The history of Fort Collins is rich with western lore, generations-old stories, and eccentric historical characters. Legend has it that in the early 1800s, French-Canadian fur traders were caught in a tremendous snowstorm. To lighten their load, they buried large amounts of gunpowder (“poudre” in French) in a hiding place (“cache”) along the banks of a river – the Cache la Poudre River, which runs through modern-day Fort Collins.
In 1862, Camp Collins was built by the ninth Kansas Volunteer Cavalry to protect travelers and settlers along the Colorado branch of the Overland Trail. A flood in June 1864 sent the soldiers to higher ground near present-day Old Town. Less than three years later, the fort was abandoned. By 1872, the former fort site had a small hotel, general store and post office, a mill, school and brick yard.
The Colorado Central Railroad arrived in 1877, and Fort Collins became a thriving agricultural center. Colorado Agricultural & Mechanical College constructed its first classroom building, later called Old Main, in 1879, further establishing Fort Collins as the economic and cultural center of the region. The school was renamed Colorado State University in 1957.
Thanks to the efforts of local citizens and the city’s historic preservation program, modern-day visitors can stroll back through time to the town’s earliest days in and around Old Town. The district was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978; the majority of the buildings within Old Town are designated national and local historic districts.
In 2005, Fort Collins was named a Preserve America City by the White House. Check out our walking tour here to experience the charm of Fort Collins!