The Sanborn Map & Publishing Company produced some of the earliest maps of our Colorado communities. In 1886/7, the company drew up a forty-one page map (plus an index page) of Denver. In comparison, Fort Collins and Greeley were granted 4-pages each. Loveland, only nine years old at the time, merited but one page. Berthoud, Estes Park and Wellington had yet to be incorporated and Timnath was too small to warrant any map at all.
Sanborn maps were color coded. Yellow meant that a building was constructed of wood. Red indicated brick. Blue was for stone. And green stood for some sort of fire resistant material such as tile. The type of property was listed as well since a barber shop would have a lower fire risk than a flour mill or blacksmith shop. The footprint of each building, the number of stories, and even the location of outbuildings provide a wealth of information today for researchers and historians.
The Loveland map shows a young town that spanned three blocks along Fourth Street. Third and Fifth streets were primarily residential. At the top of the map, in separate boxes, were the town’s two flour mills from the time: the Loveland Milling & Elevator Company, which was located along 5th street, just northwest of the train depot, and Loveland Mills which was about a mile southeast of town, originally known as the Douty Mill. (Both of these mills are now gone.)
Of the buildings that are listed on the map, a few remain.
In 1886, the Sanborn map indicates that there was a dry goods store on the first floor of the building at 120 and 122 E. Fourth Street and a hand printing shop on the second floor. Over the years the building has housed a couple of billiard parlors and saloons, a bakery, a general store, a hardware store, several cafes/restaurants, a metal works, and currently houses Cloz to Home Women’s Boutique.
The building is shown as being brick in the Sanborn map, but it was stuccoed very early on, perhaps as a means of protecting the brick.
According to the National Register of Historic Places Registration Form for the Downtown Loveland Historic District, the building at 128 E. Fourth St. has been around since at least 1886. But intriguingly, the book Loveland’s Historic Downtown: A Guide to Buildings admits that the County Assessor lists the construction date as 1903. The authors still claim that this building is the one listed on the Sanborn map, though.
I’m going to have to beg to differ. The Sanborn map shows this building in yellow, which indicates it was of wood construction. But both the photo above and the National Register form indicate that it is a brick building. So I am of the opinion that the wood building that stood in this location in 1886 was removed and a brick building was constructed in it’s place in the early 1900s.
Once again the National Register form lists this brick building as having been constructed around 1885. But the Sanborn map shows it as a wood structure. The County Assessor says this building was constructed in 1900, and though the County Assessor’s information is often wrong (especially for our oldest buildings), I’m leaning towards the assessor date as opposed to the Register form date on this building as well.
The Allen & Bartholf Block, also known as the Bartholf Opera House or the Arcadia Hotel, was built in 1884. It was Loveland’s First Performing Arts Center. The W & T Pharmacy took up the corner retail space in this building for nearly 100 years. It has also housed a book store, a gift shop, a shoe repair, men’s furnishings, a cigar shop, a cafe, a couple real estate businesses, and residential apartments. The building currently houses Splurge, the Flipside, Fresh Plate and Gigi’s Salon & Spa as well as offices and apartments on the second story.
The building was recently remodeled. Unfortunately, while it no longer looks like the rather boring stucco building that it’s been for many decades, it also doesn’t look like it originally did as the A & B block either. Instead, it now sports an all new, old-looking facade. On the one hand, the remodel saved a building that was likely headed for demolition. On the other hand, the changes have created an inaccurate sense of history. Hopefully future iterations of work on the building will lean towards restoring its original look.
Moving on to the 200 block of E. Fourth Street, we hit some more altered buildings.
This brick building was listed on the 1886 Sanborn map as containing three separate retail units within one overall structure. The center unit was listed as a drug store on the map while the units on either end were vacant.
Both the Federal nomination form and the book of Loveland’s downtown buildings fail to include 235 E. Fourth, the section with the Art Gallery & Gifts sign in the photo above. But based on the Sanborn maps from 1886 – 1918 (the last year that I can find the maps online) these three units were all contained in one building. There was even an opening between 235 and 237 at one point so that shoppers could pass from one store to the other. So as best I can tell, this building is not only from 1886, but despite being three units, it has always been one building. Additions over the years indicate that the westernmost unit was probably sold off to different owners at some point who have given it a different facade and roof than the two units at right.
Over the years there have been several grocery stores, some jewelry stores, an optometrist’s office, a couple of shoe stores, a cigar shop, clothing stores and a pub in this building. The Loveland Street Clock was added to the sidewalk in front of the building in 1910 when the Brannan Brothers Jewelry Store were there.
The building at 241 and 243 E. Fourth Street was a furniture shop in 1886, complete with a carpentry area in the back of the building as well as a full carpenter’s shop in the back yard. (Perhaps items were repaired in the store but new construction took place out back?) Though the building was brick, the carpentry areas are colored green, indicating that additional fire-proofing had been done in those areas. When you’ve got a lot of sawdust flying around, it doesn’t take much to set off an explosion of flame.
A succession of furniture stores were located in this building until the early 1910s when it was converted into a small movie theater — the Novelty Theater. The first feature film to have sound didn’t come out until 1927, so the theater would only have shown silent films.
In 1922, a variety store moved in, followed by a clothing store. Later businesses included a shoe store, insurance company, a few more clothing stores, an artist studio, an antique store, and today it is Rabbask Designs Local Artisan Boutique & Gallery.
Moving one more block to the east, there is nothing that remains from 1886. There is one more commercial building that, according to the Historic Downtown book is from 1886, though it’s not shown on the Sanborn map. It’s the west half of the building located at 131, 133 W. Fourth Street. (Unfortunately I don’t have a photo of that building.)
There are still several residential buildings in the downtown area, but not a single one of them is from before 1886. There are some early houses in Loveland that were built before 1886, but they’re outside of the Sanborn map area. Perhaps one of the best examples is the brick house built by Milo Osborn on E. 1st Street. It anchors the delightful Timberlane Farm which was locally landmarked in 2008.
Loveland had approximately 40 non-residential buildings shown on this 1886 map. (I use the term “approximately” because you could go either way on things like the old ice house or the calaboose (small jail)). Of that number, only four remain. And of those four, only two appear to look like they did during the era they were built. (Digging up some old photos and doing some side-by-side comparisons would be a good topic for another article.) In other words, 10% of these early buildings have been retained, though only 5% have kept their historic appearance.
As a point of comparison, Fort Collins had around 120 non-residential buildings shown in their 1886 Sanborn map (if you exclude the Colorado Agricultural College buildings). Of those, 31 remain, though five look quite different than the buildings looked originally. (Of those five, the Northern Hotel is still considered historic because the alterations made to it were fairly early on.) So Fort Collins has retained 25.8% of their earliest buildings, although 3% of that number have lost integrity. (They no longer look like they once did.)
But if you were to make this comparison with Fort Collins back in the 1960s or 70s, the city’s numbers would actually look much worse. Though there might have been a few more of those oldest buildings still around, many of them were altered beyond all recognition. It was only the formation of a historic district, with the grants and tax incentives that that brings, that Fort Collins was able to rehabilitate so many of these buildings. And the economic benefits of the historic designation have been well documented in the 2017 edition of Preservation for a Changing Colorado put out by Colorado Preservation, Inc. Now that Loveland has a downtown historic district, perhaps some similar rehabilitations will start to take place to help revitalize the downtown area. It’s already too late for most of the very oldest buildings, but there’s still time to save or rehabilitate the many other historic buildings in the heart of Loveland.
The image of the 1886 Sanborn Map is from the University of Colorado collection online.
The National Register of Historic Places Registration Form is also available online.
The book I referenced is Loveland’s Historic Downtown: a guide to buildings. It was published in 2001. Susan Ison was the project manager and editors were Susan Ison and Tom Katsimpalis.