Alley Art

I enjoy the bits of art scattered about town, often in completely unexpected places. I’ve already mentioned the painted transformer boxes, as well as two local sculptures. There’s a city-wide program called Art in Public Places that overseas a lot of what turns up around town (not just the transformer boxes but also the painted pianos, murals, pavers, trash cans, and a few other little odds and ends).

"Sing-Along" by Ren Burke

“Sing-Along” by Ren Burke

But there are also quirky little bits of citizen created artwork where their property butts up against an alley. During my daily walks I’ve come across a few such art pieces that I thought I’d share. This first photo was taken in the alley bounded by Mountain, Sherwood, Oak and Whitcomb.

horseongarageNot shown in this photo is several paintings of flowers climbing up the fence to the left. (You can see one flower to the left in the pic, but there are more.) I love seeing this horse peek his head out at me as I walk by!This act of whimsy delighted me when I found it in a neighborhood near Laurel Elementary on the east side of Old Town. (This might have been in the alley between Eastdale Drive and Locust Street, but don’t hold me to that.) I wonder if they change out shoes for each season. Boots might be a little harder to hang, though.whimsywall

And though some might not call this art, I found the garden tools hanging around the outside of this garage to be a playful display that turned storage into an artform.

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Dance Formation Damaged

On June 10th I snapped this photo of a sculpture in Martinez Park.


It’s often struck me as an almost forgotten piece, always watching over the comings and goings of the nearby bike trail.

Recently, the statue has suffered misfortune. A month after taking that first photo, I passed by to find that one of the dancers had been decapitated.


I don’t know if it was vandalism or if the recent rain and wind has taken its toll. But the feel of the piece is definitely a bit more on the macabre side now. The dancer on the right seems to be leaning slightly away from her decapitated friend.

I searched online to see if anyone had posted information on this sculpture and was delighted to find a old Lost Fort Collins post that I’d never read before. It’s interesting to note that even 4 years ago, Cat referred to the statue as dying art. The statue was carved by Richard Scorpio from a tree that had died in front of City Hall back in 1984. The sculpture was moved from its former location to this out of the way little spot in Martinez Park in 2004.


I also had to laugh when I saw Cat’s post with its suggestion of which present day statue should be moved from its current location. She had photoshopped “Transcend” onto the train tracks on Mason Street. The statue had been sculpted in Old Town Plaza by Collen Nyanhongo with the intention that it would remain in that location. The opportunity to watch an artist in action was a draw, but the art piece itself wasn’t particularly well received. “Transcend” (I’ve always referred to the statue as “the white running guy.”) was later moved, at great expense, to its current location at the corner of Maple and Mason, right across the street from the newly renovated/repaired Penny Flats and right by the same train tracks that Cat had placed the statue on in her post.

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Black River

On Tuesday, I took a walk along the river. We had some wonderful rain this past weekend, which was sorely needed. But it came down in such intense bursts that it lead to flooding in some areas. It also washed a lot of the ashes and soot down out of the mountains and into the river. The Poudre was completely blackened with the stuff when I visited Tuesday morning. In the first two photos you can see the black goo that was left along the sides of the river where the water had deposited it.



These next two photos compare how the water usually looks to how it looked when it was full of High Park Fire runoff. In the first photo you might be able to make out a peace symbol under the water. I don’t know how that was painted onto the rocks under the water, but I’d guess it was done when the river was very low at some point. I took the peace symbol photo about a month ago. The second photo was taken on Tuesday from the exact same bridge in the exact same spot.

Peace symbol in the Poudre River

Peace symbol in the Poudre River

Black water

Black water

I’ve never made lye, but I hear you simply soak wood ashes in water for a few days. Lye is alkali. I wonder what the affect of such a ph imbalance has on the fish, snakes, frogs and other wildlife that live in the Poudre river. :-\

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“Organic Energy” – The First Transformer

In 2006, the city of Fort Collins decided to start letting artists paint the transformer cabinets around town, both as a means of beautifying the area as well as to combat graffiti. That first year, I believe only one project was completed – 6 transformer boxes. The artwork was entitled “Organic Energy” and was painted by Amelia Caruso in Tenney Alley, which is the alley next to Enzio’s.



One transformer box stands apart from the other four boxes and has been colored somewhat differently, but Amelia still lists it as being a part of the “Organic Energy” installation on her website.


You can also find Amelia Caruso’s work near the Little Bird Bakeshop at Walnut and Linden. (Little Bird is my son’s all time favorite bakery.)


She’s got a box in the Olive Street parking lot between the Fedex store and the Chocolate Cafe. (OK, so Little Bird is my son’s favorite bakeshop. The Chocolate Cafe is mine. Mmmmmm.)


Amelia has also painted a box that stands at the corner of E. Drake and S. Stover, but I’ve never seen it. (I don’t have a website called North of Prospect just because I thought it would sound cool. I make an occasional dash south of the border, but my day to day life really is lived for the most part on the north side.)

To see much better pictures of Amelia’s transformer boxes than what I’ve presented here, to hear her take on how the project is going, and to get some of the stats on how much money this is saving the city, check out Amelia’s transformer box page.

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Colorado Brewers Festival – 2012

Today I attended the Colorado Brewers Festival, put on by the Fort Collins Downtown Business Association. So did these guys. I suspect they drank a bit more than I did.


There’s a bit of a story behind that photo, but I’ll get to that.

I worked as a volunteer through the middle of the day. (I’ve written more about my experiences on my Google+ page. Things didn’t go as smoothly as I’ve seen at other events I’ve volunteered at. For now, I’m just going to leave it at that.) I was so wiped out after my shift that I went home to eat and crash. Then I headed back to the Festival to get some tastes of beer.

I started out with an Irish Red Ale, by Equinox Brewing. It was good, though a bit more bitter than I prefer. Then I stood in the Funkwerks line, which was the longest I saw at the event, to get some of their Tropic King, which was also very good. And I had a nice conversation with a guy that recently moved to Denver from Arizona. They decided to move because it was just too hot in AZ. (The heat didn’t seem to phase him.) Since I’ve had both Equinox and Funkwerks beers before, I decided I really should try something new and different. So I ended up at the Crazy Mountain tent where I tried their Lava Lake Wit. I was smitten. The stuff has (get this) chamomile in it. I know, right. (You either just nearly barfed up your lunch or you got really eager and excited. Rob leaned towards barfland. But I was quite happy. And Rob wasn’t there with me. So he didn’t get to taste the beer. He just got my description. Once I buy some and bring it home, we’ll get his honest opinion.) Drinking Lava Lake Wit is like having some Sleepy Time Tea flavored beer. It’s perfect for a cozy night of reading on the front porch. I went back and got a second taster of the stuff, I liked it so much.

At this point I was feeling just fine and decided it was time to head home. But I wanted to remember the name of the folks with the chamomile beer. So I decided to snap a picture of their tent.


Right after taking that picture, two guys walked past. One asked if I had been trying to take a photo of him. I assured him that I was just trying to get a photo of the tent so I wouldn’t forget the name of the beer. He insisted that I really just wanted a picture of him so I might as well just go ahead and take one. … So I did. That’s the pic at top.

It was a crazy hot day. (The Key Bank sign said it was 101°F.) I’m utterly exhausted and have a dehydration headache despite downing many, many glasses of water and juice (and a bit of beer). But I’ve found a great new beer that’s available at Wilbur’s. I met several volunteers as well as the dude in the Funkwerks line, and I’ve got a powder blue Brewer’s Fest t-shirt to commemorate the day. All in all I think I’d have to say it was a win.

I watched people get tats painted on while I sipped my beer.

I watched people get tats painted on while I sipped my beer.

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Birds Along the Poudre River

I often walk along the Poudre river in the morning and I’m occasionally delighted to see a bird or fish or some other critter happen along. In fact, my mom and I were talking about ipods once and she said, “So what do you listen to when you’re walking?” (She knows I don’t have an ipod and she wondered if I used a walkman or something like that.) I replied, “The birds.” It took her a couple of minutes to realize that I meant I listen to the birds as they sing. Along the Poudre, you can pretty much count on being serenaded during your entire walk.

Well, yesterday I was treated to much more than that. I don’t know what the deal was, but there was an amazing array of birds as I walked yesterday morning. Perhaps some of them flew down from the High Park fire area.

I’ve spent some time googling for bird idents, and I’ve labeled the birds with what I *think* they are. If I’m wrong, feel free to correct me. 🙂

Click on the photo below to view the entire album.

Birds I Saw on My Walk This Morning
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It’s Too Late Baby

After many meetings and discussions, much research and a fair bit of community advocacy, it looks like the house on Whitcomb is still going to be torn down and replaced with something at least twice its size. But I get ahead of myself here. Let me back up.

Back in April, I heard about a house that was going to be demolished on Whitcomb Street. The neighbors were very upset about what was going on, especially because they didn’t hear about the planned demolition until the city had already approved it. A hasty meeting was called in order to mediate between the home owners, who were hoping to tear down their 112 year old house and replace it with a much larger, much more modern looking building, and the other residents of the block who were mortified that a house with so much history, and which contributed so much to the overall character of the neighborhood, was going to be scrapped for something that wouldn’t fit the character of the neighborhood at all.

The house at 122 Whitcomb was one of eight houses that had been built on that street by the same mason and carpenter. Unfortunately, I only have the story as I remember it from the telling at a meeting with the Landmark Preservation Committee regarding the demolition. According to an owner of one of the other eight houses, a mason lived on the west side of the street and built 4 houses there. (Apparently the brick on some of the houses has been covered over?) and a carpenter lived on the east side of the street where he also built 4 houses. They started with smaller houses on the corners and with each new house they added both size and embellishments. So the overall look of the houses is very similar, but each one is also distinct from the others.

East Side of the Street – where the carpenter lived

Oak Street
Whit116 Whit122 Whit126 Whit130
118 S. Whitcomb
Built in 1903
122 S. Whitcomb
Built in 1900
126 S. Whitcomb
Built in 1893
130 S. Whitcomb
Built in 1889

100 Block of South Whitcomb Street

Whit117 Whit121 Whit125 Whit129
117 S. Whitcomb
Built in 1900
121 S. Whitcomb
Built in 1896
125 S. Whitcomb
Built in 1896
129 S. Whitcomb
Built in 1896

West Side of the Street – where the mason lived

The house as 122 S. Whitcomb has been sitting empty for about a decade. Around 2005 or so, someone decided to renovate the place and apparently tore up most of the inside. Then, for whatever reason, the upgrades were never begun and the house continued to sit vacant. Last fall a couple that lives further south on Whitcomb purchased the property with the plan of scraping the house and placing a 3500 square foot (above ground — much larger if you include the basement) house on the property. (The current house is 1700 square foot above ground.)

The neighbors have spoken extensively with the couple (Thanks to mediation support through the city.) and encouraged them to remodel and add an addition, but keep the facade of the house, or perhaps to scrape and rebuild, but to keep the overall style of the house so that it continues to fit in with the rest of the neighborhood. At least four other houses among the eight have undergone remodeling in the past, but all have maintained the same look at the front of the house that has been there for over 100 years. The owners insist that it will be too much work to renovate. They’re going through with the demolition despite the neighborhood outcry.

The house has been painted with some grayish-black stuff (to apparently keep the lead paint underneath from flying around) and is awaiting its fate. Fort Collins is about to loose a 112 year old piece of its history.

WhitBlack2 WhitBlack1

Categories: Local History, Neighborhoods, Residential Old Town | 1 Comment

A Litter of Kits

foxinalleyOn a recent walk, I turned down an alley to find what I thought was a woman letting her dog out for its morning constitutional. Then I looked again and realized the animal was a fox! I stopped abruptly as the fox zeroed in on the dog by my side. I snapped a few photos, then headed back out to the street so as not to bother the poor thing, which seemed concerned about the dog, but not sure where to run. (Usually when we come across a fox while walking, the fox will just take off in the other direction. It seemed a little odd that this one stuck around. But I wondered if it was perhaps a mother with babies nearby.)


Little did I realize that this fox was a babe him(or her?)self. In fact, there are 8 kits living in this alley! I came back two days later and saw two playing together. Then several others ran this way and that past them until they were all out playing together in the middle of the alley.


This is one of the things I love about living in Fort Collins. There’s an amiable blend of urban and wild that you don’t always see in other cities.


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Ballet Folklorico Raices de Mexico

These are some snippets of the various dances performed by the Ballet Folklorico Raices de Mexico at the Cinco de Mayo celebration last week at the Northside Aztlan Community Center. It was a hot day and we were on warm asphalt, but despite the heavy clothes, the dancers smiled the whole time. The dresses were beautiful. As you can tell by the amount of time I give to the first dance, the knife dance was my favorite.

To find out more about Ballet Folklorico Raices de Mexico, check out their Facebook page.

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“Old Town,” the Birthplace of Fort Colllins

A flyer came in the mail last week from a local real estate agent. Her focus is on the Old Town area of Fort Collins and she included a map on her brochure letting you know exactly what that means.


That map really intrigued me. It included areas that I don’t generally think of as Old Town. And that got me wondering, how do I define Old Town? What counts and what doesn’t and why?

Fort Collins got its starts as a town back in 1873, when the army outpost that was located here (originally called Camp Collins and later referred to as Fort Collins) was closed. The military had set up an outpost in the Colorado Territory in order to protect the pioneers that were traveling to Utah, California or Oregon, from the Lakota, Sioux and Pawnee. (The Arapaho and Cheyenne also lived in the area, but they generally got along more peacefully with the white encroachers.) In 1865, most of the natives were removed from the Colorado Territory and the military was no longer needed to protect the trail. Though the army camp was disbanded, there were shop keepers and other residents who remained behind and they founded the present day city of Fort Collins.

Camp Collins had been set up along the Denver Road (now Jefferson Avenue), which was the part of the Overland Trail that passed through this area. The camp extended from the Denver Road toward the Poudre River, near the present day intersection of Willow and Linden streets. The town grew up on the opposite side of the road, where Old Town’s businesses and shops still reside today. In 1870, the town was selected as the future site for the Agricultural College (now Colorado State University), and residential building began to spread westward and southward along the edges of the college’s boundary lines. It’s interesting to note that in the early 1920’s when the town was deciding where to locate its new Fort Collins High School, people were aghast that it might be built way out in the boondocks on Remington Street between Pitkin and Lake. (The building now houses CSU’s Center for the Arts. You can see it on the map below, right under the word “College.”)


I’ve included the map from the real estate flyer again, a bit larger, so you can see the area that it’s including as Old Town. I’m intrigued by the fact that the area where Camp Collins was originally located isn’t included. That’s probably because there isn’t much in the way of residential housing in that area, so I think we can let that slide. But what leaves me scratching my head is the inclusion of the areas north of LaPorte and west of Shields, and the area to the far lower right of the map that is characterized by curvy streets.

A quick survey of building dates for the houses in Tennyson Heights, Mountain View Heights, and the Hanna Neighborhood (all neighborhoods around Putnam Elementary school, which can be seen in the upper left of this map) show that most of the building took place in the 50s and 60s (with the occasional farm house built in the 20s or a late build taking place in the 70s). Reclamation Village (also by Putnam) and the neighborhoods closer to LaPorte Avenue were mostly built in the 40s. And that squiggly area in the lower right hand part of the map? 50s. (Now that I think about it, most of the houses behind Dunn Elementary were also built in the 50s.) So where do you draw the line between old, as in Old Town, and the next round of building that came along, which in my mind would be the spurt of building due to the G.I. Bill after the Second World War. (I believe the GI bill kicked in after the First World War, but the government didn’t have the money to pay out on that once the Great Depression hit.) Should we count a neighborhood that was built primarily in the 50s as being a part of Old Town? If so, what about all of the other neighborhoods in town that were built during that time that aren’t usually included, such as City Park Heights, which is south of Mulberry and west of Shields and was built up in the 1950s?

I’d be curious to know where other people place the boundary lines for Old Town. I don’t think there’s any official delineation of what “counts” and what doesn’t. It’s really more a matter of common usage. So how do you use the term? What does it mean for you?


Fort Collins Facts

Wikipedia page on Camp Collins

Wikipedia page on the Overland Trail

The GI Bill

Larimer County Records Database

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