Northern Colorado’s history has been defined by agriculture and exploration in equal measure. Showcased in both the grandeur of Rocky Mountain National Park and the rustic charm of buildings like The Milner/Schwarz Farmhouse, this history is available through hikes, guided tours, special events, hands-on farm experiences, living history performances and more.
In this guide, we rounded up some of our favorite places throughout the region where you can get inside historic homes, learn what it was like to raise lambs in the early 1900s, explore the history of our natural landscape, and more.
Photo courtesy of Michael Jay Shaffer, 2018 via Poudre Landmarks Foundation
Franklin Avery was the man behind Fort Collins’ wide streets, he founded First National Bank, and he was instrumental in developing the water projects that enabled agriculture to boom throughout Northern Colorado. The 1879 Avery House was originally built for $3,000 in 1879 using sandstone from local quarries. Franklin Avery and his wife Sara raised their children in the house and added several additions throughout the years. Today, the house, the Margareth Merrill Memorial Gazebo, the fountain, and the carriage house are all part of the Avery House Historic District listed in the National Register of Historic Places, and it’s all maintained by Poudre Landmarks Foundation. To learn about private group tours and weekly open houses, click here.
Maintained by Poudre Landmarks Foundation, The 1883 Water Works was Fort Collins’ first public works project. Today, the landmark consists of more than 20 acres, four buildings, two ditches, vintage apple trees and more, but the main attraction is the original Gothic Revival pump house, which received water from the supply canal and the Cache la Poudre River.
Open seasonally through summer and fall, the Bee Family Centennial Farm Museum is a National Registry Historic District and offers educational experiences that explore our local history. This includes the cultivation of Northern Colorado, irrigation practices, the sugar beet industry and lamb feeding. To preview the farm and keep up with upcoming events, you can follow the museum on Facebook here.
Maintained by the nonprofit Fort Collins Municipal Railway Society, Birney Car 21 is Fort Collins’ historic trolley, and it turned 100 years old in 2019. The trolley was painstakingly restored by the society which formed in 1980. Work on the car itself took seven years and line restoration took nearly five, and all restoration materials were donated by local railroads and businesses. Today, you can visit Birney Car 21 on summer weekends and holidays for a three-mile round trip between City Park and Howes Street in Downtown Fort Collins.
In 1986, the Cache La Poudre River was designated a Wild and Scenic River encompassing 75 miles just northwest of the city of Fort Collins. Ten years later, Congress designated the Poudre a National Heritage Area to recognize the significant role it has played in western water law both locally and nationally. This designation allowed for the appointment of a commission to oversee the management of the heritage area which brought us the nonprofit, Poudre Heritage Alliance.
Photo courtesy of Don Weigel via City of Greeley Museums
One of four locations maintained by City of Greeley Museums, the Centennial Village Museum is a living history experience that features more than 35 historical buildings, costumed interpreters, heritage farm animals, and eight acres of landscaped grounds. Opened in 1976, the museum serves to preserve and interpret American western heritage in our region spanning the last 150 years, and it’s home to some of Weld County’s oldest structures.
Guests can visit seasonally to experience things like printing at the High Plains Post historic print shop, blacksmithing at the forge, rope-making, chuckwagon-style cooking, scrub board laundry techniques, corn shucking and grinding, food preparation on cast iron stoves and more. To learn more about visiting the museum and to see upcoming events, click here.
Originally built as a grain elevator in 1920 in Old Town Timnath, Colorado Feed & Grain is a landmark and cultural centerpiece of Northern Colorado. Throughout its century of life, CF&G has served various functions, but most recently it has become a historic hub for local commerce and community in Timnath.
As a public market cooperative, CF&G is now home to Main Street Market, Feed & Grounds Coffee Station, Timnath Beerwerks and The Workhouse Meeting Hub. In addition to offering goods, drinks, products and a private event venue, the building hosts gallery exhibitions, art classes, pop-up markets and the Sunday Market on Main Street.
Maintained by the City of Fort Collins and located on the grounds of one of our largest community parks, The Farm at Lee Martinez Park is a hands-on family experience. And it has been since 1985! While the farm itself has become a part of Fort Collins history, it also provides insight into our agricultural history. Guests can interact with animals, play games, attend events and more. For more information, click here.
One of two experiences provided by Berthoud Historical Society, this museum is located inside AG Bimson’s historic blacksmith shop and Elmer Carlson’s garage building. Here, the society brings to life Berthoud’s rich heritage through exhibits that show the town and its surrounding areas dating as far back as the 1880s. To learn more about visiting and special events, click here.
The McCarty-Fickel Home was originally designed by noted Colorado architect Glenn Huntington and built in 1916 by Dr. and Mrs. D.W. McCarty. Today, the museum provides insight into the professional and civic lives of the McCarty and Fickel families dating from the 1890s to the present, including the doctor’s onsite medical office from the 1930s. When you visit, you can even see original woodwork, numerous family artifacts and original furnishings purchased from the Daniels and Fisher department store in Denver. To find out when you can visit, click here.
In 1929, the Meeker Home Museum became Greeley’s first museum, but its history dates all the way back to 1870 when it was built as the home of Greeley’s founding family. Back then, the two-story adobe brick home was built for Nathan Cook Meeker, his wife Arvilla, and their daughters Mary, Rozene and Josephine. Today, guests can tour the restored home to see original furnishings, a 10-foot-tall diamond dust mirror, a tall case clock and Meeker’s own cherrywood desk. Outside the home, visitors can also walk the grounds to learn more about the family and Greeley’s history.
The Milner/Schwarz Farmhouse and the land it sits on—which is now Fairgrounds Park—has a long, storied history. The house itself is the oldest brick house still standing in Larimer County and it even survived the flood of September 2013 because it stands on a small, natural rise. In 2009, the Loveland Historical Society and several other organizations stabilized the foundation and restored the home’s exterior. Today, the farmhouse has been restored to its 1890s appearance and can be visited on dates coordinated with the Farmers’ Market at Fairgrounds Park. To read the whole story and find out when you can visit, click here.
Originally established in January 1915, Rocky Mountain National Park is the most popular outdoor recreation destination in Northern Colorado for tourists and locals alike. It spans 415 square miles, offers scenic drives, 300 miles of hiking trails, native wildlife like elk, bald eagles and bighorn sheep, winter activities, wilderness camping, and more.
The land’s history dates all the way back to Arapahoe and Ute tribes who used what is now Trail Ridge Road to cross the mountains between their homelands in the west and hunting areas on the east. To begin exploring these lands yourself, check out The 9 Best Hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park to See Fall Colors and The 10 Best Hiking Trails Near Estes Park, Colorado.
The Stanley Hotel is much more than just a luxury hotel. In addition to its historic rooms, legendary grounds overlooking Rocky Mountain National Park and destination dining services, its storied and haunted past reaches back more than 100 years and has made it one of the most famous hotels in the country. This is thanks in large part to Stephen King who modeled his book “The Shining” and its haunted Overlook Hotel after The Stanley. Activities inside the real hotel include the spooky Historic Stanley Night Tour, which explores the phenomena and folklore surrounding the building and the grounds.
Guests can also learn about FO Stanley and his influence over Rocky Mountain National Park, the Stanley Steam Car, famous guests of the hotel, and the buildings’ architecture during the F.O. and Friends Family History Tour or the Historic Stanley Day Tour.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, White-Plumb Farm Learning Center is a Colorado Centennial Farm that was run by the same family for over 100 years before being donated to the City of Greeley Museums. Notably, it was also designed by Bessie Smith, Greeley’s first female architect, and originally cost just $2,500. Since then, the organization has restored the land, the home and its outbuildings and repurposed the 1881 property for educational programs.
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