In the 1890s, there was a small gold rush up in Buckhorn canyon as a (very small) find of gold ore led to rampant speculation. James R. Mason platted the small town of Masonville in order to accommodate the rush of people that he was sure would arrive. Though the only building that currently exists in the eagerly planned community is the Masonville Mercantile, the layout of the lots can still be seen in the Larimer county assessor’s map of the area.
In addition to setting the boundaries of the new community, Mason also built a hotel and general store in 1896. For whatever reason, he chose to put both of these buildings over closer to Buckhorn creek, rather than in the newly platted town.
According to an undated newspaper clipping from the Fort Collins Archive, E. J. Thompson ran the hotel and store until he died in 1910. That information may not be entirely correct, however, as the July 13, 1904 Fort Collins Weekly Courier states,
About two weeks ago S. M. Thornton of Elwell, bought the store at Masonville that used to be owned by Currier, and last week he bought E. J. Thompson’s store. He is moving stuff from the old Currier store down to the post office, where he expects to do a rushing business.
Oscar Buffum also apparently had a store in the area. In fact, in the four census pages for the Buckhorn area in 1900, Buffum is the only person listed as running a store, which leaves ones to wonder if Thompson’s store and hotel was really more of a side business and therefore not mentioned as primary businesses by their owner(s).
At some point members of the Kitchen family bought the Masonville store. Both Grant and James Kitchen can be found in the 1910 census documents as general merchants in Buffum (which the Masonville area was sometimes also called due to the fact that the Buffum family were early arrivals to the area).
Ed and Sadie Kitchen took over the store in 1921, at which point they moved it from its original location to where it stands today, at the corner of W. County Rd. 38E and Buckhorn Rd. It was hoped that the new location would provide additional traffic by the shop, as the newspaper explained:
“Masonville store is being moved, or by this time is moved, to a new site north of the church on ground owned by Judge Stolts, who is endeavoring to build a city. The owners of the store expect to catch the Fort Collins/Estes Park tourist trade in the new location.” — Fort Collins Courier, May 28, 1921
There are a couple of funny stories that have been handed down through the years regarding this move. One is that there was a chicken that lived behind the counter in the store and as it was being rolled from one location to the other, the chicken traveled right along with the building. The other is that while the building was up on rollers, traveling for three days from one spot to the other, the family continued to sell items out the door to customers.
Two of the Kitchen’s kids were actually born in the building. Norris Kitchen was born there in 1921 and brother John was born there in 1936.
By the time of the undated article mentioned earlier, Hunter Spence owned the Masonville store. (The article is likely from the late 1960s or early 70s). The road between Masonville and Loveland had just recently been paved, and the stretch between Masonville and Fort Collins had only a mile of paving left to go. A note by the author adds, “Masonville is reached from Fort Collins, by following the oiled Horsetooth Road south to the community.” (Oil was used on roads to keep the dust down.)
In 1972, Bob Webb purchased the general store. He added a pool hall and bar where he sold 3.2 beer. The neighbors were appalled. They probably imagined it was the beginning of the end for their quiet ranching community.
The store continued to grow (quite literally as Bob added several additions) and the influence of Bob’s partner, Mardi Denny, led to a truly eclectic mix of items for sale. A 1984 Coloradoan article described the store’s offerings this way…
“A browser can find a radiator hose, a porcelain doll, old-timey Christmas cards, a custom horse trailer, clocks, bells, lamps, fishing bait, gasoline, music boxes, feed for pigs, a carton of milk, a Mardi Gras mask, a hunting license…. You get the idea.”
Bob and Mardi still own the store, now called Masonville Mercantile. The collection of items for sale has continued to evolve and today a visitor can not only find books and postcards related to the history of northern Colorado and the West, snacks and nicknacks and other odds and ends, but Mardi also has a huge collection of old-timey clothes from the Victorian era on up to around the World War II era, as well as jewelry and hats to match.
But the store is more than just a store. Bob and Mardi have been collecting a hodge podge of items over the years that make the Masonville Mercantile as much a museum as a shop. So even if you don’t have any interest in buying anything, it’s still well worth your time to stop in and take a look see at all of the bits and pieces of history scattered around, both in and outside the store.
Location: 9120 N County Road 27 Masonville, CO 80541 (if Googling use Loveland 80538).
Hours: Thursday – Saturday 11 to 5 PM. Sunday 12 to 4 PM.
Contact: 970-667-4058 facebook.com/MasonvilleMercantile
Sources for this story
Newspaper articles before 1923 came from ColoradoHistoricNewspapers.com. All other newspaper articles appear to be from the Coloradoan and were on file at the Fort Collins Archive.
Information on the Kitchen’s children that were born in the store came from the City of Fort Collins Natural Areas Program document, “Pieces of the Past. The Story of Bobcat Ridge Natural Area.” (December 2008)
Census data was accessed through Ancestry.com.
Great Job Meg! You really do your research, I love the old photos (and the new). I remember that place in the late 80s when I moved to Loveland and would go camping and fishing in Buckhorn Canyon and over Pennock Pass to Pingree Park. But I never went into the store until having moved back here several years ago. It is definitely unique and well worth a visit. I found the history that you dug up fascinating. It’s describes how “civilization” came to the wilderness. Thanks again!
Hi there and this is Jack and how are you. I can’t remember what the name of the pool.hall and 32 bar that I went to all the time in 1970 we used to play foosball all the time there and can anyone help with what the name of the bar. Please let me know if you remember what the name of the bar..Thanks Jack skendzel talk to you soon. Thanks Jack
Could i build a wyatt Erp costume with you guys?
Yes! The Mercantile shop would very likely have everything you need for that. That’s right up their alley!
Another Masonville icon has earned her wings. Knowing Mardi as well as we all do I am sure they are as beautiful and dazzling as she was. I always thought of Mardi as being a mixture of Ann Margret’s beauty and Dolly Parton’s spunk, flare and grace.
Growing up as Melanie’s best friend also meant Mardi was like a second mom. From the car rides to kindergarten in the Mustang to all the cooking and sewing projects we worked on for 4H there was always an adventure in store for us. One fond memory was when she loaded up us kids and took us to the circus in Fort Collins. She not only taught us respect but responsibility. We always had a LIST of things that needed to be done before we could play. Melanine and I were always playing and having fun at the store. We were the giggle of girls always running around there. As soon as Mel could drive we became the grocery crew going shopping for the store.
Mardi always had a way of making work seem fun. She was always thinking of creative ways to enhance the store’s customer base and draw attention to our little community. The Easter egg hunts and bonnet contests, the community pool tournaments, haunted houses and many more. As I became the leader of the 4H group she was always supportive of my community service projects. Our charity run walk and barn dance or our sick neighbor hood girls. Our money making garage sales. You know Mardi loved a good garage sale!
We also have Mardi to thank for encouraging my family to start their event center here. Through her reccomedations to her bridal customers it helped to grow their thriving business.
Mardi was no stranger to hard work often sharing stories and memories of growing up on the family farm in Iowa.
Changing times brought many changes to the store. Mardi was was the driving force. As Melanie grew up taking more of a role along side her mom they became a dynamic duo! As we all say they could sell ice to eskimos. They could also tell you anything with smile and you would go away feeling instantly better about yourself and probably have a new wardrobe to go along with your new attitude!
My mom Sylvia and Mardi not only had the privilege of raising their families together, they shared the same profession, hair dresser. They both had small shops in Masonville. When they both retired from that they would often trade perms doing eachothers hair.
I truly believe that Mardi has left a list for all of us to accomplish. Be nice, be happy, live life to the fullest, love yourself, love your family and acessorise! I am sure she also has a couple of lists started for enhancing this world from above!
The valley will not be the same without her sparkling smile and flare for fashion. But we all have to be thankful for how this amazing woman blessed and touched our lives. She has definitely bedazzled my heart forever!
The “north facade” referenced in the 1980’s was actually the feed store located on the southwest side of the property in a shed south of the driveway to their private residence.
Thanks, Polly! I’ve added a correction under the photo and I’ll send a note to the archive so that they get that corrected.
My family ran the store forc9 years. My unlce Wes Kitchen was the first postmatser of Massonville. We have the orinal ice sin in our kitchen as wellas the original drawers that use to be the back oh the counter diplay for goods that the store sold in those days.
That’s really neat! Thanks for sharing, John.