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Fort Collins Civic Center

Change happens. Change is a fact of life Change can also be interesting. Sometimes it comes incrementally so you don’t really notice it, and sometimes it comes all at once as a big shock. Among the many changes in Fort Collins has been the emergence of the downtown civic center. The city and county went in together to buy block 31 from all the existing landowners back in the early 1980’s. Nothing much happened until the Civic Center Master Plan was completed in the mid-90’s, and finally the first phase of construction, The County Courthouse was built around the turn of the century. As can be seen from these photographs, block 31 was a huge mix of uses. There was the original Tolivers store (now city offices), what looks to be grain elevators, warehouses and industrial buildings, some nice cottages, and retail spaces along Mountain Ave.

This view of Tolivers on Mason Street shows just how much Mason has changed. This was taken circa 1981, look at how the train tracks are actually higher than Mason, and on street parking in front of Toliveres (now city offices). I came to town in 1985, and I think Mason had been to its current condition by that time. Then again, I was a young college student, and didn’t really pay attention to this area.

Look at this picture looking south on Mason looking south from Laporte Ave. This was barely a street back then, and it looks to me like it was entirely on the west side of the tracks (which now go down the center of the street). There were some pretty cool looking industrial buildings on the west side where the courthouse is now.

Here is Mason Street today, looking north from about Mountain Ave. The large structure is the current county courthouse, on the east side is the Civic Center Parking structure, and finally, the green roofed building is the former Tolivers.

Looking West along Laporte Ave from Mason Street. It looks nothing like this now. The courthouse occupies the South side, the City office buildings the North side.

There were these three cottage homes on Howes Street (where the parking lot is now)

Below is Howes today, where the three homes used to be.

12 comments to Fort Collins Civic Center

  • Laura

    Just found this fabulous blog today; wonderful stuff! How’d I overlook it all this time?

    Yes, change is quite the constant here in The Fort. However it still feels too soon to refer to the early 2000s as “the turn of the century,” don’t you think? :)

  • Nice historical perspective. I agree with @Laura. The turn of the century still says the turn of the 20th century to me. 😉


  • Sean

    I love reading your blog – hope to see more soon!

    One note, in the picture above, I believe you meant to say the parking structure is on the east side of Mason, not the west.

    Keep up the good work!

  • The original Toliver’s was Toliver-Kinney, on the corner of Mason and Mountain, in the red building that has been offices, stores, and a food place callled something like “The Judge’s Quarters.”

    Phyllis Mattingly told me that her son John (whose brother David once brought him to show and tell so we could see a real hippie) had said that the sign out front of the place (put there when Toliver’s moved to face the tracks) was obscene. She asked why, and he said “Its legs are too far apart.”

  • What a great post. This is exactly how I remember the area growing up. Much of the civic center was turned into parking in the 90’s before construction of the justice center and civic center parking structure took place. I believe the transit center used to be where the parking structure in now located but I could be mistaken. I believe there were also more train tracks back then as well. There were plenty more by where I grew up on pine street. What year were these photos taken?

  • I used to live in Fort Collins till the end of 2009 and seeing these pictures and reading your blog, I miss Fort Collins even more… :(

    I was so happy over there. :(

  • Jim Burrill

    Many of my friends referred to Toliver’s as “Take ’em and Skin’em’s” in conversation. The Toliver family has a significant amount of history, most notably, that Roy Toliver was quite successful in business during the depression. My old uncle Art would quote him, saying “I’ll be suing you” as a parting salutation. Roy’s house is now for sale at the corner of Shields and Laporte, art-deco style built during the depression.

  • Two of the three 3 cottage houses in the photo were owned by my parents when they operated a business out of the buildings in back (go to the Cunningham Corner post to see a bunch of innocent hippies posing there). I am confident that the photo is from the years they owned them as I recognize the car. They sold the business and the houses to the person that eventually sold to the city. The houses had very ‘raw’ unfinished basements, more like cellars. The exposed foundations were massive stone blocks. I always wondered if they were ‘harvested’ before they were covered by parking lot pavement. To the left of the photo would be a laundromat and a carwash. I should be old enough to remember what was on the corner before them, but the memory banks are failing.

  • Terence

    I have the photos of the entire block, including the businesses you mentioned behind the houses. Back then I doubt they harvested the foundation stones, but today they would. I know there are some under the Elks building that is slated for demolition, and I believe they are going to get those out. I wouldn’t mind having them for when I expand my office in a 1904 farmhouse. It has a stone foundation took, and the same kind of cellar you mention.

    I don’t know exactly when the pictures were taken, but I got them out of a document dated 1981. It was when the city was looking to purchase the block.

    The one thing that just occurred to me, was that in these pictures, obviously Mason and Howes were both two-ways. When I came to town in 85, they were both one ways. Might be fodder for a future blog post.

  • Susan

    Nice to see some new postings!

    I don’t recall a restaurant called “The Judge’s Quarters,” but there was one on that corner called “Out of Bounds.” I still miss it.

  • cara

    I remember having one of my first drinks at the Out of Bounds…well before I turned 21! The building is still there on the east corner of Mountain and Mason.

  • I don’t know if it was the Judge’s or Out of Bounds when I went there with some friends around 1973. I was in one of the cottage houses one time, when I was in grade school. I still don’t remember why, or who we knew who lived there. The TV was on during that brief time, and that’s all I paid attention to. Seems like they were showing “Damn Yankees.”

    For a number of years, Mom and I would go to the laundromat there — not Stark’s, but the one on the other side. I’d bum a piece of gum from Mom and fish for coins in the water channel by the big machines. Somebody on that side of the street had a horse in their yard for a while, poor thing.

    And there was a garage/barn/stable on the alley in back along there where Mike McGuffy and Bobby St. John did band practice (“Utah and St. John”). Mike taught guitar at the conservatory my parents ran in various locations, most notably in the loft over the former Ben Franklins, and also on East Mountain in the last location of Kyle’s Music.

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