavilion. Like this one in San Diego. We’ve got some awesome players in this town. And think of Halloween!

[Photo:  University Historic Photograph Collection, http://lib.colostate.edu/archives/historic_photos.html, Colorado State University, Archives and Special Collections]

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