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God's promise to Fort Collins: Fire at the Northern Hotel

On Tuesday, February 18, 1975, the Northern Hotel burned–from the roof down. Someone took snapshots, and Norm made color photocopies, and I scanned them. Just so you could see it 34 years later:


This shows the view from Walnut street looking toward College. If you’re having trouble getting oriented, it’s because Old Town Square isn’t there yet. The building that today houses The Right Card should be in front of that Police car. 

Or maybe you’re just disoriented by businessmen in plaid pants standing in the middle of the street.  I miss that about the old days, too.

I like this photo best of all …


The spray from the firehose makes a rainbow. I like to think of it as God’s promise that despite the 20 years of disrepair and condemnation that will come to the Northern Hotel because of this fire, someday a man with a bucket of very white paint will come make it all better.

[googlemaps http://maps.google.com/maps/sv?cbp=12,292.5343436256578,,0,-1.7091987657196386&cbll=40.588435,-105.076135&panoid=&v=1&hl=en&gl=us&w=425&h=240]

In all seriousness..

The Northern was a single room occupancy hotel in the 1970s, much like it is today, and I know a man died in this fire. But I can’t tell you anything else about him.

I’ve noticed that the Northern Hotel has an interesting history of accidental deaths–Shriners falling from windows, that kind of thing. But that’s another post.

11 comments to God's promise to Fort Collins: Fire at the Northern Hotel

  • For years after the fire, the north side of the Northern was closed and the windows in the upper stories on the Walnut street side were boarded up. The owner at that time was Bill Stark. He was kind of a character, I think. I bought a steel desk from him that was in the Northern. It’s WW2 vintage, not really valuable but I wanted something from there. It’s stored away in my barn.

    When I was growing up, the Northern Hotel was known to have a fine restaurant. There was a glass chandelier that went up into the ceiling that was simply beautiful. It would be nice to go in there and see if that glass chandelier is still there or if Bill Stark sold it.

  • catfc

    That’s funny because I bought some junk from Bill just because it was in the Northern, too. I never did see a chandelier.

    What I really want to know, however, is if you’re ever going to weigh in on the neighborhood grocery post/page. I know you know more about it, and I don’t just mean Emma Malaby’s.

  • When ever I walk by Starbucks I can’t help but remember Bar Bazaar. I few years back I got into the basement of the Northern and it still looked fire damaged. And there are continued rumors of ghosts in the Northern. But the ghosts of Old Town are probably another post. :)

  • Kip W

    I lived in the Northern a couple of years after that, in three different rooms (kept moving). The first room didn’t have a closet, so they let me choose a wardrobe. The furniture was kept in the burned-out part, so I got to stare at the charred wood and be a little creeped that it was just a short distance from the room I was in.

    The room had a view out the back, toward Trimble Court, and I thought I should be able to see the dome, but it was under a skylight or something. The second room looked over the same place from a different place (that room had a bathroom the size of a motel room, because it had once been the bathroom for the whole third floor). The third room looked out over North College and the Strang Grain Elevator. It was Room 401. I’m told the room doesn’t exist any more because they took it out to put in another stairway.

    So it goes. My roomie and I moved out to a quieter place, which has since been torn down to make room to park four cars, next to The Point. Sometimes I miss daily maid service, but I don’t miss the bizarre toilet tissues that came out leaf by leaf, like Kleenex, and didn’t do their job very well. (Same stuff they used to have in the bathrooms at the public library.)

  • Kip W

    ps: Bill Stark was the manager when I was there. I used to practice on a wretched upright piano they had. Dad probably still remembers it from the times he had to play on it. Among other things, there was at least one key on it that simply wouldn’t go down. About the time I moved out, I asked him if it was for sale. He asked how much, and I said ten dollars. He said he’d rather throw it away than sell it for that. I said I understood and left it at that. I should have said I knew it was worth more, but that was all I could offer. It wasn’t worth much more, but I didn’t have a piano at all, and it would have been a marginal improvement over that. Also, it would have fit right in with the awful, awful place I lived in next: Ill Manor.

  • catfc

    I can hear Bill’s voice saying that, “I’d rather throw it away than sell it for that.”

    I bought my first house from Bill. Nothing about it was traditional and things could have gone terribly wrong. Yet it somehow worked out for everybody in the end.

    Last I heard, Bill was living in a church in Greeley. But that was some time ago.

  • Hey, I’ve been trying to figure out the name of the bar that was on the corner of the Northern up until the renovation. Bar Bazzar has ben mentioned, but there was a different name to the one right on the corner. Entrance was right on the corner, there was an island bar and pool table.

  • Kevin Murray

    Bill Stark is still around, so you should be able to check on the chandelier. When I was at CSU in 1975, I read an article on the Northern fire. Two things still stick out in my mind. When the firemen went up rushing up the stairs, they chipped the paint on the ballustrs. Later people realized that the ballusters were painted over brass. The other was the firemen breaking through the ceiling to find the dome in the dining room. I went up in the dome when Bill owned it, and I realized they had covered it over because there was no way to have it exposed to the sky, and not have leaks.
    An interesting story: I once walked by a leak from the roof, in the main lobby. The leak was dripping into a bucket in the middle of the lobby. This was during the time when Bill was fixing the roof. I asked him if we should repair that leak. He replied that he wanted to leave it so that people that saw it would donate to help him repair the whole building, which I’m sure was difficult.
    What I find most exciting (though I’m sure is gone now) was a tour of the peddler shops and Men’s bathroom in the basement. It was very strange to see storefronts in the basement of a building. Also, the Men’s bathroom was down a small stair from the lobby, and was decked out in high style.

  • Kevin Murray

    While I think of it, I still have a few doors and hardware from the Northern, if anyone’s interested. I collected them (thanks to Carol Tunner & Loren Maxey) when Alliance Construction was sending them to the dump. I asked the Coinstruction Manger if I could have them. He told me only if I could pay him $200.00. I told Carol, and she arranged for the dumpster (Gallegos, I believe) to move to Loren’s property, unbeknownst to Alliance. I was able to salvage what I could there. Thanks to Loren & Carol.

  • Terence

    Kevin, I might be interested in them for our new-old house.

  • Cat

    Hey Kevin, Did you see the article about the glass dome? http://lostfortcollins.com/2009/03/08/pup-tents-and-prayer-flags/

    I’m glad to hear Bill is still around. I rented a space from him in the mid-90s when I first came to Fort Collins. $60/month! I always liked him.