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Fort Collins History

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 where a small business district formed. 

Later that same year, Elizabeth, “Auntie” Stone arrived at Camp Collins. She and her husband Judge Lewis Stone opened a mess hall for the soldiers. For an entire year, Elizabeth Stone was the only European-American woman in the camp and the soldiers and officers stationed there nicknamed her Auntie Stone. Sadly, Judge Stone passed away only two years later, leaving his widow to run the business by herself.

Auntie Stone was a driving force in building the community of Fort Collins. She expanded the mess hall, creating the first hotel in the city. She also encouraged her niece Elizabeth Parke Keays to move to Fort Collins and start the first school in one of the rooms in Auntie Stone’s cabin. The colony movement helped Fort Collins get its start.


Quick Facts:

  • According to legend, French Fur Trappers gave the Cache La Poudre River its name after being trapped by an awful snowstorm in the 1820s. According to the story, the fur trappers lightened their load by burying their goods, which included large amounts of gunpowder (poudre), in a hiding place (cache) near the mouth of the river along the banks. This is how the river became known as the Cache La Poudre River. Most residents and visitors today refer to the river that runs through downtown Fort Collins as simply “The Poudre.”
  • The Colorado Central Railroad arrived in 1877, and Fort Collins became a thriving agricultural center.
  • The Agricultural College of Colorado was founded in 1870. The school first opened its doors to students in 1879 with President Elijah Edwards and two faculty members. The school was renamed Colorado State University in 1957.

A trip through Fort Collins History

Day 1

Check in at The Armstrong Hotel

Restored in 2004, it is the last operating historic hotel in downtown Fort Collins. With its charming early 20’s architecture and design it feels as if you’ve taken a trip back in time. Enjoy the comfort and long standing history of the Armstrong Hotel.

259 South College Ave
(970) 484-3883
www.thearmstronghotel.com

Ghost Sign Self-Guided Tour

Placed throughout Old Town Fort Collins are ghost signs created in the past and preserved into modern day. Pick up a Fort Collins Visitors Guide to find a list of all 10 Old Town Ghost Signs and explore the area while discovering its history through these signs. Historic Walking Tour If you’re looking for ways to explore Old Town but only have a limited amount of time, take the one hour historic walking tour. Visit historic buildings that have been beautifully preserved through the years and learn what their function was in the past. From historic hospitals to the city’s oldest restaurant, this tour will show you a whole new side to Old Town.  

Dinner at CooperSmith’s Pub and Grill

As Fort Collins’ first breweries, Coppersmith’s has been serving fine food and fine beer for over 20 years. Enjoy patio dining at its finest and the hustle and bustle of Old Town Square.

5 Old Town Square
(970) 498-0483
Coopersmithspub.com

Fort Collins Ghost Tour

This Fort Collins Tour will take you on a thrilling trip through Old Town where you will learn the history of Fort Collins and its bone chilling past. The newest tour they offer is the Horse & Buggy Ghost Tour where you will not only learn about the history of Old Town but you will also get a chance to explore the haunted sites around town. If you’re ready for a bone-chilling historic experience, Fort Collins Tours is definitely the way to go. (970) 372-1445 www.fortcollinstours.com

Drinks at the Town Pump

This bar is Fort Collins’ smallest and oldest bar and even though it has a dive bar feel, it is very popular amongst the locals. The bar has been in existence since February 24, 1909 and has been through a history of bootlegging, prohibition and being the first bar in the world to serve New Belgium’s Fat Tire. Enjoy the history lingering in (and on) the walls of this historic bar.

124 N. College Ave
(970) 493-4404

Day 2

Breakfast at the Silver Grill Café

The Silver Grill is the oldest restaurant in Northern Colorado, serving legendary breakfast and lunch dishes daily. Wooden floors, huge windows looking out into Old Town, and famous cinnamon rolls give this charming restaurant a special place in the heart of Fort Collins. 218 Walnut Street Fort Collins, CO 80524 (970) 484-4656 silvergrill.com

Fort Collins Museum of Discovery

The FCMOD is Fort Collins’ newest museum and it features a fun and interactive environment for all ages. Mixed perfectly within this one large museum is science, discovery and history so that everyone can find something they’re interested in. This museum is a great way to explore the history of Fort Collins and its origins from late pre-historic periods to current day. Find Folsom points found at the Lindenmeier Site near Fort Collins, settler history and more in this hands-on exhibit!

Afternoon:

Hike in Soapstone Prairie

This 28-square mile Natural Area is located just north of Fort Collins and is a conservation area for many species and their natural habitat in Northern Colorado. Soapstone Prairie is also home to the famous Lindenmeier Site, a Folsom archeological site. The site contains the most extensive Folsom culture campsite evidence dating back to 8,710 B.C. Visit the arroyo surrounding this historic site during your hike. (970) 416-2815 http://www.fcgov.com/naturalareas/finder/soapstone

Tour Avery House

The Avery House was built in 1879 by Franklin Avery who is responsible for the design of our wide streets around Fort Collins and he also was the founder of our local First National Bank and instrumental in developing many of our early water projects that enable agriculture to flourish in Northern Colorado. This house is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places and is available to tour on Saturdays and Sundays from 1-4pm. 328 W Mountain Ave. Fort Collins, CO 80521 (970) 221-0533 www.poudrelandmarks.org

Magic Bus Tour

Magic Bus Tours gives fun and educational tours around the Fort Collins area in a large limo bus painted end to end with a colorful collage of our local culture. The comfy climate-controlled bus has a large flat screen TV that allows them to incorporate photographs, audio elements, and videos into the tours. Magic Bus Tours offers several different tours, including the History Tour, Brewery Tour, and Farm Tour. (970) 420-0662 www.themagicbustours.com

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Authentic to Fort Collins
Maps & Info

Looking for directions to Fort Collins? The charming town of Fort Collins lies just 60 miles north of Denver, tucked against the foothills of the Rocky Mountains resting alongside the Cache La Poudre...

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Old Town/ Downtown

Get a feel for settler life in this well-preserved downtown Fort Collins district of over twenty restored historical buildings that are part of both national and local designated historic...

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Things to Do

A day in Fort Collins can be filled with things to do and see. Where else can you spend the morning admiring a zoo-full of fanciful metal sculptures, the afternoon touring a brewery, and the evening...

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Events

Searching for something to do tonight, or this weekend in Fort Collins? Our local Fort Collins community calendar and Weekly Happenings newsletter will keep you updated with the latest events,...

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Fort Collins Spotlight