Northern Hotel

Commercial Hotel 1893

The Northern Hotel has been one of the iconic buildings in Fort Collins since its construction in 1873. When it was built though, it looked much different than it does today, originally it was built as the Agricultural Hotel with what I believe to have been three floors. In the 1880′s it was changed to the Commercial Hotel, and then finally to the Northern Hotel around 1905.

Northern Hotel 1905

In 1936, the building was extensively remodeled and given the art deco appearance that is has now. The Northern operated as one of the finest hotels in Fort Collins and catered to people who traveled by train, being only a block from the train station. After World War II, the hotel slowly declined as train traffic declined. A fire in 1975 severely damaged the upper two floors, causing the hotel operations to cease. However, the ground floor remained opened with several viable businesses. A 1975 facelift to the ground floor introduces a continuous row of arches on the College Ave street front, and a blank brick facade to the Walnut Street Facade.

1932 Northern before Art Deco remodeling

During its heydey, the Hotel was visited by such notables such as Franklin D. Roosevelt, John Wayne, Olivia DeHaveland, and Vincent Price. Being a luxury hotel, the Northern was also adorned with an incredible indoor dome that provided natural light into the dining room. The northern has been home to a variety of restaurants and businesses over the years.

Captain Bevo has other memories “In the early sixties my dad and his coffee group would meet at the Northern daily (except Sundays) periodically, I would go with him. As a kid I always thought the fish pond in the lobby was the coolest thing ever. The pond consisted of rock with a waterfall that dropped about 5 feet or so. It’s odd what stays with you-I can still remember the smell of the area and vision the large gold fish or koi that swam amongst the pocket change that had been tossed in.

1905 Banquet for Hotel Opening

The coffee shop was a place where anyone and everyone would meet. Bankers, attorneys, judges, politicians, farmers, merchants, travelers, college professors, college students and just about anyone else you can think of. Downtown was the place to be.

During the 70s the Northern housed a pretty cool night club (for its time) disco, rock and patchouli oil replaced the din of clanking dishes.”

1930 Dome

In the late 1990′s the Northern was closed all together and was totally vacant for a few years. In 1999, it was acquired by Funding Partners for Housing Solutions, who with the help of several grants, creative financing, and Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credits the entire building was restored to is Art Deco 1936 appearance. The upper three floors were converted to 47 apartments for low income seniors, with the first floor occupied by businesses such as Starbucks, Spoons, The Mountain Shop and a few others. It is a beautiful building inside and out and once again takes its place as a prominent building in downtown Fort Collins.

1930 Dome


Northern Hotel in 2011


Northern Hotel Sign in 2011


Dome is it Looks Today


Stained Glass Ceiling in Lobby


Lobby in Northern 2011

28 comments to Northern Hotel

  • Karen

    Great article and photos. Thanks. I had forgotten about the pond!

  • Susan

    Thanks, Terence. It is a great article with interesting photos. For a time (1970′s or 80′s?) there was a Mexican restaurant under the dome, and shops, especially a poster shop, in the lobby.

  • Susan, I think you are right. Right after I graduated from school (but was living in Denver at the time) I came up to visit a friend, and we went to this great Mexican restaurant with awesome margaritas. I think it was the original Rio’s, but am not positive. I also don’t recall where it was, other than it as a hole-in-the-wall place on College. It wasn’t the same place was it? I only went once, and had a couple of margs, so well, you know. By the time I moved back a couple years later, the RIo was where it is now.

  • Mark

    The original Rio was farther south on the same side of the street. I don’t remember its name, but I thought that the Mexican restaurant in the Northern was very good. I believe they moved to South College near the flea markets (in what was recently ‘Wally’s') in the early to mid 1990′s. They ended up going out of business a few years after the move.

  • Susan

    Terence, the original Rio was where Surfside 7 is now, or at least nearby. The restaurant in the Northern preceded the Rio. I think it was there when we moved here in 1979, but it was gone within a few years.

  • Cat

    The Mexican restaurant was called Gonzalos; the Mountain Shop had that space last time I was in town. Mark is correct; they moved South when Bill Stark lost the building.

  • EDB

    Does anyone remember Kiki’s ? ‘Had some wonderful brunches there. Very sad end.
    Correct, the original Rio was down the street (prior to the Rio it was “The Green Turtle”, quite good)

  • I remember that lobby! Not only as a kid, tagging along when Mom was there on some obscure errand, but from when I lived there. I’d get in on my bike from working at Water Pik, carry it up that staircase, then go to an elevator on the second floor that would take me to the third or fourth floor (for some reason, I moved around some — maybe to get away from the Friday night street noise on the College Avenue side?).

    I also remember a TV lounge for the convenience of the residents. My roommate and I were looking forward to seeing the animated Hobbit, but when we got there, somebody was already there to see a John Wayne movie. I don’t think I’ve seen the Hobbit yet!

  • John

    Gonzalo’s was awesome. Plush and dimly lit, with the dome above, and authentic flamenco dancing. And after stuffing yourself, you could wander next door, around about where Mtn Shop is now, to the print/poster shop (don’t recall the name) that had boxes and racks of unframed prints of just about any kind of subject. Thousands of ‘em. Quite a novelty.

  • captainbevo

    John I am not familiar with that restaurant where wss it and what kind of food?

  • John

    Captain…see the earlier comments on this entry. Gonzalo’s (in the Northern) was old-fashioned and most-excellent Mexican (think rellennos, carnitas, cabrito), located under where the stained-glass dome is now (Mountain Shop?). It’s entrance on College was quite obscure (“hole-in-the-wall”), somewhere near the middle of the bulding. If I recall, it only had a couple windows, one on either side of the front door. As I said, it was dim and plush (fake? plants even), pretty classy.

    I ate there many times in the late 80′s and early 90′s – it was my favorite restaurant in town. I’m not sure exactly when they relocated to S. College, just a bit north of Trilby (I think Mark was right: Wally’s building). I went there twice afterward, the last time in 2005, but the food wasn’t near as good, and the atmosphere was more like Castillon’s or El Burrito.

  • captainbevo

    my bad sorry-when you refer to wallys is that the old clancys?

  • John

    Captain, I’m not sure about Clancy’s. Frankly, I’ve never heard of it. Try plugging this into Google Maps: “Gonzalo’s Spanish Manor, Fort Collins, South College Avenue, CO”, and you can check out the street view with http://bit.ly/ejHgXo. Evidently Google still has a remnant in their database :o )

  • captainbevo

    I remember the spanish manor now. I recall eating there in 73 my parents liked it better then Sams. I had to go look at the building that Wallys is in and it is the old Clancys-Clancys was a dance hall and saloon pretty popular place during the 60s and seventies

  • Jo Momma

    Hello There old friends. I remember when I was a kid and the Northern on the corner was a drug store, above the lobby was a beautiful mezzanine. I do remember a bar in the back ally. (early 70′s). The mezzzannine seemed the place to be. Jam sesions by a fireplace and a small wet bar. Then I moved away. As Ft. Collins does, I was called back, I was then “of the age”. It was what seemed to be the start of alot of what is happening now in the ol Ft. Fun. 1987…The Bar Bazzar was now one of the places to be. I started hangin’ there on my return. Some old friend’s and new were renting/leasing and working at the restaurant/bar. Not much to it. It was definetly a “Hole in the wall”. But the food was good and the company was better. The day I started working there was a day that changed my life as I knew it. Bill took the whole thing back over and set up a deal with Gonzalo and his family to run the resturant and he ran the bar with the help of Hank, Chuck, Scott Allen and friend’s, and he also leased the front lobby to a lady by the name of Doris. She and her son had some wonderful prints and produced beautiful frame work for alot of the business in and aroun Old Town. The corner front was soon rented out to who you now know as “The New Belgium Brewery”. That should keep you going for a bit. More on The Northern in the 80″s and 90′s later.

  • Timmy

    I actually lived with Gonzalo not too long ago. I was friends with his son Alex Perez and my mom worked for gonzalo on and off for twenty years. His food was good, but business did decline when he relocated and lost key staff members. He also didn’t spend enough family time with his son, and worked endless 14 hour days. He was a work-o-holic, not a good thing.

  • Susan

    Years ago, a date drove me from Longmont to Fort Collins for dinner. Years later, when I moved to Fort Collins, I asked people about the Mexican restaurant with the dome. No one knew what the heck I was talking about. For a while, I thought I’d dreamt it or gone crazy. I just opened this page and read about Gonzalo’s!!!!! I’m not crazy! Well…not about this at least.

  • Lyssa

    Oh, Gonzalo’s how I miss your incredible food!!! I crave it all the time & have never found anything similar. Don’t get me wrong, there are many wonderful Mexican restraunts in Fort Collins but none that serve anything like Gonzalo did at the Northern. Timmy, u mention that u lived with Gonzalo, I would LOVE to have the opportunity to talk to him or possibly get some tips or recipes from him. I’d love to have the chance to taste his wonderful dishes again! If u happen to read this I’d love to hear from you! Lyssa.Lochard@gmail.com

  • Lyssa

    Oh, how I miss Gonzalos!!! I loved his food more than any other in Ft Collins,although my family has been eating at Sam’s/El Burrito since long before I was even born,Gonzalo will always have this Foodies heart! I’ll never forget the wonderful dishes Gonzalo created everyday & would absolutely die to find someone who knows him or someone who could help me re-create his delicious recipes. In fact, I miss his food so much that I would be more than happy to pay cash to obtain a few of my favorite recipes or a few hours in the kitchen learning from Gonzalo. If anyone knows how to get in touch with him I would be forever in debt to you! Thank you in advance for any information & for the walk down memory lane, its great to know there are others who adore Gonzalo’s creations as much as I do. Lyssa.Lochard@gmail.com

  • Allen Freeman

    My history at the Northern Hotel is quite extensive. I first arrived in Fort Collins from Massillon, Ohio in 1977 and met Bill Stark (owner of Northern Hotel in the 70s) and his family. Bill gave me a job as the night janitor, and later I had an apartment and my own barber shop located in the Northern until 1982. While the Starks were taking care of business in the hotel, I would keep an eye on their kids in the bar. I lived on the top floor on the corner facing Laporte and College, right on the point of the building. I also helped out renting rooms to people when Bill was occupied with other matters in the hotel. Anyone out there who used to be around old town during that time period, the disco times at the Northern, etc… ????? Great old memories of Old Town. I remember Kiki, the Gonzalos’, etc.

  • Pete

    No mention of the Northern Hotel would be complete without bringing up “Bar Bizaar” in the late 1980′s – early 1990′s. The owner at the time (Bill Stark) opened the bar along with a restaurant that changed formats about every three months because Bill was such an unethical businessman that no one could stand being associated with him for more than a few months. Any longtime Fort Collins resident who dealt with the Chamber of Commerce or City Council will remember vividly the name Bill Stark. The guy made enemies of everyone he came into contact with.

    Anyway, the restaurant, bar and lobby were the only parts of the building that were usable at that time because the hotel building suffered a very serious fire in the early 1980′s and was condemned by the city as uninhabitable. The owner (still Bill Stark) had not renewed his hazard insurance policy and as a result the fire damage was not covered.

    When I bartended at Bar Bizarre in the late 80′s, the floors upstairs were so unstable that you could actually fall through in some places if you walked around the floors. At one point, Bill considered tearing down the whole building and redeveloping the land (it’s historic nature got the city involved in blocking that). The other option was to have it named as an historical site so it could gain access to renovation funds (that idea too was sunk by the city because of hostility between the owner and the City Council.

    Nice to see the crook who owned it and almost destroyed the building 30 years ago finally lost control of it and the building was restored by new owners to its rightful beauty.

  • maurice

    My uncle and aunt owned a shop in the Northern Hotel in the 30-40′s (not sure of the dates). It was called Fordham Jewelry and Gift.
    Are there any photos of the shop by chance?

  • [...] Fort Collins and to this day remains one of the most unique buildings in Old Town.  According to LostFortCollins.net, The Northern Hotel was built it 1873, but back then it was called the Agricultural Hotel.  In the [...]

  • Gerry

    My band used to rent a room for practice at the Northern in the 80′s. It was always creepy walking down the dark halls at night!!!!

  • Gary Laliberte

    Greetings from an old timer,

    During the Disco period at The Northern (1974-1980) was the
    spot in town. On Friday nights the line to get in wrapped
    around the building. 3.2 beer bars were present in the area.
    So carding was a big deal.

    I was a bouncer/bartender during this period. The Broncos
    and Nuggets had their training camp at CSU then. Due to
    the success of the Northern I managed Frenchie’s Disco at
    the Ramada. The Northern was a major attraction in the
    late 70′s. Your web site has brought back great memories.

  • tim essig

    I lived in fort Collins 88-93. while I lived there I played in a few rock bands. we even rented an old room at the northern to rehearse. my question is on the north end of the building was a bar we played a few times called the bar bazaar(I think) couldn’t find it online and just wondering if a club is still there. thanks Tim

  • tim essig

    lived in fort Collins 88-93. played guitar in some rock bands. remember a club called the bar bazaar on the north end of the building. just wondering if a club is still there?

  • The bar bazaar went away when the Northern underwent extensive renovations about 10 years ago. That location is now home to Starbucks and another local restaurant.

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