History of Historic Larimer CountyEverything Has a History
In 1988, D. L. Roberts received a call from Gary Nordik. A new subdivision was being planned just south of the Larimer County Voc-Tech Center (now Front Range Community College). The land had formerly been the Smith family ranch, and when they sold the land, they stipulated that the cabin on the property, built in 1882 by Henry Franz, must not be razed. Nordik wasn’t sure what to do with the cabin, but he hoped that Roberts could help.
Roberts quickly called several people he knew that were interested in preserving the history and heritage of the area – Wayne Sundberg, Joan Day, Doris and Jim Greenacre, and Helen Reisdorff. CSU Construction Management students helped to dismantle and move the 106 year old building, as well as the outhouse that came with it, to a little piece of property on Red Feather Lakes road close to the school.
Once the cabin was safely moved (albeit without the roof, as that was the only way they were able to wrangle the building from its old location to the new), the group decided that it would be a good idea to form a non-profit organization to help raise the money to rehabilitate the cabin as well as to be ready if such an opportunity ever arose again. In fact, there was such certainly that other buildings would become available, that the end goal was to create a historic village in Livermore. As buildings were threatened, they could be moved to safety (much like Centennial Village in Greeley).
Thus was born the Larimer County Historic Alliance. In addition to saving what became known as the Franz-Smith Cabin (now located in Heritage Courtyard by the old Carnegie Library in Fort Collins), the Alliance was given an early twentieth-century horse drawn school bus that was originally from Laporte — the Cache la Poudre school bus #1.
Over the years the Alliance provided walking tours of Roberts Ranch and other historic sites in Larimer County. Eventually group activities wound down in the late 1990s and organization became dormant. The president, D. L. Roberts, made sure that the Alliance was always up-to-date with all legal filings, thus keeping the organization alive.
In October of 2016, Ron Sladek and Meg Dunn called together a meeting of local preservationists. Twenty-two participants from all over the county met together in the Avery Carriage House in Fort Collins to discuss the feasibility of starting a county-wide preservation organization. Two original members of the Fort Collins Historic Alliance were in attendance – Joan Day and Wayne Sundberg. After a great deal of excitement and brainstorming, the group began to talk about what steps would need to be taken in order to create a non-profit. It was at that point that Sundberg suggested reviving the Larimer County Historic Alliance rather than beginning some new.
In February of 2017, with twenty-four people in attendance at the Loveland Public Library, two board members of the Larimer County Historic Alliance presented a resolution to the group, turning ownership of the non-profit over. Elections were held to form a new board, and a vote was taken to update the name to Historic Larimer County in keeping with a pattern set up by several other historic preservation organizations throughout the state of Colorado. Historic Larimer County had 67 members by the end of 2017 — five founding members (from the days of the Larimer County Historic Alliance), three corporate members, and 59 individual/family memberships.
In early 2020, the one hundred and fourteen year old Pioneer Association was folded into Historic Larimer County, adding a significant bump in membership and continuing the legacy of an organization that was historic in its own right. 2020 also provided some unique challenges to the organization as the board learned how to host online meetings (most notably one on the past epidemics and pandemics of Larimer County, covering over 200 years of history). And while most members were quarantining at home, development projects continued throughout the county and HLC found that the need to advocate for historic places remained as necessary as ever.
HLC continues to host talks on various historic preservation topics throughout the winter months and provides tours of historic places during the warmer months.
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