How Do I Research My Property?
Connecting with your property's past can be one of the most exciting parts of owning an historic building or place. When you research your property, you can learn about the people who lived there previously, the events or trends in Fort Collins history that may have a connection to your property, and information about the design and construction of the place.
Below are some resources to help you dive into the story of your place.
Step By Step Guide
Step 1: Look at City Directories to find the occupants of the building
The directories, at the Archive at Fort Collins Museum of Discovery (FCMoD), are available for most years from 1902-present and often include all of Larimer County. They are indexed alphabetically by name, business, and street address. Look at the section where they list the streets and find your address. It will tell you who lived there, their occupations, and names of children, and the business owners. There are a few directories that do not have listings by streets: 1904, 1906, 1907, and 1934. Digitized directories for 1902-2005 may be viewed online.
Step 2: Look for information in the Local History Reference Books
Five books provide major information on Fort Collins' people/buildings: Fort Collins Yesterdays, Ranch Histories of Livermore and Vicinity, and the three Larimer County history books: History of Larimer County 1911, 1985, and 1987.
Step 3: Look for information on the Fort Collins History Connection site
There is information about your building and its occupants in the Archive at FCMoD Building Databases online.
Step 4: Look for your occupant's names in Cemetery Records
Grandview and Roselawn Cemeteries' Records list name, age, and date of burial online and in book form (978.868 Cemeteries section of the Archive Reference Books at the Archive at FCMoD). When you find the date of burial, you can usually find an obituary in the microfilmed newspaper dated 3-4 days before the burial date. These obituaries can provide significant historical information about the residents/owners of your building.
Step 5: Look for the architectural type or style of your building
In A Field Guide to Colorado's Architecture and Engineering, you will find the style of architecture of your building. Additionally, there are other architectural style reference books (720 to 728 section of the Reference Books at the Archive at FCMoD). If you're not sure, feel free to contact the Historic Preservation Division and we can help you identify the architectural style or type of your building.
Step 6: Search the Tax Assessor Records
The Archive at FCMoD has a partial collection of Larimer County tax records dating from the 1940s to the 2000s with information and photographs of the property. Patrons need an address or legal location (township, range, and quarter section) to access these records. Many photographs from the 1948 and 1968 records are available in the Fort Collins History Connection Tax Assessor Database and through the Larimer County Tax Assessor site online.
Step 7: Look at the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps
These maps primarily depict the Old Town and early residential areas of Fort Collins during the years of 1886, 1891, 1895, 1901, 1906, 1909, 1917, 1925, and 1961 and are available at the Archive at FCMoD or online through the Poudre River Public Library District website.
Step 8: Look at the early newspaper indexes online and the Coloradoan newspaper card index from 1979-1987
Microfilmed Fort Collins newspapers 1874 and 1878-present, Wellington Sun, and Triangle Review are also available at the Archive at FCMoD. See the Colorado Historic Newspaper Project for early Fort Collins newspapers online.
Historic Building Contexts, Surveys, and Historic Designations -- Provide historical and architectural data on various residential, commercial, industrial, and agricultural buildings in Fort Collins. Often include title chains of the buildings, as well as biographical information on the owners. Available at the Historic Preservation Division, the Archive at FCMoD, and some context/survey copies in Library Non-Fiction for check-out (978.868).
Subject Vertical Files -- Buildings, Dwellings, Streets, Architects and Builders -- files provide newspaper clippings, reports, and other documents pertaining to the history of local properties.
Building Permit Records -- Database provides addresses and construction dates from January 1920-August 1954.
Building Records -- An incomplete database of building records that appeared in the newspapers at the end of each year. They give the location of new construction and often the name of the owner, architect, or builder. These records span the time period from 1878 to 1956. They are not available for every year.
Tax Assessor Records -- include partial collection of Larimer County tax records dating from the 1940s to the 2000s with information, drawings, and photographs of the property.
Historic Photograph Collections -- Date from 1860s-present and include Larimer County and Fort Collins' businesses, residences, events, street scenes, and individuals. The photographs are filed by subject and person.
Historical Maps -- Look at the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps in the Archive at FCMoD and online that primarily depict Old Town and early residential areas of Fort Collins during the years of 1886, 1891, 1895, 1901, 1906, 1909, 1925, 1943. (1961 is only in the Archive.) Maps from 1894, 1914, 1915, 1929, and 1940, and atlases from 1956, 1959, 1963, 1968, and 1974 show property ownership.
Newspapers -- The Archive at FCMoD provides subject and biographical indexes for Fort Collins papers dating from 1874-1909 and 1975-1979. Some of these have been entered into their online database. There is a 1979-1987 card index in the Library Reference area with Microfilm of the Fort Collins newspapers 1874 and 1878-present, the Wellington Sun and the Triangle Review. See book indexes to Wellington Sun by A. Gonzales. The six Miller Scrapbooks and indexes provide excerpts of early newspaper articles. The Colorado Newspaper Digitization Project provides Fort Collins newspapers from 1874 and 1878-1923 online. 1999-present Fort Collins Coloradoan(without photographs) is in the Library's ProQuest Database.
Architectural Style -- The Colorado Historical Society provides A Field Guide to Colorado's Architecture and Engineering online. Other architectural style books are in the Archive at FCMoD and 720-728 sections of the Reference and Non-Fiction areas of the library.
City Directories -- The directories are available for most years from 1902-present and often include all of Larimer County. They are indexed alphabetically by name, business, and street address. Look at the section, where they list the streets and find your address. Many will tell you who lived there, their occupations, and names of children, and the business owners. There are a few directories that do not have the listings by streets - the 1904, 1906, 1907, and 1934. Digitized directories for 1902-2005 are online.
Biographical Vertical Files -- Alphabetical files of people that contain newspaper clippings, reports, and other documents; some of these files have been scanned and are online.
Special Collections -- Include written materials, photographs, scrapbooks, and other items that pertain to a particular family, business, organization, or government entity. These collections are housed at the Archive at FCMoD and often contain primary source materials that offer unique views into local history.
Local History Reference Books -- Five major books provide information on Fort Collins' people/buildings in the Archive at FCMoD and Library: Fort Collins, Yesterdays, Ranch Histories of Livermore and Vicinity (Non-Fiction and Reference 978.868) and three Larimer County history books (History of Larimer County 1911, 1985, and 1987 on Non-Fiction, Oversize, and Reference Shelves 978.8). There are separate indexes for Fort Collins Yesterdays and History of Larimer County 1911 that are filed with the books. Yearbooks from CSU and local schools are available in the Archive at FCMoD from 1895-present, depending on the school.
Cemetery and Obituary Records -- Fort Collins' Grandview and Roselawn Cemeteries' Records list name, age, and date of burial online and in book form (978.868 Cemeteries). When you find the date of burial, you can usually find an obituary in the microfilmed newspaper dated 3-4 days before the burial date. The obituaries can provide significant historical information about the residents/owners of your building. Copies of the obituaries are available at the Archive at FCMoD (1977-October 2012) and Library (1977-present). The Fort Collins Coloradoan newspaper obituaries (without the photographs from 1999-present) are in the Library's online ProQuest Database.
Oral History Transcripts -- Approximately 300 verbatim transcripts of interviews are available in the Archive at FCMoD and for check-out in the Library. Some have been scanned and are online.
Other Local History Sources
The offices of Tax Assessor and County Clerk and Recorder (200 W. Oak) provide information on tax assessments (the Assessors' office) and marriage records, deed, mortgages, and sales (the Clerk's office) that pertain to people and property from the 1860s-present. These will reveal who owned the property and for how long, how much the property cost, and can give valuable information about the homeowner of the deeds that have been filed on the property. Deeds are indexed by the names of the seller (grantor) and the buyer (grantee), so start with the most recent owner and transaction and work back through the years. When trying to determine the year a building was erected, there are a number of clues to look for. For example, a sizable increase in price from one transaction to the next suggests that there was some capital improvement on the land. Also, a large increase in the property taxes assessed suggests that some major improvement took place. Additionally, will, probate records, and court litigation that may involve the property are filed with the District Court which is on the second floor of the Courthouse, 201 Laporte.
It is possible to have a title company do this research for you by providing you with the abstract for the property. This is the legal history of the property including the warranty deeds and deeds of trust that are available at the county clerk's office.
Location of Resources
Historic Preservation Division, 281 N. College Avenue, Fort Collins, CO
The Archive at Fort Collins Museum of Discovery, 408 Mason Court, Fort Collins, CO
Poudre River Library District, 201 Peterson Street, Fort Collins, CO
CSU Library Archive, Morgan Library, Fort Collins, CO
History Colorado, 1200 Broadway Avenue, Denver, CO
Denver Public Library, 10 W 14th Avenue Parkway, Denver, CO