Eva and James Howe… and their house.

The James and Eva Howes house in 1892. (Photo from the Fort Collins Archive.)

The James and Eva Howes house in 1892. (Photo from the Fort Collins Archive.)

In 1880, James and Eva Howe moved to Fort Collins where they eventually built a small one-story bungalow on Walnut street. Eva was a dark eyed beauty with a sweet and forgiving disposition. James was a millwright of great skill, but he had a penchant for drink. Though Eva was devoted to James and had been married to him for over 15 years, she finally reached a point in April of 1888 where she could take no more of the mean streak that came upon him when he was drunk, and which usually found its outlet upon her.

On Tuesday, April 3rd, James beat Eva so soundly that she finally went to the police. They wanted to put him in custody, but she insisted that all she wanted was someone to stay near the house so that she could get help if needed. On Wednesday, she begged James to stay home and not go out drinking. He left anyway. That’s when Eva decided that she had to get herself and her 5 year old daughter to safety. She was in the process of packing up her things when James arrived home unexpectedly – and drunk as could be.

Outraged that Eva was leaving him, James knocked Eva about until she fell out of the front door of the house. Though it was hard to hear over the strong winds that day, a neighbor still heard Eva’s cries of “murder!” and went to investigate. By the time of his arrival, James had knocked Eva to the ground, stood over her, and stabbed her in the neck. Eva rose, stumbled out the gate and headed towards Linden street continuing to cry out until she died.

The neighbors who had witnessed all of this, first went to check on Eva, then one ran to grab the doctor while the others went into the house and found James sprawled on the bed, covered in blood. Though at first James claimed that it was Eva who had tried to stab him with the knife, everyone knew that to be a lie and so they dragged him off to the jail house. Eva was dead by the time the doctor came. Her husband had hit her jugular vein and she had bled out quickly.

Later that evening, the lights to the entire city went out. Soon after, a mob broke into the jail, busted open all of the locks, and dragged James out to the street. In fear and remorse James cried out for mercy, but the mob dragged him over to the court house on West Oak Street and there hung him on a gallows that had been prepared for that purpose. It was the only lynching ever to take place in Fort Collins.

From the April 5, 1888, Fort Collins Courier (via ColoradoHistoricNewspapers.org)

From the April 5, 1888, Fort Collins Courier (via ColoradoHistoricNewspapers.org)

The temperance movement had been active in Fort Collins for almost 10 years at this point.  The day after the murder and lynching, the small note shown above had been inserted into the newspaper on page 4. The story of James and Eva Howe became a temporary focal point for the movement, which saw alcohol as the root of many evils. Their efforts stuttered along for almost two decades until, in 1909, Fort Collins became a dry town. It remained that way until the law was repealed in 1968.

The house as it looks today on West Myrtle.

The house as it looks today on West Myrtle.

Eventually, another family moved into the house that had been home to the Howe family on Walnut street. And as the city grew and businesses needed space in the center of town, the Howe house was lifted from its foundation and moved to a neighborhood on the edge of town where it still stands today (though it is no longer on the edge of town). You can see the Howe house at 1314 West Myrtle, looking almost exactly as it did back on Walnut street. One of the doors was covered over, but you can even see the faint outline of the door still visible just behind a trellis.

With all of the growth taking place in Fort Collins these days, I think it’s interesting to take note of how it was done once upon a time (at least in this case). Rather than tearing down the house and replacing it with an auto repair shop (which is what eventually took its place), the house was moved to a new location so that it could continue to be used. This is a far more sustainable answer as it requires little or no hauling away of debris and therefore no addition to the landfill. It also requires the use of fewer natural resources. Though new materials would be used to create the auto repair shop, no new materials were required to make the house that now resides on West Myrtle. What better example is there of a truly Green Building?


Sources for this article:

Although I read about the Howe story in “Howe” did this get here? Part 2: Finding the trail of the Howe lynching (More to Explore: The Fort Collins Museum & Discovery Science Center Blog.) and in Ansel Watrous’s History of Larimer County, it wasn’t until I read the Fort Collins Courier front page article from April 5, 1888, the day after the murder and lynching, that I felt like I really had a good sense of Jame’s and Eva’s story. The newspaper article included not only a description of what happened, but also eye-witness accounts and the doctor’s report.

Dates on when Fort Collins was a dry town came from this timeline posted by the Fort Collins History Connection.


Categories: Local History | 3 Comments

Block 23 – Bikes, Trains, and Apartments, Oh My!

Exiting a meeting at Daz Bog one morning in December, I looked up to see a whole herd of bicyclists heading my way. They were biking north on Mason, probably to check out the green way that’s been painted in for bicyclists as they cross the train tracks. The bikes turned east onto Cherry as I snapped this photo.

IMG_1837Just behind the bicyclists, to the right on the photo, will soon be a new apartment building called the Old Town Flats. The building will cover just under one acre of land and contain 94 apartments with a total of 123 bedrooms. It’ll be five stories high and include 84 parking spaces along with bicycle parking. Brinkman Partners is the builder, the same company that put up Penny Flats and the Mason Street Flats and Mason Street Flats @210 just across the street.


And there’s a rumor that other parts of this block will soon be developed as well, although there’s nothing yet on the city’s development review page about any upcoming projects.

Block 23 is one of the original blocks in the city of Fort Collins. That means that it was a part of the city before the city started adding on “additions.” But I don’t think any houses used to be located here. From what I’ve been able to piece together, this was part of a lumber mill. Another interesting note is that Mason didn’t used to be open to cars along this section. (More on that in an upcoming post.)

Categories: Downtown Old Town, Neighborhoods | Comments Off on Block 23 – Bikes, Trains, and Apartments, Oh My!

Celebrating Lincoln In Fort Collins

LincolnStAveIt’s Presidents Day! Another chance to explore the homage paid to American presidents in Fort Collins. I covered Washington’s presence last year, so this year it’s Lincoln’s turn.

President Lincoln was well represented in Fort Collins’ city streets in the early days. North of Mountain Avenue was Lincoln Street, south of Mountain Avenue was Lincoln Avenue, and east of downtown was yet another Lincoln Avenue. This must have gotten confusing because only one of those three streets remains today. Back in the late 1800’s, the Lincoln Avenue east of Jefferson was only a short segment that connected Mountain Avenue to the river where it ran into the road to Greeley. Today the street extends all the way past Timberline and isdue for some major upgrades as both business and residential housing projects start to pop up in the area. Lincoln Street and Lincoln Avenue on the west side of the city were renamed to North and South Loomis Avenue, probably around the time that Abner Loomis created the Loomis Addition on that side of town.
LincolnParkPresident Lincoln was also memorialized by a park on the east side. In 1903, a library was built on the west side of the same block with a donation from Andrew Carnegie and before long people were referring to Library Park rather than Lincoln Park. The Carnegie Library now houses the Arts Incubator of the Rockies and Library Park now hosts the Old Town Library.

In 1919, an elementary school was built on East Elizabeth street and named Lincoln Elementary. However, in 1939 when the folks at Lincoln Junior High School decided to change their name to Lincoln Junior High, the elementary school changed it’s name to Harris, to honor former teacher and Principal Margaret “Mame” Harris. The building still stands and is now referred to as Harris Bilingual School. As I mentioned in last year’s Presidents Day post, Washington Elementary (now a CSU preschool on South Shields) and Lincoln Elementary were “twin” schools, which means that they were built with the same architectural plans.

Lincoln Junior High began in 1922 and shared a building with the senior high, but in 1925 the high school moved to a new location (on Remington Street) and the junior high was able to fill out the building that was left behind. The school was mostly razed in the mid-70s, but what remains (the gym plus a bit) is integrated into the Lincoln Center at the corner of Meldrum and Magnolia. Lincoln Junior High ended up moving out to a nearly 70 acre parcel of property located just north of West Vine Drive that was donated to the city and school district by Elliott Heidekoper.

In last year’s post I tallied up Washington’s namesakes and came up with 3 streets named after him, 1 park, 1 school, and possibly 1 bar. Lincoln, on the other hand, had 3 streets, 1 park, arguably 2 schools, and the city’s cultural center. It’s hard to tell if that makes him the “winner” though, given that the park has since been renamed, as have two of the streets and one of the schools. That would leave Lincoln with a present day presence of 1 street, 1 school, and a cultural center. From what I can tell, Fort Collins used to love Mr. Lincoln a whole lot more back in the day, but we have a marginal preference for Washington these days.

LincolnJrHighI’ve included a photo here of Lincoln Junior High back in the day. I found this image online (but didn’t keep track of where *snap*). When I was researching the start date of Lincoln Junior High, most people I talked to referred generally to the date that the high school moved out as the beginning of the junior high. But that’s only the date when the building was first called by that name. The junior high itself (meaning the teachers and the students) got their start in 1922 according to the Fort Collins Courier. You can read more about the beginnings of Fort Collins’ first junior high by clicking through to my previous post on the topic.

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Dermody Transfer

It seems like Fort Collins is going gangbusters these days, with Otterbox/Blue Ocean finishing up one new building and already planning the next, with Woodward Governor building a new and improved riverside campus, and with new townhouses and apartments going up like crazy all over town. But Fort Collins has seen its hard luck days as well. It was with ingenuity and pluck that many people got by.

Jim Burrill posted some reminders on Facebook recently of the entrepreneurial spirit that has been with Fort Collins since its early days. His Grandma Ruth started a business called the Dermody Transfer which helped her and her family survive the Great Depression. Jim explains, “The transfer business was primarily a delivery business but also she moved goods from one location to another. She would deliver the coal, hay and grain that my great grand-dad and uncle Fred sold out of the north side of the store. She operated this business during depression years and made a living at it. Ruth knew how to manage money and used the family connections to get business for the transfer. She sold the business sometime in the early 1940’s.” The following picture shows Grandma Ruth and Grandpa Bill outside the Dermody Transfer building.


Jim also dug up a copy of the store license, probably one of the last licenses before Ruth sold the business.  


You can still see the building today. It stands as a reminder to the indomitable spirit of Fort Collins’ early days.  


Thanks for sharing, Jim!

And while I’m talking about Jim and his family, check out this snippet from the 1880 Larimer County census. The Emma mentioned here, who was still an infant at the time, is the same Emma that ran the Emma Malaby store which is currently located on Meldrum, just around the corner from the Dermody Transfer building. Emma was the big sister of Grandma Ruth.


Post Script

Jim posted another beautiful photo of Ruth posing with the Dermody/Burrill Transfer truck.  This photo is probably from around 1924.


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A River Runs Through It: The Poudre Overruns Its Banks

The average yearly rainfall in Fort Collins is 15.08 inches (based on data going back to 1893). The average September rainfall is 1.27 inches. (Western Regional Climate Center Data) We live between two city rain gauges. In the past 24 hours, one has received .91 inches and the other 1.14 inches of rain. In the past 3 days, they’ve received 3.15 and 3.58 inches respectively. And in the past week the count is 3.62 and 4.21 inches. In other words, so far this week (with more rain being forecast) we have received 3 times our average September rainfall and over 25% over our yearly rainfall. As much as we need rain, getting it all at once really isn’t ideal. There are roads closed all over town where they cross the river just in case the water rises above them or they lose structural integrity, which means all over town people are stranded and can’t get home. Schools are closed. And lest you think, “at least the farmers are getting rain,” remember that there’s really only so much the ground can soak up before the rain no longer helps. It’s kind of like taking a bunch of vitamin C at once. A huge dose can do a system clean and refresh, but once that’s done, the rest just gets peed away. Once a reservoir is full, it’s full. It can’t get fuller. And it’s the full reservoirs that are leading to surges along the river that are washing away roads.

The rain has stopped for now. But this is what it looked like along the Poudre this morning. The first image is from Google Maps and shows where the river usually runs, and where it was overflowing this morning. The letters A, B, and C refer to where the following photos were taken.

The light blue line shows the approximate route of the river overflow. It’s hard to tell if the water covered the land between the blue line and the river or if this was just a secondary channel. The part of the Poudre Trail that’s just below the letter B was submerged, so the blue line is meant more to show the general path of the water than to show the width of the overflow.


A: This is where the Poudre trail veers off to the left and the Hickory Trail spur veers off to the right. School groups usually sit on logs just to the left of this sign before heading off to do research on the river. The foaming water to the right is where it’s spilling off of the bike trail.


B: This is where the Poudre River Trail heads east towards College taken from the vantage point of the part of the trail that leads to the Martinez Park parking lot. The trees on the left surround a wetlands area that apparently used to be part of a ditch that directed water to Auntie Stone’s cabin. The ditch hasn’t been used as a water way since that time. … till now.


C: This is the Poudre near the train tracks as they pass behind the Northside Aztlan Community Center. The bike trail under the train tracks were submerged.


I just found this on the Coloradoan:

“According to the National Weather Service, the Poudre reached 14.56 feet — nearly seven times its average during the previous four days — at 8:15 a.m. Friday. At that peak, more than 420,000 gallons of water passed a stream gauge every second.”

Categories: Wildlife | Comments Off on A River Runs Through It: The Poudre Overruns Its Banks

Sidewalk Disorder

Even cars have a tough time on West Vine Drive. Imagine what students go through.

As I walked my dogs through City Park this morning, I was dismayed to see a new sidewalk being put in along the northern end of the park.


New sidewalk at the northeast corner of City Park


New sidewalk along the north end of City Park

We have kids in this city that travel to and from school along arterial roads with no sidewalks where pedestrians, bicyclists, and trash trucks have to share the exact same side of the road while gravel filled dump trucks rumble past …and we’re putting in new sidewalks in the park?!!! Really?!!!

Just in case you’ve never walked or biked along North Taft Hill Road, North Shields Street or West Vine Drive in the morning or afternoon, here’s what you’re likely to see.

North Taft Hill Road has no sidewalks but lots of trucks.

North Taft Hill Road has no sidewalks but lots of trucks.

North Shields Street has skinny sidewalks and the street gets skinny at points also.

North Shields Street has skinny sidewalks and the street gets skinny at points also.

Even cars have a tough time on West Vine Drive. Imagine what students go through.

Even cars have a tough time on West Vine Drive. Imagine what students go through.

Laporte has some sidewalks, but they're not always useful.

Laporte has some sidewalks, but they’re not always useful.

Bridge crossing can get scary on Laporte Avenue.

Bridge crossing can get scary on Laporte Avenue.

The photos with text added were created using PicFont.com.

Categories: Community, Neighborhoods | Leave a comment

Development Review – An Overview

Person standing on edge of cliff

A quick review of this site’s (re)development:

The (re)development of “North of Prospect” is nearly complete. Joomla is updated, the new theme has been tweaked, all of the old articles have been reuploaded, and I’ve got an email out to Intense Debate to see if I can re-hook up the old comments to the old posts. There’s still some i’s to dot and t’s to cross, but I think the site is now mostly good to go.


Development Review in Fort Collins:

“North of Prospect” isn’t the only thing going through some developmental changes these days. The city is trying to improve it’s communication skills in terms of getting information out to, and input in from, citizens regarding neighborhood development projects. They’ve developed a “Development Review Center” that includes a “Development Proposals Under Review” page. I think this page is key as it lists all current proposals currently under scrutiny by the city. You can get a quick sense of what the projects are, where they’re taking place, and who is involved by scrolling through the entries. I’m a total noob to the whole development review deal, but even I feel like the page gives me a sense of the scope and direction of development in Fort Collins.

NorthForty News gave a really nice overview of this new online hub. I’d encourage you to go check it out. What I’d like to do is offer more of a critique – what works, what doesn’t, and what some next steps could be to keep improving this new resource.

Let me start off by saying that the city is giving citizens direct access to a whole lotta information. On the one hand, I’m utterly thrilled by this level of transparency on the part of the city. I like being able to look through drawings of proposed buildings, read descriptions of the plans, and see who’s involved in the project. On the other hand, every once in awhile I come across something that wigs me out a bit… (Or is that “whigs”? Where did that phrase come from, anyway?) … a list of citizens present at a meeting (OK with that) and their email addresses and phone numbers (What?!!!). So we’ve got a really good beginning, with some bugs that probably need to be worked out.


The transparency this tool offers is really off the charts. Even if all of this information was available before, you probably had to go down to the city offices to view it. If it was online, it was probably a pain in the tuckus to find. Now it’s all listed in one location in a searchable table. In fact, as you enter your search terms, the site automatically starts to narrow down the list. So as long as you’ve remembered enough details (the project number, the street it’s located on, etc.) you’ll probably be able to find your project pretty quickly.


This image is an example of what I like about being able to see these online docs. Sometimes a picture helps you understand what’s being proposed more quickly than a bunch of words. (I also have a problem with this particular picture. But I’ll get to that later. Just plan on scrolling back up here in a bit.)


It seems like the more I use this tool, the more I find it can do. For example, the last time I was using it I got frustrated that I couldn’t enter my address and get a listing of all of the projects within X number of miles from my house. Then I read the NorthForty News article, clicked through to the Ways to Track Development Review page that they linked to, and viola! I found out there’s a map! *Does a little happy dance* It was a pain in the butt to use the first time I tried. I use a MacBook Pro and if you use two fingers on the track pad, that usually tells the computer to move across the page. But when you happen to be hovering over the map and you do the two finger trick, you suddenly either zoom in to the level of a tick on the back of a rodent in someone’s back yard or you’re out circling the globe on a weather satellite. It was insanely frustrating. But once I got into the habit of thinking like PC instead of Mac, I learned to click more and scroll less. Then the frustration of the tool gave way to power. Now I can view all the blocks north of Prospect and know exactly what’s going on here in the north end.  … sorta. (More on the sorta part later.)

Ease of Access

This is essentially the point of the whole project — to provide ease of access. Although I’ve been frustrated by some roadblocks that I’ve hit, I do see a good effort to remove those roadblocks and make this information easily accessible. I really believe that’s the ultimate goal and that the city is making a solid effort. And although I can’t be certain, it seems like some of those roadblocks that I had been hitting before just plain aren’t there any more. So either I’ve learned something and now know how to avoid them or the problems themselves have been removed. I’m guessing it’s the latter.


The A#1 best on ramp to this information, in my opinion, is the weekly development review emails that the city is now sending out. (You can see an example above. This is the first email I received. It’s from mid-May.) You can sign up to receive this email by going to the development review center (or any of the development review pages) and entering your email in the box near the upper right hand corner of the page. There’s also a page on the site that lists the weekly updates — This Week in Development Review. Both the email and the web page give links to more information, details about meetings that citizens can attend, and some explanation about the purpose of the different types of meetings.


In addition to making all of this stuff available, substantial, and accessible, the city has given us a helping hand in the form of Sarah Burnett, the new Neighborhood Development Review Liaison. I think that for most people, there’s a pretty sizable learning curve involved here. First you have to figure out the site and the resources on it, then you have to figure out what the different types of meetings are and what role you can play in terms of giving input, and then you have to sort out what all these documents mean, what current zoning regulations are and how they interact with the proposal, what the next steps are, and so on. It’s a whole lot to learn and since most people don’t get involved until something pops up next door, by the time they get around to learning this stuff they have the added emotional stress of feeling like some stranger is going to be coming into their life and changing their neighborhood forever. Sarah is the person to turn to when you don’t know where to turn. She can explain what’s what, help you figure out what your best avenue for giving input is, and walk you through other possible next steps. My experience so far is that Sarah is very responsive.

Gaps, Roadblocks and Next Steps

I think that this development hub is a ginormous step on the part of the city to connect citizens with what’s going on in terms of the change and growth that seems to suddenly be running on overdrive in Fort Collins. But there are still some things that probably could use some tweaking.

Speak to the People – Having access to all of these documents is really powerful. It puts knowledge in the hands of the people.  But I feel like sometimes it doesn’t put the right knowledge out there. I like having access to the paperwork that builders and developers have to file with the city. But in some instances, what I’d really like to know is:

  • Why this? Why now? Why here? I’d like to know what the developer is thinking. It’s a given that they’re doing it for the money. It’s a job, after all. But they might have put some thought into the project that would be really helpful for the average citizen to know. I attended a variance meeting recently regarding the Stoner Subdivision in Old Town. The developer wants permission to change the layout of two lots and build a new house on Magnolia where there is currently only a back yard. According to the zoning rules, he could raze the house that is currently on that corner and fit two houses on the two lots that are already there. But it turns out he likes the house that’s there and he wants to preserve it. But in order to do that, he has to shift the lot lines from going east-west to going north-south. That will enable the old house to remain but still provide a nice sized lot for a new house. I think if folks in the neighborhood had known the why behind what this developer had in mind, they quite likely would have been championing his cause. But because Old Towners have been boondoggled before, and because there was an inconsistency in the paperwork that came out, people were convinced that the developer was up to no good and was going to pull something sneaky. This led to having to call two variance review meetings and listen to a fair bit of oratory on the neighborhood before the developer even got up to speak. Rather than wasting the time of developers and citizens, let’s add some additional info at the outset that just might help put everyone at ease.
  • What’s there now and is it historic? As I walk through my neighborhood I come across sizable parking lots and buildings from the 60’s and 70’s that I’ve grown used to. But I’ve seen photos of what was there before, or in some cases just heard stories, and I have to admit that it makes quite plain that “growth” and “progress” are not always improvements. What projects are being proposed today that our children will look back on, slap their palms to their foreheads, and exclaim, “What were they thinking?!!” Information about what will be removed to make way for what is coming in is important. Just because there’s a building there right now doesn’t mean we’re all going to run to encircle our arms around it and try to save it. The vacant buildings at the corner of Meldrum and Maple are an eyesore and they’re just crying out to be scraped and remade. But there might be a building that’s worth encircling and singing Kumbaya over. We don’t all live next door to these proposed projects, but we still feel like they’re being made in our neighborhood. Having information about what’s there now could help people emotionally sort through their thoughts on the change. (And let’s just admit that out loud right now – the information the city is giving is administrative and architectural and all that, but it affects people in their gut. Every one of these projects has an emotional component and the more we can do to address that, the smoother discussions should go.)
  • What’s this going to do to the neighbors? These new plans show beautiful new buildings surrounded by lush greenery. If we were to look at just the plans without any context, I suspect most people would think, “That’s great!” (Now’s a good time to scroll back up and glance again at the artists’s rendering of what the Springfield Drive project will look like.) But if we saw those same plans next to what’s going to be right next door once the thing is built, we might suddenly fall down in shock. A four story building can look cute and Craftsmany in a drawing. But when you see that it’s going to be standing right next door to, and across the street from, a bunch of single family Modern style residences the clash in architecture becomes more apparent as does the difference in heights between the buildings. (One of the characterizing features of Modern style housing is that it’s often very low to the ground with a roofline that is either flat or very slightly sloped. This is a common style of architecture in Fort Collins in neighborhoods that were built in the 50s and 60s.) Will the neighbors lose their sunshine? Their ability to park in front of their own house? Their quiet in the evenings? Will they now have a large trash truck careening past their bedroom windows as it goes to empty out the trash from 57 living units (whereas before there were a couple of houses and a few horses)? There are places where growth makes sense and will be low impact. There are other places where growth might still make sense, but it’s going to be much higher impact. These are the situations in which neighbor input needs to be well informed so that it can be well addressed. This goes back to that emotional piece I mentioned earlier. If I’ve been living next to a horse pasture for 30 years, I’m not going to be all fire excited about that changing into four buildings full of students with all their ruckus and activity.

It’s information like this that I don’t think the developers generally deal with, but it’s the stuff that local citizens want to know. I don’t think people are looking for gobs of information on the above items. But if there was just one additional document that touched on the builder’s reasons for the project (hopes, motivation), showed comparison photos of what’s there and what they hope to build, and included drawings that included what the new next to the old buildings would look like side by side, I think that would be well appreciated and might perhaps help calm people’s fears about some of the projects that are going in.

Educate the People – I am not a developer, nor do I ever aspire to be one. The development review hub does have a lot of explanations built into the system and I think that’s really helpful. There are probably a few more ways that it can help to educate people.

  • Who do I talk to when the problem I see is outside the scope of Development Review? With the last example that I gave (Springfield Drive, AKA Carriage House Apartments), the heart of the issue probably has more to do with zoning than with whether or not this particular project is a good one. The apartment complexes might be totally spiffy, but the question might have a lot more to do with whether they make sense in the location that they’re being put into. The developer is just doing what’s possible in the area based on the current zoning rules. Ditto when it comes to putting a microbrewery in the area designated “Downtown.” But how did these places get the designations they have in the first place? How much citizen input went into those decisions. And who do we talk to about re-thinking through those zoning decisions? How much input was given at the time? And how can input be given now for issues like this, or others that might come up, that aren’t really appropriate to address with the developer, but that are coming up as a result of the development that’s happening. When the developer is following all the rules but the neighbors are still all up in arms, then it’s the rules that are probably more the concern than the project.
  • Point me toward the documents that are going to be the most helpful. When you click through to find out more about a project, you can sometimes end up with a pretty large spreadsheet of files to look through. Each one requires clicking on it, letting the file download, opening the file, determining whether it’s got the information you’re looking for or not, and if not, going back and starting all over with the next document. It’s a frustrating process because it could conceivably take you several minutes to do what could have been done in 10 seconds if you’d only known what to click on first. (It would also be nice if the files had names that matched the project they were attached to. That way, when I’m looking over the files on my hard drive, I don’t have to click on 2111174-1373345045.pdf just to see what it’s about. If it said something like CarriageHouseApts-MasterPlan.pdf then I’d know right away whether that’s the file I’m looking for.)

The more educated the citizens, the more empowered we’ll feel. It’s when you feel trapped and don’t know where to turn that you start to feel helpless and victimized. And no matter how much we want to grow, expand, and infill as a city, we don’t want to make people feel beaten up or trodden down. That’s just not what Fort Collins is about. The opportunities are out there for us to get help, have our say, and make sure people know our thoughts. But if we don’t know the appropriate person to talk to, the crux of the issues, or the context behind decisions that are being made, we’re just going to end up either wasting our time and the city employees, or we’re going to blather on to all our friends about horrible the situation is without really getting anything accomplished nor feeling any better about the situation in the end.

I still don’t know where variances and historic reviews fall in all of this. Are they included in the data? The Stoner Subdivision required a variance, but I think what is listed in the hub is more about their plans in general. Are those things going to be linked in more closely in the future? To get answers to these and other questions, I’ll be meeting with Sarah B, Queen of development review, in just a few minutes.

I’m excited to see Fort Collins residents get more involved in talking about who we are as a city, where we’re headed, and how we’re going to get there. I think the development hub is a fantastic beginning to many of those discussions.

Categories: Neighborhoods | Leave a comment

CSU and Surrounds

Every once in awhile as I’m walking the dogs in the morning, I remember what my friend Rogerio said when he visited from Brazil. He was amazed that our houses didn’t have walls around them. It seemed like no big deal to me. But as I see the photos he posts of houses around where he lives, I realize what he means.

And when my friend Meirav posts photos from her walks, its abundantly clear to me that her photos aren’t from anywhere around here. The moss on the roofs and walls and anything else that stops moving for more than a day shouts out like a bullhorn to me that her photos are of England.

And so, when I took a walk recently, I decided to snap photos of stuff that I might not otherwise think interesting or worth photographing. I tried to find things that I had grown used to, or that I might have walked past a zillion times before and not really thought about. With the exception of the biking ram and the decorated ram, the rest of the photos are stuff I pass by all the time and don’t think twice about. (I think the biking ram is awesome and take special note of every biking ram I pass. And the decorated ram was a delightful little find as I was walking through the campus.)


I took these photos on a Sunday, and on Sundays I tend to start out at the local elementary school. I snapped this photo of the artificial turf in the background with the dormant grass in the shadow in the foreground. The artificial turf was added about 4 or 5 years ago to help cut down on watering and maintenance costs. It was a big deal when it was first put in. The kids would come home from school with fake “dirt” (made from old tires, I think) clinging to the bottom of their pants. But the ground is nice and level there. And it’s surprisingly springy.


Around the playground at the school are various signs of exercises the kids can do during recess.


This is arugula growing in the school garden out front. I’ve helped out with the garden club at the school for the past 8 years. We had a yellow jacket infestation last year and several of the garden beds were sprayed with poison to kill the yellow jackets. So I’m not as keep to start gardening there this year. There are a few students who will be moving on from the school at the end of this year, so I might go in just enough to hang with them a last time or two. But I’ll let the beds go to flower on their own instead of planting them full of edibles. I don’t want to risk feeding poisoned veggies to kids. :-\


There’s a lot of new building going on at Colorado State University. It’s actually pretty nice looking, but you’ve gotta wonder how much tuition is skyrocketing because of these projects (and what that’s going to mean for us once our kids get to college age).


This was some odd graffiti on campus that I had never noticed before.


A few months ago all of the biking signs on the bike paths in CSU turned into biking rams (with helmets, of course). I think these are very clever.


Students ride bikes. I did as a student. My sister had her bike stolen once when she was a student at CSU. She was late for a final exam and only locked up the front tire. When she came back, all that was left was that front tire.


More graffiti on campus. I like that they use chalk. Though we don’t get rain often, it would be easy for the grounds people to clean the building off with a quick squirt of the hose. Then again, this building is in serious need of a paint job. The graffiti probably helps direct people’s eyes away from the disrepair. (I pointed out earlier that there’s a lot of new building on campus. But from what I can tell, there’s a fair bit of regular maintenance needed on some buildings… this one in particular… that just isn’t happening.)


I had to walk around this ram to get a photo from the side where the sun would be shining on him instead of from behind him. Once I got to this point, I was delighted to find that he had been decorated with a candy cane over his ear. It’s hard to notice in the picture unless you know where to look. (His ear is up and to the left of his eye.)


This cute little bungalow is close to campus on Loomis Street. I believe that students live here. (I’m basing that guess on the number of bikes parked along the stair rails out front.)


This house is further north on Loomis, but given the state of regular disrepair the house is in, I’d say it’s also rented by students. The main house seems to be fairly old, based on the architecture. It’s a shame that the landlord doesn’t keep it in better shape.


I’m not sure if students live here or not. At this point I was looking more for houses that I found to be interesting. This house is simple, but rather cute in its own way.


This house is a one of a kind. I don’t know of any other houses in Fort Collins that looks like this one. This building is actually a duplex. There are two porches with two separate front doors. I love the large trees around it as well.

There you have it, my walk through CSU and a few bits of Fort Collins. I hope that it’s as evident to those viewing these photos that they describe a very specific place. This isn’t a walk through a cookie cutter world (despite the fact that we have many of them in the United State). The rams, the water saving measures, and the buildings all describe distinct details of the city where I live.

Categories: CSU, Residential Old Town | Leave a comment

506 S. Washington – an example

During the Eastside/Westside community discussions, people occasionally asked, “What is the problem with people building a house to fit their family?” The response was often, “Nothing. But a lot of these new houses are being built and resold immediately.” When pushed for examples of houses built to be resold, none of us had a house that popped readily to mind. Recently, as I walked past Dunn Elementary, a house for sale jumped out at me and I realized that it fits the pattern that people were referring to in our discussions.

506 S. Washington Avenue - Built in 2010

506 S. Washington Avenue – Built in 2010

The neighborhood where this house was built is a little different than most of the rest of Old Town. Instead of being made up primarily of pre-war bungalows, the houses south of Mulberry, from Grant westward, were built primarily after the war. Though the houses are similar in size to the pre-war bungalows, they’re built in a modernist (that plain box look) style. I can’t say these are the most beautiful houses in Old Town because they’re just plain not. But there’s a certain ascetic to them when you walk down the street and compare the similarities as well as the small variations from house to house. That is, until you hit a house like 506 S. Washington. This house not only doesn’t fit the size of the other houses in the neighborhood, but it doesn’t fit the style either. It might, sorta, vaguely, possibly have a chance at being called bungalow style (if you take your glasses off, shine a bright light in your face, and squint a lot). But there’s no way you could say that it matches the modernist style even remotely. The size and style difference in itself isn’t bad, but it makes the house stand out like a sore thumb when it’s viewed in context.

The house at 506 W. Washington was built in a lot that used to be the “back yard” of (OK, so really it was a side yard. But it was the equivalent of a back yard for) the house to the north (to the left in the photo). The lot was subdivided and sold in 2007 for $100,000. It looks like it was resold in 2009, again for $100K. The house was built and in August of 2010 it was sold for over $400,000. The current owners are listed as living in a suburb of Perth, Australia. They’re selling the house for an asking price just $20,000 more than they paid for the house 2 1/2 years ago.

This house is an example of what bothers many residents in Old Town. The land was purchased and built upon by someone with the sole intention of reselling the property once it was built. The purchaser doesn’t even live in the country (at least not at this point). So the house obviously wasn’t built to suit a current Old Town family that found they couldn’t live in a small older house. (The house in Perth is, ironically, a small bungalow.) And now it’s being resold again. This is a pattern that’s true of many rebuilds. This house isn’t hugely oversized. It’s not particularly ugly like some new builds are. But it wasn’t built by folks who already lived in the neighborhood and needed a little more space. It was built by someone hoping to make a buck at the expense of the neighbors who now not only have a house on their street that sticks out like a sore thumb, but who also are dealing with a rotation of neighbors.

A couple of other houses that were built to be immediately resold include 529 W. Mountain (which was bought in January 2012 for $257,900, mostly scraped, and rebuilt at a much larger size and different style and is now being sold for around $749,000 (the asking price)) and 317 Wood Street (which was bought in June 2009 for $250K, scraped, rebuilt and resold in August 2011 for $740,000 to a couple that currently live in Anchorage, Alaska and rent the house out).

When houses that fit in with the look and feel of the neighborhood are removed and replaced with houses that don’t fit and they’re bought by people who don’t even live here, and they’re housing people who come and go, then the look and feel of the neighborhood can change dramatically. It’s a change the folks who have lived in Old Town for awhile don’t want. We love welcoming new neighbors into our community. But there’s an expectation that they’ll join us, not destroy what we love.

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Celebrating Washington In Fort Collins

WashingtonPark3Several presidents are memorialized in Fort Collins. The two most prominent are Washington and Lincoln. Since this is the first Presidents’ Day in which I’ve had the North of Prospect blog, I thought I’d start with Washington and focus on Lincoln and the rest of the bunch some future Presidents’ Day.

Willits1894In 1894, a civil engineer from Denver, W. C. Willits, drew up a map for Fort Collins. The purpose of the map, from what I’ve been told, was to entice folks to come settle in the Choice City. (Willits appears to have drawn maps for several Colorado towns, so perhaps he was more of a marketer for the state than an engineer.)
There are several references to Washington on the map. The left most edge of the Loomis Addition, in Old Town, was a street called Washington Avenue. It stretched five blocks from LaPorte to Mulberry. To the north of Laporte, the street took a bit of a jog and became Wood Street. But one block over, there’s Washington again, although this time it’s a street instead of an avenue. You’ll note that south of Mulberry, Washington Avenue doesn’t exist at all, being called instead, Sheldon Street. If you look at these same streets today, Washington still runs along the western edge of the Loomis Addition, but it also runs south of Mulberry, taking over the street that was labeled as Sheldon on the old map. And Washington Street to the north of Laporte is now Grant Avenue (which makes sense as it’s simply a continuation of Grant Avenue from the Loomis Addition).

WashingtonPark1In Willits’ old map there’s also a Washington Park. It ran the length of a block from Laporte to Maple and from Washington Place to Howes. Washington Place no longer exists (not even as a back alley), but Washington Park is still with us, though less than half the size of what’s shown in Willits’ map. If you attended the Colorado Brewers’ Festival in June 2012 and watched any of the bands play, then you were in Washington Park. Today, City Hall is located on the south end of what used to be Washington Park and a parking lot takes up most of the middle. And during City Council meetings, the council members are sitting almost right over where Washington Place would have been.

We also have a school named after Washington. Many of the early schools had “twins,” in other words, they’d build two identical buildings in two different locations. Washington’s twin was Lincoln. I’ll write more on the Lincoln (Elementary) School in a future post. Washington Elementary is located on South Shields and was recently renovated. It’s the building that used to house the Lab School before it merged with Polaris and moved into Moore’s old building. The building is now owned by Colorado State University and is used for their Early Childhood Development program.

WashingtonPark2I count 3 streets, 1 park and 1 school in Fort Collins named after President Washington. There’s also the Washington Sports Bar & Grill (established in 1978), but I’m not so sure that’s a memorial to our former president. That’s not too shabby all told. I haven’t counted up Lincoln’s namesakes yet, but I suspect that he and Washington will be neck and neck. Every other president takes a back seat to those two.

I can’t think of a single president after the turn of the century (meaning 1900) that had anything named after them in Fort Collins. Can you? If so, please post a note in the comments section indicating which president and what was named after him.

Washington Elementary School

Washington Elementary School

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