I picked up a copy of the Walk Historic Loveland brochure at a meeting of northern Colorado preservationists a few months ago, but it wasn’t until yesterday that I finally grabbed my camera and the brochure and hit the pavement.
I love how the brochure is put together. The first thing you see when you open it up is a short and sweet timeline of the history of the city. It includes a few of the buildings that are included in the tour, but also gives a brief overview of who was involved in the formation of the city and what the major industries were over the decades. The graphics are simple, but do a good job of representing trends in Loveland architecture over time.
And when you lift up the timeline, underneath is a map and several pages of descriptions of the buildings on the tour. The way that the brochure is designed, you can keep the map out and available, no matter which building’s description you’re reading. It’s really an ingenious arrangement. One of the biggest problems with doing a self-guided walking tour is that you’re constantly flipping between the map (So that you know which way to walk next.) and the descriptions of buildings. It’s a pain in the neck, especially if you’re trying to do this on a mobile device. But this little brochure deals with that problem simply and elegantly. Kudos to the designer!
I parked on Railroad Avenue, right across the street from the Loveland Light, Heat & Power Company, which is the first stop on the map. (The map includes little icons that indicate where public parking can be found.) The guide indicates that you should stay on the east side of the track, but I couldn’t help myself. Crossing the track was easy to do, and away I went.
I love the little turret on the corner of the building. There isn’t one on any of the other corners, making this appear to be the result of a moment of whimsy. There’s a definite castle feel to the structure. All it’s missing is a moat and perhaps a few towers.
Despite the hardcore awesomeness of this building, there didn’t seem to be much happening in the area. I didn’t see any people and it didn’t look like anything was going on inside. Once the city’s main source of electrical power, this building now seems to be somewhat forgotten. At least, that’s how it felt. There were signs around the building that made it look like some businesses did reside there, I just didn’t see any activity that proved it to be so.
The tour brochure explains the history of the building, including the situation that resulted in the owner being pushed out of town after a significant power failure. But I’m hoping to encourage you to pick up a brochure and do this tour yourself, so I won’t be giving the histories of each building. Even if you don’t walk the tour, do still pick up the brochure. It’s well worth the time it takes to flip through it.
This funky building is in the middle of being renovated. The trucks parked out front belonged to contractors, one of whom told me that the inside was being entirely redone. It sounds like it’s going to be a multi-stage process that will be affected in part by who sign leases to move in. But the sign that you can see just over and to the right of the outhouse indicates that this building, and the four-story structure that’s being built to the right/west of it, are going to be an arts campus.
Several of the doorways and windows had artwork in them of people looking out. Despite the obvious wear and tear on this building, it has a really unique shape and composition that I find captivating. I hope that the new building that’s going up next to it won’t detract from the distinct agricultural feel of this historic landmark.
The old train depot is now a restaurant. (This is called an “adaptive reuse” in preservationist terminology.) By repurposing an older building, it continues to be useful for the community — as a heritage site and in its new purpose. And the building owner can claim state and federal tax credits that help to maintain the historic character of the structure.
The tour booklet includes an old picture of each building so you can do an on the spot Then and Now comparison. The depot looks largely the same. I was a bit shocked at some of the buildings later in the tour which look significantly different than they did back in the “old days.”
I love the “Historic Loveland” sign that’s been painted in the window of the old Lovelander Hotel.
It looks like something has recently been torn off of the facade just over the windows, but the older photo of the building doesn’t give any clues as flags were hanging over that part of the building, hiding any ornamentation in the brick work. This building looks like it’s in need of a little TLC. It helps to have the older picture to look at to see the grandeur of the building in its heyday.
My first impression of the Bonnell Mercantile building was really positive. I love the color scheme, and it looks like it’s been maintained well over the years, or at least restored well if it went through a “dark ages” period. But when I take a closer look at the old photo in the tour guide brochure, I start to notice that the cornice (the strip along the top) is different now than what the original building had. And the area over the store front looks different as well. Which gets me thinking about perceived history vs. actual history. These aren’t big changes that were made to the building, and they don’t alter how people interact with the building or the street, and yet some integrity has been lost in terms of maintaining an accurate picture of how things used to look. (It’s possible the changes were made so long ago that they’re historic in their own right. But if that’s the case, it wasn’t mentioned in the brochure.)
The Herzinger & Harter Building on the right has been changed, but the differences are more readily apparent. I don’t think anyone would look at that building and say, “What a beautiful Victorian.” It used to be a beautiful Victorian, but clearly at some point an owner thought a Spanish revival look might be more admired. Again, no mention was made in the brochure regarding the changes to the facade.
To be fair, the purpose of the brochure is to connect you to the history of the town, not necessarily to connect you to the history of the architecture. And there’s a lot of great information for both of these buildings regarding original owners and businesses that have been located here. But given that a walking tour is, by its very nature, a visual event, I think I would have liked a little note somewhere that acknowledged major changes to the facade with a year in which it took place.
Originally built as a community center, and once used for City Hall, the Art Deco building is now available to rent for special events.
This building is an example of the Art Moderne-style. Built during the Depression, I suspect the simplicity of form that came with a Modern design was also a bit of a money saver for the community.
The Community Building, Post Office, and Brandt Building are all a bit north of the original downtown area and it’s reflected in the post-Victorian architecture. I have to say that I’m rather pleased these buildings were included in the tour. Many times people only think of Victorian structures as historic. Because Modern architecture embodies a preference for utility, machine-made and prefabricated materials, and a lack of ornamentation, people often think of them as uglier or more boring to look at. But they embody an important era in our country’s history (that I’d venture to say we’re still in today) in which we rely heavily upon science and machines to shape the world we live in. (Just take a moment to think of how many machines you’ve interacted with already today. In fact, you’re using one just to read this post!) Though these buildings don’t have all the fancy doo-dads to spiff them up, they do have a certain simple grace that I’ve come to appreciate over time.
The Telephone Exchange is the brick building on the left in the above photo. Though built in a Victorian style, it’s clear to see that this building lacks a lot of the extra ornamentation one would expect to see. I don’t think that was because the Modern ideals had grabbed ahold already. Rather, I think this reflects the working nature of the original purpose of the building. Mercantile stores, like male peacocks, need to grab the eyes of passersby in order to draw them over. But the only people that need to be drawn to a telephone exchange are the employees and perhaps those coming to pay their bills. And they have reasons to enter that go beyond being drawn by eye candy.
At this point in the tour I’ve finished my short jaunt up N. Cleveland and I’m back to E. 4th Street where I find the First National Bank. This building is an example of the Classic Revival-style, which is fitting for a bank. The windows have been modernized, which affects the historic integrity of the building, but the stately form still reeks of a high brow purpose for this place.
When I had been flipping through the tour brochure at home, this was one of the buildings I was most excited to see. The historic photograph shows an ornate stone facade with arched windows and a strong cornice line. … Obviously there was a remodel at some point.
Can you see why I might have been a bit disappointed? I don’t think I ever would have known these were the same buildings.
This was another building that utterly disappointed me, and for the exact same reason. The current building looks almost nothing like the original.
Just when I was starting to get depressed at the major changes that some of these buildings had seen, the tour brought me here. What a delight! This gorgeous, yet simple, church building was constructed in 1909.
Of all the buildings I’d seen on my tour, this is the only one I’d been inside of before. The Loveland city council meets here, as does Loveland’s Historic Preservation Commission. In fact, it was at a meeting of preservationists in this building that I received my copy of the historic walking tour.
This grand old church is particularly interesting because of the large rounded section along E. 4th Street. (I didn’t really capture it in the photo above because there was a tree that would have blocked the photo… and because the position of the sun left that side of the building in shadow.) The crenelated turret was common in many churches built around this time period.
This building is simple, yet beautiful, with refined Victorian touches along the cornice and over the retail establishments on the first floor.
The Rialto Theater was lovingly restored to it’s original beauty in the late 1980s. The building jutting up to the right of it is apparently also now part of the Rialto Theater Center. It has a very modern look and, in my opinion, detracts from the historic character of the original theater. But I don’t know what the building looked like before it’s use as an adjunct to the theater. For all I know this is a vast improvement over what was there before.
Everywhere that you see red brick in this building used to host large picture windows, indicative of the mercantile purpose for which the store was used.
The tour ends on another “Look how much that’s changed!” sort of note. This brick building used to have lovely stone lintels over the windows and a decorative cornice line along the top. Now not only does it now have none of that, but the brick has been covered over with stucco. The red tile has a bit of panache, but it doesn’t appear to be original to the building. So for me, the tour ended on a bit of a down note.
Seeing all of these buildings in various states of similarity/dissimilarity to their former selves got me thinking a lot about the value of restoration and the “sense of place” that can be developed. I also thought a lot about the feeling that I got from walking these streets vs. walking Linden, Walnut, or College in Fort Collins’ Old Town. Fort Collins, in my opinion, has developed a more immersive sense of identity for its downtown. It’s something that I’m going to continue to chew on and hopefully I’ll be able to explore this idea further in a future post.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on Loveland’s Historic Walking tour if you’ve done it, or any thoughts you have on various buildings or that “sense of place” that I was talking about.
I hope to go back soon to do the second walking tour which focuses more on residential buildings near downtown.
I took a lot more photos than just what is shown here. If you’d like to see the entire set (which includes other buildings, statues, and a couple of shop signs) you can view them in this album.
Sources for this article:
All photos shown here are mine except for the old photo of the train depot and the old photo of the Larimer Bank. Information about history and architectural styles that I give here are from the walking tour brochure. If you’d like to see a copy of the brochure online, the city of Loveland has a pdf available.