Tuesday 10: Fort Disney or Collinsland?

The story behind Main Street USA. FoCo (Fort Collins), NoCo (Northern Colorado), Fort Fun, and Choice City. We have many names for our town, but you rarely hear it referred to as Fort Disney Why? Because it wasn’t discovered until 1994 that downtown Fort Collins was a huge inspiration for Harper Goff, the artist who designed Disneyland’s Main Street USA. Harper Goff spent his childhood in Fort Collins and when it came time to create nostalgia in physical form, he based it upon our city. Walt Disney first looked to his hometown of Marceline, Missouri for the design, but the more ornate Victorian, and slightly taller buildings in Fort Collins provided a good portion of the appearance he wanted. If you want to know more about Harper Goff, a new book written by Fort Collins local Chad Van Derrick is due to be released this year in celebration of Disneyland’s 60th anniversary. It will make great reading for next year’s National Reading Month or before. Here are 10 Fort Collins features used as inspiration for Disneyland. Some are gone, others transformed, but take a walk (or bike ride or drive) around town and you may feel the urge to look for mouse ears.

  1. The Firehouse on Walnut Street, built 1883. Easily recognizable. The Firehouse in Disneyland looks like its twin.
  2. Old Main, CSU. Burned down in 1970.
  3. Fort Collins Trolley. In 1977 a group of volunteers started restoring Car 21 and today, you can travel up and down Mountain Avenue in the historic car.
  4. Poudre Valley Bank, Linden and Walnut. Now home to Nature’s Own among other shops.
  5. Colorado & Southern Passenger Depot, stood at the intersection of Mason and Laporte, built 1899. Torn down in 1952.
  6. Jefferson Street Block, 1879-1881. The main business center of Fort Collins in the 1880’s.
  7. Miller block of Old Town Square, 1888-1894.
  8. Roundabout grassy median, previously intersection of Laporte and College Ave. Richard Francaviglia, author of Main Street Revisited, commented in 1994 on the similarity between this old streetscape and the entrance to Main Street USA.
  9. Larimer County Courthouse, 1888. Demolished to make way for the new Larimer County Courthouse, currently at 200 W Oak. Inspired Disney’s City Hall.
  10. Hottel House, 1883-1962, 215 South College. Italian style architecture, with a double octagon front, surmounted by a beautiful observatory with stained glass windows.

What parts of Fort Collins give you a good dose of Main Street USA nostalgia? For more information and pictures visit these sites: http://history.fcgov.com/archive/legends/disney.php http://forgottenfortcollins.com/historic-mason-street http://www.coloradoinfo.com/fortcollins/historicjourney

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