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Rumor has it… a well-known photo mural of downtown Fort Collins shows the first electric car

The walls of Lucky Joe’s are filled with memorabilia and historic photos that fill in some of the gaps between 1904 and today. Hard to believe it has only been 25 years since Old Town Square was created. Photo by/Jamie Folsom.

Why yes, it does.

I don’t know how many of you have seen the mural that covers the north side wall inside Lucky Joe’s Sidewalk Saloon, but it shows a view of what would later become Old Town Square. It captures a moment in 1904 — people strolling across the power line-framed dirt streets, bicycles parked everywhere and brick store fronts. A friend and I sat for two hours figuring out which buildings and landmarks are still there, and which ones are long gone.

At six feet square or more, the mural is actually just a portion of a series of photos taken that year from a viewpoint of Mountain Avenue facing northward. The very same scene sits in the middle of a much smaller panoramic shot on display at Reader’s Cove Bookstore, where I first heard the rumor of the electric car.

Among the extended view of buggies, bikes and people stands a small, literally horseless, carriage. It is parked in front of what is now Beau Jo’s Pizza at the corner of College and Mountain.

Bill Schneider, director of the Larimer County Historical Museum says it was indeed the first of its kind in Fort Collins – little more than a stripped down carriage with an electric motor attached. The owner was a Dr. Morrill, who was most likely a chiropractor. His offices were upstairs in the bank building. His car is seen in the same parking place in a number of shots taken in that decade.

Other copies of these photos can be seen around town in various businesses and of course, at the museum.

Also in this same fascinating set of photos lie two other clues to Fort Collins history. The LCHM has just completed a history of medicine in the area and is currently working on a bicycle history. I’ll be heading to the museum soon to research those surprisingly modern-looking bikes and perhaps uncover some ties to our current love affair with designated lanes, parades, winter commuting and fat tires (or Fat Tires, as the case may be).

Special thanks to Bill Schneider of the Larimer County Historical Museum in Wellington (3740 Cleveland Ave.) for his expertise, and to the good folks at Reader’s Cove Bookstore(Harmony and Lemay) for their knowledge and good humor.

7 comments to Rumor Has It… A well-known photo mural of downtown Fort Collins shows the first electric car

  • very cool photo. i don’t know if i’ve ever seen it before. i tend to see a lot of pictures of mountain ave. looks so different with cars in the square.

    so what *I* want to know is “what’s with the diagonal streets?!!!!” what a pain in the butt when you’re sitting at an intersection and have to crane your neck a jillion different directions just to make sure it’s safe to cross. i’d love to see every single diagonal street turned into a square or plaza or something. … ok, so not jefferson/riverside. but the ones in the middle of town. i really honestly wouldn’t miss them if they disappeared.

  • Jamie

    LOL, Meg. I guess after driving and walking through Washington, D.C. (America’s castle town) for three years, I never thought twice about the Fort’s diagonals. If I remember correctly, that’s a French design feature.

  • cat

    As I recall, early on (Fort days) the town was laid out to be parallel/normal to the river. Later, the “new” part of town was laid out to be congruent with the geographical directions.

  • Carin

    Does the Larimer County Historical Museum have a website? What are the operating hours?

  • Jamie

    Carin – Right now they are developing their website. The museum is open 10-5 on Fridays and Saturdays, and by appointment other days.

    Bill Schneider – 490-2137

    Fascinating collection. There are huge display versions of panoramic views of lot of local downtowns, cars and their owners and the three photos of Old Town that were blended together to highlight College and Linden.

  • Jamie

    Yes, Cat, I think you’re correct. Most of the diagonals are the ones that mirror the river.

  • It’s the roads perpendicular to the river that drive me nutso, particularly Canyon Ave. If I could shift just one street in town, that’s the one I’d move around.

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