Brief History of Health Care in Fort Collins

Larimer County Hospital

In 1877 the Colorado State Board of Health was established by Colorado’s first General Assembly.  The board was charged with the control of epidemics and contagious disease, the collection and study of vital statistics as a means of determining the causes of illness and death, and advice on proper sources of water supplies and places of sewage disposal.  Their first vital statistics report showed that 24.7% of deaths were from consumption-also known as tuberculosis (possibly due to the fact that Colorado had a reputation as a healthful spot for the treatment of that same disease), 7.8% from diphtheria, 5.4% from scarlet fever and pneumonia and 5% from heart disease.  

In 1893 local boards of health were established.  Public health at local levels was strengthened by public health nursing throughout the state in the late 1880s and early 1900s.  The evolution of public health nursing involved the American Red Cross, the Visiting Nurse Association and the Colorado Tuberculosis association.  

Despite the existence of a State Board of Health, in 1918 when the flu epidemic hit, the state suffered a lack of funding.  In fact, the State Health Department was so underfunded that year that they had to commandeer an appropriation dedicated to controlling venereal disease to fill the gap.  In 1918 the state spent more to control livestock disease then they did on the State Board of Health.

It appears the American Red Cross Northern Colorado chapter, which was founded in March, 1917, provided the medical oversight for the response to the epidemic in Larimer County.  They had formed to aid families impacted by the war, but their work load doubled in 1918 as they responded to the pandemic.  They organized hospitals in cooperation with the Agricultural College.  There were also hospitals at the 1st Presbyterian Church in Ft. Collins and in Wellington.  In the aftermath they held health clinics and their health programs strengthened through the 1920s.

The Larimer County Public Health Association was organized in 1920, for the sole purpose of aiding those who couldn’t obtain proper medical or dental treatment.  In 1920 a Ft. Collins doctor visit cost $1.50, a night visit was $5.00. 

In 1925 the Larimer County Hospital was opened, just outside the city limits and was “deeply appreciated by residents when it arrived, following the devastating influenza epidemic of 1918-19”.  It cost $175,000 to build and served 14,500 patients in it’s first year of operation.  The hospital expanded through the years and became Poudre Valley Hospital in 1950.  (Side note-two of our HLC board members were born here!). 

Ghost Signs Remain in Many A Colorado Town

Ghostly remains of a sign only seen inside Indigo Rose Books – Fort Collins, CO

One of the many things attracting the attention of residents and visitors alike are the ghost signs adorning the historic downtowns in Colorado, Loveland included.  These signs, from the 1890s to the 1960s, can be even more ghostly when you attempt to uncover the original words and images.  The several layers of paint can often provide many messages.  Ironically, in their day, the signs were nothing more than a highly visible way to advertise and solicit a product or business.

Ghost signs are making a comeback in many communities where residents are working to save these pieces of retail history.  The reasons they still exist are plentiful, however, the primary reasons are the durable lead-paint used in the early to mid-20th century which adheres well to masonry; location of the property which provided protection to the sign from the elements; and current historic preservation efforts to ensure they are around for decades to come.  The sign painters of this time period worked quickly and were quite skilled at painting.  The “wall dogs”, as they were called, generally worked for major sign companies.  Signage was primarily on privately owned barns in the country and commercial walls in smaller communities.  The “wall dogs” arrived with smaller drawings in hand and literally sized up the wall, smooth or bowed, and crafted the image onto the wall.  The painter often mixed the colors on site to get the exact color needed for the job.  These painters traveled from town to town to locations determined by company representatives.  A little customizing was done when the owner of the wall’s business name was added above the product being advertised.  These early advertisement signs were often painted over when the building was sold, thus the reason why there can be multiple layers on one sign.

J.L. Hohnstein Block – Coopersmiths – Coca Cola ghost sign – Fort Collins

Signs placed in communities were generally soft drinks, coffee, beer, and tobacco.  A Coca-Cola sign from 1958 in Old Town Fort Collins was preserved and touched up in 2011 (Coopersmiths) to make it more legible.  The conservation treatment saturated the original colors bringing back the intensity of the design.  It also made the underlying signs more visible to the naked eye.  It took almost three weeks.  Many thanks to Carol Tunner who led the Coca-Cola sign preservation efforts in Fort Collins. If you know of a ghost sign where you live, please let us know and we’ll add it to the collections!  For more information and a self-guided tour visit

Written by HLC Board member Sharon Danhauer

Gooch-e in Loveland

The Hidden Advantage to having historical surveys is the wealth of information readily available for all to see. Here is a quick summary of the history of 120 and 122 East 4th Street, as taken from the Downtown Loveland Historic District nomination form, written by Carl McWilliams in October 2014. What follows comes from Carl’s report.


Historic Name: Weinberg and Harrison Dry Goods Store Current Name: Cloz to Home Construction Date: Circa 1886. This two-story commercial building features a rectangular plan, with painted pale green stuccoed brick masonry walls, and a flat roof. The building has served as a retail commercial establishment throughout its history. In the late 1880s, a dry goods store occupied the first floor, while a hand printing shop was located upstairs. Other early uses include a billiards parlor, a bakery, and a general store. The H. A Gooch Dry Goods Company, followed by Weinberg and Harrison Dry Goods, was located in the building during the early 1900s. Loveland Hardware, owned by the Moon Brothers, was in business here during the 1920s. Uses from the 1930s to the 1970s include another billiards parlor, a sheet metal works shop, and a series of restaurants. The Green Lantern Café was in business here circa 1936-1937, followed by the Windsor Café from the early 1940s to the early 1950s. Circa 1954, the name of the establishment was changed to Betty’s Café, followed by the Double D Café and Cocktail Lounge in the 1960s, in turn, succeeded by the Top Hat Café and Lounge, from the late 1960s to the late 1970s. A retail store named the Cat’s Pajamas was located in the building in the 1980s, followed, in the 1990s by a store named Feathers. Currently (in 2014) the building is home to a retail store called “Cloz To Home.” The upstairs has primarily served as office space through the years.