Archive for the ‘Vernacular buildings’ 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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ArmstrongMarketsI have had SUCH a hard time keeping this quiet– I didn’t want to say anything until it was done. But for several weeks the Armstrong Hotel has been preparing a nice souvenir map of the neighborhood markets that the Lost Fort Collins blog wrote about last year.

The map in my original post was lame, and inaccurate. The Armstrong’s version, which is now available, is nice enough to frame! And it includes a tour of downtown ghost signs.

You still have to use Lost Fort Collins if you want to find all 17 markets. But the Armstrong’s more limited version is just right for your friends and out-of-town guests who maybe don’t have to be obsessive and comprehensive about everything, and just want to go on a nice bike ride and see a few sites.

I hear people like that exist.

Get the map here: http://www.thearmstronghotel.com/outonthetown.php. Click on “Bike through History,” and you’ll find the map in PDF format.

Or ask for one next time you stay at the hotel.

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In 1915, Lewis Wickes Hine came to Fort Collins for a day as part of  a project to document child labor in America. He photographed the Rommel house at 430 N. Loomis. It was boarded up in this October photo because the family was away harvesting beets. They would return to Fort Collins in the Winter to work at the sugar factory. This photo is now in the Library of Congress:


More recently, Joe Manning, of Massachusetts began looking for descendants of Hine’s subjects. He found and interviewed the grandchild of Jacob Rommel. From Massachusetts, he couldn’t get a good 2009 photo of the house. So I took these for him. It hasn’t changed much.



In this one, I'm trying for the same angle as Hine used in 1915.

But this is all just teaser. To meet the Rommels, go see Mr. Manning’s interview plus additional family and Hine photos: www.morningsonmaplestreet.com/jacobrommel1.html


Special thanks to Lesley Drayton at the Museum archives for passing this one to me.

By the way, you DO know about the museum’s blog, don’t you? It combines history and the Discovery Center. It’s here and will keep you up to date on Museum doings and other interesting stories: http://fcmdsc.wordpress.com/

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If you live in a neighborhood you love, and you worry about monster houses taking over, you should know what’s happening over on Park Street.

Dee Amick has filed for Landmark District Designation on behalf of her entire block. And while the application goes through its process, nobody builds anything.

That’s darn inconvenient for the new owner of 223 Park Street,  who wants to scrape the tiny 1925 vernacular that’s there now and erect something a little more roomy.

223 Park St. Tree in foreground was brought to property from Rist Canyon by original owners.

223 Park St. Tree in foreground was brought to property from Rist Canyon by original owners.

223 Park in 1948 (From the Fort Collins Museum Archives)

223 Park in 1948 (From the Fort Collins Museum Archives)

Amick worries that means a 40-foot-tall 2 1/2 story new-old house, in a neighborhood where most houses stand 20 feet.

In her application, she says  “small practical houses” characterize the neighborhood and its working class roots.  So, historic district designation could mandate that new construction also follow compatible guidelines.

To date, no Old Town neighborhoods seem to have been assigned Landmark District Designation, and I’m not sure if any others have even applied. (I only did a quick search on that fact.)

There is still a lot left to do, starting with a plea she plans to make to City Council tonight.  Should be live on Channel 14 between 5:30 and 6:30pm. Watch on TV, or show up in person and let council know you care about this sort of thing.

Dee Amick in front of the old Charvat's Grocery, part of the proposed landmark district.

Dee Amick in front of the old Charvat's Grocery, part of the proposed landmark district.

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I’m kind of picky about historic sites. If it’s been fully interpreted and restored, yay. But I probably won’t come back. And I won’t even go in if I have to buy a ticket and wait my turn.

I like sites that aren’t sites yet. Or that haven’t been fussed over much. And most of all, I like sites where staff  leaves me alone but then give me immediate attention when I have questions. 


Arrowhead Lodge

Arrowhead Lodge, built in the 1930s. Photo sometime before 1970

And so it was that I visited the Arrowhead Lodge, 45 miles up the canyon (Poudre, that is. Colorado’s Trout Route).  The lodge closed in 1984, and it’s a Visitor’s Station for the Forest Service now. It’s a few days before its official season opening, but the staff  said I could look around, and then sent me off.


Prisoners cleaning up grounds.

Prisoners cleaning up grounds.

 There are a dozen cabins around back. Most  trashed, but two are restored to their rustic 1950s glory. The doors were unlocked …

"Hopi" cabin

"Hopi" cabin

…so I went in.

Only interpretive fakery: Painted wood or plaster mattress and pillows

Only interpretive fakery: Painted wood or plaster mattress and pillows

And I also hiked through the brush to the old fireplace and the wind power plant. 

Lost windmill fed bank of batteries. Meant lights out around 9pm most nights.

Electricity house. Lost windmill fed bank of batteries. Meant lights out around 9pm most nights.

…which anybody would have told me, had I allowed anybody to accompany me, is an excellent way to draw ticks in May. 

After my lookaround, I grilled a Forest Service guy about the economic outlook of resort lodges in mid-century Larimer County and the likely activities of anyone who visited there. 

In short, it was my ideal perfect historic site visit.  Don’t let the parasites and chain gangs deter you–Recommended.

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From the Fort Collins Museum archives.

In the comments section of an earlier post, Barefoot Meg asks, “where was Rockwood School?”

Funny you should ask. I made Norm drive me there last month because I wondered too.

Rockwood-Place (later renamed Barton) was built in 1908 near the beet factory and attended by migrant children– German Russian and Hispanic. It was the backdrop of many of Lewis Wickes Hine’s 1915 photos of working children in Fort Collins, part of a nation-wide endeavor to curb child labor.


Lewis Wickes Hine photo of Rockwood Place School, 1915


Henry, 14 years old

Lewis Wickes Hine photo taken in front of Rockwood School

It’s a vacant lot now … I marked it in red in the lower right of this photo. The red box at top is what’s left of the beet factory.

(Click for a larger view. Or google map: “9th street fort collins” for street and surrounding views.)


We lose a lot of cool old schools. Washington Elementary,  on Shields, will be the next to go.

And here’s something really, really interesting about Fort Collins’ schools (and CSU): They don’t have to abide by Fort Collins planning guidelines.  That is, if the city fails to approve a Poudre School District’s development proposal, PSD can get an override from the school board.

No kidding.

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Before vinyl, before aluminum, even before asbestos, Fort Collins covered up its old houses with asphalt siding.  Rolled asphalt siding.

The first of the maintenance-free building materials,  “lick and stick brick” was popular from the 1930s through 1960s. 

You could cover a small house with the stuff for maybe a hundred dollars, and many frugal homeowners in Fort Collins did. 


Detail of house with asphalt siding

And why not? Depression-era hardware store ads promised “complete weather protection, added insulation value, plus a pleasing appearance.” It could last decades.  Look:





But not every house aged so well.  In fact, in urban areas, it came to be known as ghetto brick.  

Here in the West, in our rural areas, we  slapped it  over buildings without good bones to begin with.  The effect was tar paper shack: 


Some people think that’s kind of cool.

But most did not. And with easy credit and a nationwide remodeling boom, Fort Collins got most of ours to the landfill well before the refi money ran out.


Have I given enough credit to Norm Cook lately for sharing his memories and his enthusiasm? Not sure Lost Fort Collins would be much without him. Thanks Norm!

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