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Stories I always meant to write: 2. Heroines of local preservation

When the National Trust for Historic Preservation announced earlier this week that Fort Collins had landed on its list of Distinctive Destinations, I had some regrets.

That’s because I always  meant to write a series of posts about the group of women who made this town worthy of the National Trust. Women who I have always wished I could be more like. Women with vision, courage, and persistence.

This was no ladies social club for dressing up and having Victorian tea parties. They didn’t play status games based on whose pioneer ancestry made them most authentic.

Rather, these were women who fought like hell and struck fear in the heart of any politician that got in the way. At least that’s how I always imagined them.

Each Heroine deserves her own post, including a photo and a list of accomplishments. But that would take more research than I have time for now. So here’s the short list:

  • Carol Tunner. She worked for the city’s preservation department for ages, fought the good fight, and sometimes won.
  • Rheba Massey. She was the library’s local history archivist and her expertise served every historic organization in town.  She helped me write my first local history (the history of my house) and showed me how to get involved in preservation in a way that could make a difference.
  • Mary Humstone. I always associate Mary with Historic Fort Collins Development Corporation, a group that helped preserve Preston Farm. According to its Web site, they were also involved in the Linden Hotel, Hoffman House, Northern Hotel.  She also worked for the National Trust and now teaches preservation in Wyoming.
  • Rose Brinks. She preserved the Bingham Hill Cemetery and opened it to the public. She’s been generous with many of her historic resources. Stories about Rose are legend.  Ask around.

Karen McWilliams probably belongs on this list too, but I never got to meet her. And an earlier group of women, like Charlene Tresner and June Bennett, might belong here too.

If only I had a little more time….

Nonetheless, without these awe-inspiring women living in our town, I think the National Trust would have looked right past Fort Collins. Without them, our town would be so much less than it is today.

Hoffman house, from history.fc.gov

4 comments to Stories I always meant to write: 2. Heroines of local preservation

  • We used to hear Charlene Tresner’s husband on KCOL, with his very mild-mannered show “Light at Eventide.” Reverend Charles Tresner, I think. Years later, when I started going to the library to look at the local photo collection, it was Charlene who helped me at the desk. I’m glad you mentioned her.

  • Bob Tobin


    I concur with your thoughts about these wonderful ladies who truly have fought the fight and have had and still have the stamina to truly preserve and protect our treasure we call home.


  • Kate

    Susan Hotchkinson has done a great deal for historical preservation, as well.

  • Kevin Murray

    karen McWilliams definately belongs on the list! With the devastating cuts that the Historic Preservation has taken in the City, she now takes on more work with no less help. I expect every hair on her head will be grey by December. Thanks Karen.