Thursday, August 4, 2011

A District Rescued

"Forty years ago, you wouldn't have wanted to spend any time in this area" was the response of the staff member of the Downtown Information Center in Fort Collins, CO.

Our comment that had preceded this response was one of praise for the beautiful restoration work on the buildings in the Historic Downtown area.

"You would have been among the large number of people who wanted to tear these buildings down," was his follow-up comment. "You certainly wouldn't say that today, but back then it made a lot of sense."

Fortunately, there were people who could see beyond the disrepair and realize the potential of this roughly four-block district. The result of those efforts has been recognition by the National Register of Historic Places in 1978 and the city being named a Preserve America city by the White House in 2005.

It was a perfect morning for a walk through the historic district.

We began with the Northern Hotel. Originally the wooden Agricultural Hotel and then the ornate brick Commercial Hotel stood here. It was remodeled in 1905, and the name was changed to the Northern. After the most recent renovation of the Northern in 2001, it reopened as affordable senior housing.

When completed in 1882, this building (right) served as the City Hall (until 1958) and the Fire Station (until 1973).

Built in 1905 by John Whitton, this building (below) time housed the Anti-Trust Fruit Store, named for the many anti-trust suits brought against major corporations in the early 1930s.

The Loomis and Andrews building, opened in 1883, housing the Poudre Valley Bank. Between 1917 and 1983, the Linden Hotel occupied this structure. This magnificent building was a keystone structure to the renovation of Old Town area.

We were glad to see that they advertising signs on some of the buildings had been preserved. Coupled with this artwork on a building in a small courtyard is this sculpture entitled “Caballo de Colorado,” painted by Amy Brackenbury.

There is an interesting story behind the Coca-Cola sign below. In 1953, there was fierce competition between two local sign painters, Harold Asmus and Don Brown. Asmus arrogantly signed his artwork with, “Asmus, ofcourse.” In response, Brown chose to endorse his artwork with, “Brown, who else?” The Coca-Cola sign on the exterior wall of Cooper-Smith’s Pub & Brewing is one of Brown’s personal favorites. The Pub is located in the 1880s Honstein Block building.

Another interesting art project is "Pianos About Town." Here in the Old Town Square is a piano, whose colors match the colors of the flowers in the planters in the Square. Visitors are invited to sit down and play a tune or two.

The Avery Block (left in the photo on the right), built in 1897, was the site of Franklin Avery's First National Bank. Avery was responsible for laying out the city's wide streets when the town was established in 1873.

The Kissock Block building was build in 1889. After a fire severely damaged the building in 1895, it was rebuilt.

The Opera House Block hosted traveling performers and served as an opera house, a social center, courtroom, the scene of political rallies, and a venue for high school graduations. It was built in 1881.

In the foreground of this photo (right) is Sandy Scott's sculpture “Spirit of Fort Collins.” The geese are positioned to take flight into the north because it is said that the fowl always take off into this direction. In the background and below is the Miller Block.

Completed in 1894, the building housed Miller's Liquor Business and a dry goods store called the Fair Store, which operated out of this building for over 50 years.

A unique feature of this building was its two-story outhouse, which was torn down in 1948.

Seckner and Forrester built this business block in 1905. Seckner was a prominent architec-tural pho-tographer.

E.W. Reed (a jeweler) and Louis Dauth (a banker) were the original owners of this building bearing their names.

Fort Collins was a heavy bicycle-use city. Bike lanes are found on all major streets, and bike racks are located at several places around Old Town.

Sometimes the racks are not used when making a short stop.

A bicycle played an important part in this Fort Collins Community Wall Mural (artists: Darrell Anderson, Susan Dailey, Mario Echevarria) near the Old Town Square.

And when your bike needs help, i.e., is looking run-down, just not performing up to its usual standards, or has lost some of its "get up and go," where do you take it?
To the "Cycologist," of course. "Therapy for your bicycle."

Old Town Fort Collins is historic, but it is certainly not stuffy.

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