The Modernist Poudre Valley National Bank

Fort Collins is well known for its historic downtown commercial district and beautiful nineteenth-century residences, but our city is also home to sleek, modernist-style buildings that tell an important part of our city’s more recent past. At the corner of South College and West Magnolia Streets stands an iconic mid-century, architect-designed building, known to us now as the Wells Fargo building. Although subject to some changes over the past fifty years, the building remains an excellent example of post-World War II architectural design.


Known to us now as the Wells Fargo Bank building, the building at 401 South College was originally constructed for the Poudre Valley National Bank in 1966. The bank was designed by James M. Hunter, a prominent architect based out of Boulder, Colorado, and constructed by Frank Johnson Construction Company of Fort Collins. For several years, Hunter had served as a planner and architect for Colorado A & M College (now Colorado State University) where he designed Allison Hall, Danforth Chapel, and the Lory Student Center; another notable Hunter design in Fort Collins is the First National Bank at West Oak and South Mason Streets.

Coloradoan, April 28, 1967

On April 28th, 1967, a large 8-page supplement to the Fort Collins Coloradoan introduced the new $1.8 million bank to city residents. The insert featured an invitation to the bank’s grand opening on April 29-30th, articles penned by the bank’s chairman and president, and a two-page history detailing the institution’s 89 years of service. Described as Fort Collins’, “finest and most modern banking facilities”, the newly constructed bank was three stories tall and relied on four steel pylons and a series of hidden cables to support the mostly glass structure. With the top story cantilevered over the lower two stories and the wide ribbons of windows, the building seemed to almost float above the ground. The pylons not only 

 supported the structure, they also provided space for conference rooms and stairwells and were reportedly strong enough to carry an additional seven stories, if expansion was ever needed. A bronze solar screen installed over the windows of the top story protected the offices from the sun’s harsh light and intense heat.

Inside, the centered teller area on the main floor opened to a skylight dome, two stories above. The main floor also provided office space for banking departments and the President’s office along the outer edges. The second and third floors housed the Board Room, telephone switchboard, and office space for both bank employees and other professional renters. Safe deposit facilities and the vault were located in the basement along with a community room which would be available for use by Fort Collins organizations.

Coloradoan, April 28, 1967

Coloradoan, April 28, 1967

Coloradoan, April 28, 1967

Although the new building was modern in design, it was also practical, meeting the changing needs of post-WWII customers. A parking lot at the rear of the building could accommodate space for up to 81 automobiles. Six drive-up windows and a walk-through teller lane along the west wing (now demolished) could be easily accessed from three sides of the building and allowed tellers to assist customers with their banking needs at the car window level.

In 1970, Poudre Valley National Bank rebranded as the United Bank of Fort Collins to reflect their new affiliation with the United Banks of Colorado. By 1990, the building housed Norwest Bank and by 2004, Wells Fargo. In 2022, Wells Fargo dispersed several departments from their downtown location to other locations in Fort Collins, including a new location across College Avenue near the newly opened Target. As of this writing, it is unknown whether Wells Fargo will move completely out of their historic downtown space. 

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

Harper Goff House

This property first appeared in the historic record in October 1879, when all of the vacant land in block 106, along with several of the surrounding blocks, were sold for $3,500 by Alice and Arthur Patterson to James Harrison. In March 1881, Harrison filed a plat for Harrison’s Addition with the Larimer County clerk’s office. The addition occupied the six square blocks bordered by Mulberry Street on the north, Laurel Street on the south, College Avenue on the east, and Meldrum Street on the west. It was also located just north of the small but growing campus of Colorado Agricultural College, now known as Colorado State University.

In September 1881, Harrison sold Lot 8 in Block 106 for $200 to John A. McCoy, about whom nothing is known. One year later, in November 1882, he sold the south half of the lot to Bessie Graham for $125. Bessie was the wife of Guy Graham, both of them immigrants from Ireland. Prior to their arrival in Fort Collins, they lived for years in Esopus, New York, where Guy was a boat captain on the Hudson River. In Fort Collins, they resided in a home on Peterson Street and Guy initially worked as a day laborer and later became a landlord. Bessie held on to the vacant lot on Howes Street for a full decade before selling it in late 1892. She died five months later, in May 1893, and was buried in Grandview Cemetery. Guy lived until 1909 and was also laid to rest there.

Bessie Graham sold the lot on Howes Street at the end of December 1892 for $200 to prominent Fort Collins architect Montezuma Fuller, about whom much has been written. Key to the property on Howes Street is the fact that Fuller was not only designing buildings during this time period but was also investing heavily in properties, including vacant lots. The low purchase price for Lot 8 indicates that it was still vacant at that time. Just over one month later, in February 1893, he transferred it to his wife, Anna Eliza Fuller, along with a number of additional properties in town. Anna held on to the lot on Howes Street through the end of the decade before selling it to a new owner. There is no evidence that the Fullers developed the property during their period of ownership throughout the 1890s.

In August 1899, Anna Fuller sold the south half of Lot 8 to Carl Anderson for a purchase price of $275, again providing evidence that the property was still vacant. By that time, Anderson was the principal stockholder, president and general manager of the Courier Printing & Publishing Company, which produced the Fort Collins Courier newspaper and provided job printing services to the community. Born in 1872 in St. Charles, Iowa, the son of a newspaper owner, he learned the printer’s trade and became a travel writer for a railroad. After attending the University of Mississippi, he moved west to Colorado intending to purchase the Loveland Reporter. However, that deal fell through and instead he acquired a majority of stock in the Courier Printing & Publishing Company of Fort Collins, which he took control of in early 1899.

On 26 April 1900, the Fort Collins Courier printed a small item of local interest informing its readers that work was about to commence on the construction of a $2,000 brick residence on South Howes Street for Carl Anderson. At that time, he was living in a rental house on East Mulberry Street, which he shared with his sisters Maude and Pearle. Elizabeth Maude was employed as advertising manager of the Courier Printing & Publishing Company and Clara Pearle was a student in her early teens. The new house rose over the following months and was completed in time for the Anderson siblings to move in during the second week of August. In a second small article published on 9 August 1900, the newspaper described the “eight room brick” house as a “handsome” building. No information was provided by the newspaper regarding who might have designed and built the house. While it may have been the work of architect Montezuma Fuller, a thorough search of historic records from the time period uncovered no evidence of his involvement in the project.

When the house at 612 South Howes Street was constructed, it was designed with two entrances, one for the owners and another providing access to a separate residential unit for tenants. The first tenant in the home was Mrs. E. M. Smith, who resided there around 1901. A subsequent tenant around 1903 was Ralph Parshall, who at the time was a student at Colorado Agricultural College. Parshall received his B.S. in civil and irrigation engineering and went on to a notable career as a professor and director of the Division of Irrigation with the US Department of Agriculture’s Soil Conservation Service. He invented the Parshall Flume, a device for measuring running water in ditches that spread across the world. Years later, Parshall was involved in planning for the Colorado-Big Thompson project. Throughout the 1900s and 1910s, the rental space in the house continued to be occupied by a series of students.

The Anderson siblings lived together in the house at 612 South Howes Street throughout the first decade of the twentieth century, and at some point it appears that Maude acquired a one-half interest in the property. However, this changed during the summer of 1909. In late June of that year, Carl married Genora Evans and they moved into a house of their own on West Oak Street. A few days later, on the first day of July, Maude married a man by the name of Ralph Algene Goff. Born in 1882 in Missouri, by the late 1890s Ralph had moved west with his family to Colorado City west of Colorado Springs, where his father worked as a lumber dealer. Around 1906, he moved to Fort Collins and worked for the Newton Lumber Company before taking a bookkeeper position with the J. V. Barker Mercantile Company. He also had a fine tenor voice and became known in the local music community. On Ralph and Maude’s wedding day, Carl transferred his one-half ownership in 612 South Howes Street to his sister, who became the property’s sole owner.

Following their wedding ceremony, which took place in the house on South Howes, Ralph and Maude honeymooned in Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs. Back in Fort Collins, they settled into the house and Ralph became involved with the family publishing business. He essentially stepped into Maude’s positions as secretary and advertising manager. Although the Courier was sold in 1916, Ralph continued on as its secretary-treasurer and superintendent. In June 1913, the home served as the venue for another family wedding, this time of Jesse J. Jones and Clara Pearle Anderson, the younger sister of Carl and Maude. Pearle graduated from the State Teachers’ College in Greeley and had been employed as a Fort Collins kindergarten teacher. Jesse was involved with a family contracting business known as Jones & Son. Following the wedding, they resided in a house at 221 West Mulberry Street.

On 16 March 1911, the Goffs welcomed the arrival of what would turn out to be their only child, a boy they named Ralph Harper. Known by his middle name, he spent his first decade of life in the house on South Howes and would later become one of Fort Collins’ most renowned native sons. In 1920, Ralph retired from the publishing business as the company came under new ownership again with consolidation of the town’s two primary newspapers, the Courier and the Express. The Goffs left Fort Collins and moved to Santa Ana, California, where Ralph became a merchant. He died in 1924 and was buried in that city’s Fairhaven Memorial Park. Maude took on sales jobs and then opened a women’s clothing store in the mid-1930s. She died in 1956 and was buried in the same cemetery as her husband.

Between 1931 and 1934, Harper attended the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles. In 1935, he married Florence Newcom and began to secure work as an illustrator for prominent publications including Esquire, Collier’s and National Geographic. Harper was employed from around 1935 to 1948 as a movie set designer at the Warner Brothers studio, working on films such as Casablanca, Sergeant York, and The Charge of the Light Brigade. During World War II, he developed paint schemes for camouflage used by the Army and Navy. In 1951, Harper had a chance meeting with Walt Disney in a London model train store and was offered a job with Disney’s production company. Accepting the offer, he went to work for Disney Studios as an art director and production designer. One of his most notable projects there was the 1954 film 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, for which he designed the Nautilus submarine.

When Walt Disney launched the development of Disneyland in the early 1950s, Harper Goff became one of the project’s primary designers, or “imagineers.” He is credited with having designed Main Street USA along with the Jungle River Cruise. One of Harper’s main sources of inspiration for the look and feel of Main Street USA came from his memories of growing up in Fort Collins, when he was living in the house at 612 South Howes Street. Harper remained active professionally into the 1970s, working on the Dragnet television series and providing art direction for the films Fantastic Voyage and Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. He was also involved in the design of EPCOT’s World Showcase in Orlando. Harper died in 1993 in Palm Springs and was buried adjacent to his grandfather in Colorado Springs’ Evergreen Cemetery.

In 1956, the Comstocks sold the home to John and Harriett Toliver, who owned the property for the next twenty-two years. During the late 1950s, the house was occupied by two tenants. The primary residence housed Robert and Lois Richards. He was a supervisor and service foreman with the Mountain States Telephone & Telegraph Company. A college student by the name of Everette Stockwell occupied the secondary unit. The Tolivers appear to have first occupied the home in the early 1960s and remained there for many years. John was a sales clerk and then officer of the Toliver-Kinney Mercantile Company, a downtown hardware store. They appear to have rented the second unit in the house to students. The Tolivers held onto the property until 1978, when they sold it to local developer and property investor Lester Kaplan, who intends to add a duplex in the back yard.

Source: Architectural Inventory Form by Ron Sladek of Tatanka Historical Associates, Inc. Prepared for the City of Fort Collins

The Cabin Where It All Began

The story of Historic Larimer County began with a cabin that stood in the way of a new housing development. Here is a brief story of that cabin. Reprinted with permission from Northern Colorado History.

In 1882, Henry and Caroline Franz, immigrants from Württemberg, Germany, built a one-and-a-half story log cabin on the hill where the Clarendon Hills neighborhood stands today, just south of the Harmony Library and Front Range Community College. They “proved up” on the land in July 1886. (That means the land officially became theirs at that point.)

Carrie and Henry had two children — Magdalena (Lena) and William Henry. (See photo above.) They grew wheat, sugar beets and strawberries on their farm and in 1890 Henry built a granary.

Carrie passed away in 1895 and in 1896 Henry married Sarah Neumeyer whose husband John had passed away the year before as well. Sarah brought with her four daughters from her previous marriage — Mamie, Ethel, Sadie and Elsie. Raising a blended family of six children in this small cabin must have proved a bit tight and in 1898, Henry sold the land to William F. Wittenbrink.

Henry and Lena Franz with Carolyn and Will. (Photo from the Archive at FCMoD. #H00387)

Wittenbrook wasn’t there long before he sold the land to Lyons Wasson for $3,200 in the spring of 1900.

Wasson owned the land for ten years. It’s possible that he rented it out to be farmed by others a few of those years, but it’s hard to tell (as the newspapers refer to a Mr. Wasson without giving a first name or initial and there were other Wassons in the area that it could have been referring to). In 1910, he added a barn to the property and then ended up selling the land to Richard Barber who was moving to Colorado from Minnesota.

Lyons Wasson has sold his farm to R. C. Barber of Minnesota. The consideration was $9,600, and he will take possession about December 1st. Mr. Wasson bought this property a few years ago for $3,200. We regret to have Mr. and Mrs. Wasson leave our community as they have been important factors in our circles, especially in church work. — Weekly Courier, October 27, 1910.

The Barbers moved to Pennant, Saskatchewan (in Canada) in March of 1916, but the newspaper doesn’t mention to whom they sold the property.

These photos are from the Archive at the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery (#C01464 and #C01465). They were taken in 1967.

At this point the trail of owners grows cold until the Smiths purchased the property in 1936. They ranched on the land until 1948. It’s unclear what happened with the property between 1948 and the 1980s, but the Smith family retained ownership.

In 1986 the Smiths sold their land to a developer. The developer petitioned the City to annex the land, which was done through an ordinance in February of 1986. But when the Smiths had sold the property, they included a caveat. They had stated that the cabin could not be demolished.

The developer was not a preservationist and during that time period there wasn’t an understanding like there is today that historic places add economic and social value to a community. But he knew a few preservationists, so he gave them a call.

The back side of the Franz-Smith cabin in Heritage Courtyard by the old Carnegie Library in Fort Collins..

Among those called upon were Wayne Sundberg, Joan Day, Doris and James Greenacre, Helen Reisdorff and DL Roberts. Together they formed a non-profit which they called the Larimer County Historic Alliance. In 1988 they moved the cabin, and the outhouse that came with it, out to the Roberts Ranch in Livermore.

The weather was not kind to the structure and over the years the building deteriorated and the roof was blown off. To add insult to injury, the outhouse was stolen in the dark of night.

In 2006, the Fort Collins History Museum (now the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery secured a $82,907 State Historical Fund Grant which was used to repair and restore the building. The cabin now sits in Heritage Courtyard next to the Old Carnegie Library (now the Carnegie Center for Creativity).

The Franz-Smith cabin in Heritage Courtyard by the Old Carnegie Library in Fort Collins.

The courtyard is often locked up, but there are times when the public is welcomed to visit. The Poudre Pour, which took place this past Saturday, was one such opportunity. There are also occasions for kids to take field trips or attend summer day camps in the cabins. And every once in awhile, on the weekends, the gates will be open and you can wander in.



Sources for this article:

It was announced that Henry Franz was proving up on his land in the June 3, 1886 Fort Collins Courier.

The granary was mentioned in the May 29, 1890 Fort Collins Courier.

It was announced in the April 8, 1897 Fort Collins Courier that the Franz’s would be moving in the fall to their stock ranch.

The sale to William F. Wittenbrink was mentioned in the September 8, 1898 Fort Collins Courier.

The Franzes may have moved away even earlier than the fall of 1898 given that the October 13, 1898 Fort Collins Courier states that Zachary Taylor had been living on the property.

When Whittenbrink sold the farm, it was still referred to as the Franz place. Weekly Courier, March 15, 1900.

Lyons Wasson built a barn – Weekly Courier, September 8, 1910.

The Wassons moved to Fort Collins and the Barbers moved in. Weekly Courier, December 8, 1910.

The Barbers had a huge sale before they moved to Canada. Weekly Courier, February 18, 1916 and Weekly Courier, March 11, 1916.

All newspapers accessed through Colorado Historic Newspapers.

The dates of the Smith occupation came from a History Colorado article.

Get information about annexations through the City of Fort Collins website.

The Larimer County Historic Alliance is still around. It’s now called Historic Larimer County. You can follow the organization on Facebook.