The 2016 Historic Homes Tour is right around the corner! On September 10th, from 10am – 4pm, seven historic homes, plus the Fort Collins Water Works, will be open for public viewing. Tickets are only $25 ($30 if you wait until the last minute) and all proceeds go to benefit the work of the Poudre Landmarks Foundation which operates and maintains the Avery House and the Water Works. Tickets can be purchased online or at select local businesses. (Click through for the complete list.)

The folks over at the Poudre Landmarks Foundation have already done a really marvelous job of describing each of the houses that you’ll see on the tour. There are some tantalizing tidbits in there that are really worth checking out (like the booze in the basement despite the fact that Fort Collins was a dry town. Hmmmmm.). I encourage you to read through those descriptions to whet your appetite before the event.

What I’d like to focus on is some of the more mundane details like what to expect during the tour, how to get there, and how you can learn even more about Old Town houses if you want to dig even deeper.

The original Fort Collins Water Works was in operation from 1882 - 1916.

The original Fort Collins Water Works was in operation from 1882 – 1916.

What to expect

If you buy a ticket at one of the local stores, then what you’ll be getting is actually a small booklet that includes a list of the houses with a map on the back cover. If you’ve already got that booklet in hand, then you can start at any house and progress through them in whatever order you want to. Although the addresses are in the booklet, there’s usually a sign out front as well. There will be a greeter at the door that will check off that house from the list. That way you won’t lose track of which houses you’ve seen and which are still waiting to be discovered.

If you buy your ticket online, then you’ll need to start your tour at the Avery House. Get a booklet from the Avery House folks when you show them your printed ticket.

While you’re there, take a peek around the house. This tour is a fundraiser to help keep the Avery House (and the Water Works) in good shape. There used to be many grand houses like the Avery house all along College Avenue and Remington. Though many of the Remington houses remain (after having been split into apartments or turned into businesses), most of the houses on College (and a few on Remington) that were incredibly grand — in fact, some were even more magnificent than the Avery house! — were torn down during Fort Collins’ growth spurt in the 1960s and 70s. So maintaining this rescued beauty is an important way that we can preserve part of the history of the city.

As you visit the houses on the tour, remember that you’ll be seeing them in various stages of “house evolution.” Some houses still look today very much like they did when they were first built. (Granted, the furniture inside will likely be pretty different, but the house itself will still look nearly the same.) Other houses have had small additions. And one has had an extreme makeover. You’ll learn more about the history of each house once you arrive, including details about architecture, craftsmanship, home ownership, and intriguing little tidbits (like that booze in the basement story I mentioned above).

How to get there and how to get around

Seven of the eight properties are within an easy bicycle ride of each other. (The eighth is the Water Works, which is located out on Overland Drive.)

Seven of the eight properties are within an easy bicycle ride of each other. (The eighth is the Water Works, which is located out on Overland Drive.)

There’s no right or wrong order in which to see the houses on the tour. So start where you want. But let me point out that with the exception of the Water Works, all of these properties are within bicycling distance from each other! So if you want, you can either bike downtown and pedal from house to house, or you can pop your bicycle onto the back of your car, drive to Old Town and park, and then bike around from house to house. (You can also drive from house to house, but then… parking. Just sayin’.)

There will be bike racks available at each of the houses.

If you’d consider biking from where you live, but you’re not sure how to get downtown and you don’t want to pedal along crazy busy arterial streets, take heart. There are several safe, comfortable ways to get downtown that don’t involve duking it out with motorists. I wrote a post a few weeks back for our local bicycle advocacy organization, Bike Fort Collins, that gives several suggestions on how to pedal into Old Town from wherever you live. (If I didn’t include a route that works for where you live, let me know. I’m happy to help you find a route that you’ll enjoy.)

Another option if you don’t want to deal with parking, is to take the MAX to Old Town, then either walk or use one of the City’s Bike Share bikes. (Note, you have to have a membership. And after the first half hour, unless you return the bike to a Bike Share rack, you start to incur a small additional fee.) Most MAX buses do have room for up to 4 bikes. So if you’d rather use your own bike, there’s always that option as well.

If you’d like to use a map to help plan your route, check out the interactive version of the above map, which can be found on the Poudre Landmarks Foundation website.

But wait! There’s more!

If you’re sitting there right now thinking, “What? That’s it? A chance to walk through 8 historic properties in Old Town, Fort Collins and learn all about their architecture and history and enjoy a ride on the trolley and wallow in the delightful historic ambiance of Old Town, and meet all kinds of other people who are interested in all this as well?! But I want more!” Well, have I got the perfect thing for you.

On September 8th, just a couple of days before the Historic Homes Tour, there’s going to be a series of short talks on Architectural Darwinism. Houses are often reflections of the people who have lived in them. As families grow, bedrooms might be added on. A sleeping porch could be enfolded into the kitchen to make more eating or cooking space. The garage could be expanded from the width of a Model T to the width of a modern day car. All of these changes add up over time and give a picture of the many lives that have been lived out in the building. Speakers include Barbara Fleming, Mary Humstone, and others.

This is a separate event from the Historic Homes Tour and requires purchase of a separate ticket. The talk is only $10 and is a great addition to the Tour. (And remember, the funds go to help support the work of the Poudre Landmarks Foundation, so it’s for a really good cause.) Get all the details about the Architectural Darwinism talk and buy tickets here.

This house on W. Olive is on the Historic Homes Tour.

This house on W. Olive is on the Historic Homes Tour.

Come be a voyeur through time as you walk through each of the historic homes on the tour. Take a ride on the trolley (included in your ticket price). Pedal down Old Town’s tree lined streets. And learn about some of the people and places that have helped make Fort Collins what it is today.