Archive for February, 2010

You know, Fort Collins didn’t just plop a cannon in the middle of the playground at City Park. It was the other way around. The playground was west of there, and migrated to the cannon.

In a way, it didn’t matter because kids in the 1950s climbed all over the cannon and considered it an extension of the playground, Norm says.

In another way, it mattered very much because over the years many residents thought it inappropriate to keep the artillery where the children play.

Norm with cannon at playground

The story of how the cannon came to City Park, and how hawks and doves resolved their differences, is interesting. But it’s too long for me to tell now.

But that’s not the most interesting thing about the cannon to me anyway. I think the most interesting thing is the kids’ initials carved in the hard rubber wheels. Norm says he remembers kids carving those glyphs going back to when he was a kid in the 1940s.

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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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The (recorded?) bells at Saint Joes I might miss more than anything in Fort Collins when I go. It seems like they play more in recent years than they used to. But there’s also a (real) carillon at the Episcopal church.  I don’t know if they play that one.

I would have liked to find out more about them both.

And I might also have said something about the crazy number of traffic signs on the short block in front of St. Joes….

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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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