If you’ve driven through the intersection of College and Mulberry lately, you may have noticed that the parking lot in front of the old Sports Authority building has been fenced in. The new owners are getting ready to do some work on the lot in order to prepare the site for a new grocery store that will be moving into the swoop-roofed building that was originally built to house a Safeway store.
But before the parking lot, there used to be a house on that corner where the vast parking lot stretches today. It was the C. R. Welch house and it was one of several grand houses that used to stand along S. College Avenue.
Corwin Welch was the son of local merchant Jacob Welch who built the Welch block on the NW corner of College and Mountain (where Austin’s is today). Corwin followed in his father’s footsteps as a merchant. He had a shop in Greeley for six years, then he moved to Boulder and ran a mercantile there for seven. In 1883, he moved to Fort Collins where his parents already resided. He worked at First National Bank and eventually ascended to the role of President. He was also instrumental in bringing the sugar factory to Fort Collins in 1903.
Corwin and Mary built the house at 425 S. College some time in the late 1800s. There are several pictures of the house in the local history archive. For anyone entering Fort Collins from the south, this grand establishment was one of the first landmarks the visitor would happen across back in the day.
Note that College Avenue was only a dirt road at the time the photo above was taken, and though there are trees that have been planted along the street, there isn’t much else in the way of vegetation.
Unfortunately the description in the Archive doesn’t include the identities of these four young men.
If you were to stand in the parking lot of the current Safeway on the NE corner of College and Mulberry and look to the west, then your view would be from the same perspective as this photo. It wouldn’t be quite so lovely, however, as the largest proportion of your view would be taken up with barren parking lot.
Ansel Watrous describes the Welch house in his History of Larimer County, Colorado, saying: “Mr. Welch has a beautiful home on South College avenue, situated amid attractive surroundings, and here with all the comforts and luxuries the heart could wish, including an extensive and well selected library and many choice works of art, gathered during his travels, he is spending his declining years. ”
Next to the Welch house (at left) was the Fred Stover house, located at 413 S. College.
I love the two photos above because the house remains resolutely the same while the landscaping has changed over time.
Mr. Welch moved to Los Angeles in his old age to live with his sister Martha and niece, Louise. He died in 1907 and is buried in Hollywood.
Charles and June Evans bought the house. Charles R. Evans also worked at the First National Bank of Fort Collins.
The house was hidden behind trees in this early 1950s photo.
The Evans family also owned farm land off of Prospect Road. When the Welch/Evans house was demolished, the family saved substantial sections of the house and installed them into a more modern looking building at the NW intersection of Remington and College. You may have read about this house at 1535 Remington St. in the Coloradoan recently. The City Council recently determined that imminent domain could be used in order to take a section of this property in order to widen Prospect between Remington and College.
After the houses on the block bounded by College, Mulberry, Mason and Magnolia were razed, two new buildings were put in their place. One was the swooped form of a Safeway building. This type of architecture was popular in the mid-1900s, most especially in the 1960s when almost every family had one, if not two, cars. With motorists speeding past, retailers could no longer count on a beautiful window display to draw customers in. Instead, the entire building form became a type of sign for the store inside. (Other companies did this as well. Imagine a classic Pizza Hut, for example. Even when the Pizza Hut moves out and some other business moves in, the building itself is still easily recognizable as once having been the home of one of the pizza chain’s buildings.)
The Colorado Real Estate Developer, McWhinney, currently owns this site. According to City docs, they will be updating the landscaping, parking lot, and lighting on the site, but will not be altering the building in any significant way. Soon a new grocery store will be located in this unique Fort Collins landmark.