This postcard is from the collection of Mike Viney.

Back before Facebook, a photo postcard was a convenient way for people to share images of places that were important to them. The postcard above was of the Vandewark house located at 314 W. Mountain Avenue in Fort Collins.

James Vandewark purchased the house from Silas Sanford in February 1909. Silas has just built the house the year before for his own family. But by early 1909, the family had decided to move to Twin Falls, Idaho, and the house was sold.

James Vandewark was a divorcee. He and his first wife, Grace Harris, had two kids, Floyd and Edith.

James owned a transfer (delivery) company and sold coal and hay. But in late 1898, James had started adding ice storage and delivery as one of his business functions. He would gather ice in winter and sell throughout the summer. Ice was apparently a very hot business and the ice supply quickly sold out the first year.

So the next year, James stored up twice as much ice and began to take orders in advance. The natural ice business grew so well, in fact, that in 1906 James built an artificial ice plant. The plant was a novelty, and upon opening, James provided free tours of the facility so that people could see how ice was to be made. Artificially created ice meant James no longer had to worry about skaters mucking up the ice on the pond where he had been harvesting his supply.

Helen Devers was the bookkeeper for the ice company. She had worked there for a few years when it was announced that Helen and James were to be wed. The ceremony was to be held on May 12, 1909, which makes the date on this postcard particularly interesting.

The card appears to have been written by Helen (who simply signed off as “H”). She was writing her to aunt, Flora Wolfer, who was married to her mother’s brother. The postcard is dated April 18, 1909, a month before her nuptials.

What’s particularly interesting about the card is that Helen is referring to the house in the photo, which her husband-to-be had just moved into in February, as her house, and she’s inviting her aunt to come (probably for the wedding) because there will be more than enough room in the house for everyone to stay over.

Helen also refers to a dress that she’s making as well as one that Flora has been working on. Could Helen be referring to her wedding dress? And Flora’s dress was perhaps one she was also sewing for the occasion?

James and Helen were married on May 12th. Then they set off on a honeymoon around New Mexico and Utah. They had a daughter, Ada May, on January 12, 1913. They continued to live in the house for at least a decade before moving to South College Avenue.

The house was a rental for many years and in the 1950s, a real estate and insurance company occupied the building. The house is last mentioned in the newspapers in 1954. It was eventually torn down to provide parking for St. Joseph’s School, located just behind the property. The house to the west, however, remains to this day and can be found at 316 W. Mountain. 

EDIT: After posting this article, Johanna Whiteman, granddaughter of the Vandewarks, posted a comment saying that this house was moved, not demolished. Sure enough, the house is now sitting on the northeast corner of Cherry and Wood street. Part of the wrap-around porch has been filled in, there’s an addition in back, and the posts of the porch have been changed, but the windows with leaded glass are the same, and many of the original openings (doors and windows) remain intact. 

We often think that maybe wood buildings can be moved, but certainly not brick buildings, right?! And yet here’s an example in Old Town, Fort Collins. 

If you enjoyed reading this tidbit of history as seen through the lens of a postcard image and message, then you may enjoy the book that  Wayne Sundberg, Mike Viney, and I are working on, “Fort Collins History through Postcard Views.” We’re hoping to finish up editing and get it printed by this summer, so stay tuned!