Summer is almost upon us and one of the things I look forward to most is heading downtown to enjoy the music, art, sculptures, and other entertainment on display in and around Old Town Square. And with the renovations complete and a whole new stage and seating area, I think it’s going to be a particularly good year for hanging out in Old Town. But it’s hard to sit in the midst of the City’s oldest historic district without trying to imagine what it used to be like in the Square, especially before the Square was there… when Linden Street was the heart of the city.
The postcard image above gives a sense of how that area used to look. The photo had to have been taken after December 1907, which is when the streetcar line first started to run, but the number of horse drawn buggies indicates that it can’t be too much later than that. I suspect the goal of this postcard was to show how cutting edge little ‘ole Fort Collins was with a streetcar line and *gasp* an automobile! Heavens to Betsy, how avant garde!
Linden was the heart of town with businesses and residences radiating out to either side. You can see the hose tower and bell tower of the firehouse off in the distance at left. And down Walnut street to the right of this photo, the old Howe house was still standing in its original location, where Illegal Pete’s is today. The building in the foreground at left is the Avery Building (AKA the Stone Lion building, where the Kitchen is now). The building with the Liberty Overalls sign on the side is where the Visitor’s Center is now as well as the entrance to the DBA and DDA offices. And of course the Linden Hotel stands proudly at the center of the shot.
Although I’ve heard it speculated upon that Fort Collins has wide streets in order for a driver to be able to turn his horse and buggy around, from looking at this image, one has to wonder if the wide streets weren’t so that there’d be enough room on either side of the street to park a horse with a long trailer behind. Take note of the trailer level with the front of the streetcar and just to the right/east of it. (Not the fella parking his small buggy, but the horse and trailer just to the south of him that’s already parked.) That juts pretty far out into the street. (His back wheels were parked right about where the fireplace feature is now located in Old Town Square.) If there were trailers on either side of the road that stuck out that far, travelers would only have a small lane down the center of the street to pass. So the wide streets allowed for gracious amounts of parking as well as a free flow of travel (still evidenced today with parking on both sides of our wide streets as well as parking in the center as well).
As fun as it is to look back at how the buildings along Linden used to look, you can also learn a lot about the customs and expectations of people from back in the day. This postcard captures a moment of change in our history, from a city with horses and buggies to a city with streetcars (public transit) and motor cars. But the behaviors of people hadn’t yet adjusted to the new reality. Read more about what we can learn regarding transportation in the 1900s from this image in today’s Pedal Fort Collins post entitled Road Use in Early Fort Collins.
I found this image on eBay. I suspect the local Archive also has a copy, but there are so many photographs of Linden Street in the online Fort Collins Archive directory that I gave up after scrolling through several pages of photos.