One of the Oldest Frame Buildings in the City
The wood-frame commercial building at 313 N. Meldrum St. has a long and interesting history, one that dates to the early years of Fort Collins. However, it was not originally located on this property. From the early 1880s into the early 1900s, it stood on the east side of College Avenue, one-half block north of Mountain Avenue (146 N. College Ave. / lot 13 in block 18). The building was constructed in the late winter and spring of 1881 for George T. Wilkins, who used it for the next fifteen years as his photography studio. During that period, many members of the community visited the building to have their portraits taken. The front space held a reception and sales room for customers. Behind that was the photography studio, which was illuminated by a skylight mounted in the roof’s north-facing slope. The building also contained a sleeping room and kitchen, which the Wilkins family lived in for about a year.
In the summer of 1896, Wilkins sold the property to Thomas Quinn for $1,000. A division foreman for the Colorado & Southern Railroad and long-serving city councilman, he invested in numerous Fort Collins properties and was reported to be wealthy. Quinn held onto the building for three years. In late 1899, Quinn sold the property to Benjamin T. Whedbee for $1,200. He was an early pioneer who became a widely-respected figure in the Fort Collins community. Whedbee was in the mercantile business and became a prominent civic leader, serving as the first county treasurer, a member of the Fort Collins city council, and as the city’s mayor. Throughout the Quinn and Whedbee ownership years, the building was occupied by a millinery shop. The sisters St. Claire, who ran a millinery in the building from 1901-1906 also lived in the back room of the store.
Whedbee sold the property on College Avenue in the summer of 1906 for $6,500 to the Commercial Bank and Trust, netting him a sizable profit. The bank acquired it with the goal of clearing the site and erecting a new building for its operations. At the time of the sale, the Fort Collins Courier reported that the lot held “one of the oldest frame buildings in the city.” This was defined a bit more in a subsequent article that declared it “the only frame building in the triangle.” This referred to the Old Town commercial district bordered by College Avenue, Jefferson Street and Linden Street. In other words, the property acquired by the bank held the last wood-frame commercial building still standing in the original downtown district.