I try to get out for a walk every day. Though I'm not always able to pull it off (I missed two walks this week. :-\ ), when I do I'm often rewarded with cool sights. It's usually just a new bunch of flowers popping up, or the Virginia Creeper turning a bright crimson in the crisp autumn weather, but last week I walked by a house that I often venture past and saw something new. Well, actually it was old, but I'd never seen it there before. ... Thought I'd share. :-)
Last year my son and I flew to Seattle to attend the Brickcon convention. I haven't played with Lego bricks since I was a kid, but my son is an addict and since he was having a rough year, we thought it might encourage him to be surrounded by his passion for a weekend. But when I went and saw all of the MOCs (My Own Creations), with their whimsy and attention to detail, I decided that I wanted to give it a go myself. So I've been thinking all year about what I would build. I finally decided to recreate the Old Firehouse in Old Town in Lego. (The High Park fire and the use of the Old Firehouse on fundraising flyers kind of tipped my hand in that direction.)
I've been posting about the building process on my other blog - (usually barefoot)meg - if you'd like to read up on how it was done. I learned a lot about approximating a look rather than getting all of the details exactly right. And I learned a bit about the history of the building. (It was built in two sections. The west side from the tower over was built in 1881. The east side was added on in 1901. That's why the architectural details are similar, but different.)
My MOC was on display this past weekend at Brickcon 2012, in the Architecture section. It was rather small compared to the skyscrapers to the left of it and the Rialto Bridge and Venice to the right, but I tried to make the building to scale (one Lego stud across is approximately equivalent to one foot across) and it had to fit into my carry-on luggage on the airplane.
Because the building is not something most people (any people?) at Brickcon would be familiar with, I included photos of the building as it is now and as it was 100 years ago.
Before I left for Seattle I had my friend, Penny, take a few photos of me in from of the Old Firehouse. In my left hand is the building shown above. In my right hand is a micro-version of the building. I'm hoping that both of these will be on display at Old Firehouse books soon.
lol! I just now noticed, as I look at the photo above, that there's a bike parked in front of the building in the exact same spot that there's a bike parked in the model. OK, so there's no bike rack there like there is in the model, but it's still kinda cool (if you're easily amused, like I am).
Once the model is on display, I'll post something to the site about it so you'll know to head down and check it out. One of the gals at the shop said they'll probably surround the MOC with books on Lego building, so it would be a great time to take your Lego loving kids down and pick up a few books.
My son was a part of the first 6th grade class to attend Lincoln Middle School 4 years ago when the change-over happened from junior highs to middle schools. The following year (when he was a 7th grader), several parents and I started up the first PTO (Parent/Teacher Organization) at the school in at least a decade and probably longer. Part of starting up a PTO is also starting up fundraisers. We brainstormed for ways to make fundraising fun and eventually settled on holding a silent auction and beer tasting event. (We even had a controversial article about the event published in the Coloradoan. I'd put a link here, but the Coloradoan has apparently pulled the article. So much for archiving, eh?) As we planned this event, we tried to work out a means of drawing in the community at large. Lincoln has been around for a long time (It's the longest running middle years school in the city of Fort Collins) and there are a lot of Lincoln alumni who we hoped to call upon. We wondered if we could hold an anniversary event. What if the school was at its 100th year anniversary? Wouldn't that be a great way to publicize our event?
So I started to do some research. (I love that sort of thing.) I dug around online. I pulled out old notebooks at the school. I read through books on Fort Collins history at the library. I even went to the district records office and asked to look through the Board of Education minutes for the early years. What I finally decided is that history is slippery. After all that research, all I can really say with absolute certainty is that the Fort Collins Junior High School (which is what Lincoln Middle School was originally named) probably started some time in the early 20s, although it's possible that the junior high started as late as 1928. In some ways I find this lack of precision incredibly infuriating, but in other ways, it's really, really interesting that such a simple and basic detail could be so lost to us only 90-ish years after the fact. Given that the Fort Collins Junior High was the only junior high in the entire city, that it was the first ever junior high in the city, and that it was at the forefront of a movement across the United States involving this new concept of even having a junior high, it's pretty likely that almost every citizen of Fort Collins knew, at the time, when the junior high first started. This wasn't hidden knowledge. It was right out in the open, for all to know. And yet here we are, not even a century later, and I can't find anyone who can, with any certainty, give me the date of when the school started. So instead, here are some possibilities. I suppose you can take your pick from among them as to when the school started.
Public high schools were a pretty new concept in the late 1800s when Fort Collins, rather progressively, determined that it would create a 4 year program, starting in 1889, that would be known as the Fort Collins High School. FCHS originally met, along with the rest of the grades, in the Franklin school at the corner of West Mountain and Howes (currently a parking lot, previously a grocery store). The high school met upstairs and the rest of the grades used the rest of the building. In 1903, the high school was moved to a new building on Meldrum, between Magnolia and Mulberry. But many of the other grades moved along with them. The fact that there was a distinct "school" called the high school, but there was also several other grades in the same building, is partly why things remain rather murky when it comes to pinning down an exact start date for the junior high (and for the first elementary school as well).
There seems to be only anecdotal evidence as to when the Fort Collins Junior High actually got under way. I had hoped, when going to the district records department, that I could find the minutes for when the Board of Education definitively declared that the junior high was a separate entity from the rest of the grade school. But the only documents that I could find from that time period had to do with the purchase of the property and the construction of the building on Remington, where the high school moved to in 1924. So here are the bits and pieces that I have been able to cobble together. (Fort Collins Junior High changed its name to Lincoln Junior High in 1939, so FCJH and Lincoln are synonymous.)
According to this Fort Collins History Connection page, when the Fort Collins High School moved to its location on Remington Street in late 1924, the building on Meldrum (where the current Lincoln Center is located) became the Fort Collins Junior High School.
When the Lincoln students moved out of the building on Meldrum and into the school's current location on Lancer Drive, they created a booklet in which stories were recorded from the old building's point of view. Though faculty and students that worked on the booklet are listed, specific details aren't sourced. But in the booklet, entitled Memories of an old friend: Fort Collins Lincoln Junior High, there are two references to junior high aged students. As the "school" reminisces about its first 25 years of "life," it describes highlights for each year. In 1924, it says, "Home Economics thrived under the direction of Margaret Ross Portner. The 6th, 7th, and 8th grades were required to learn homemaking. They even made muslin underwear." The fact that the grades are listed, rather than just lumping them together as the junior high, would indicate to me that the junior high hadn't been created yet. The booklet further supports that assumption by stating, in the year 1928 (the last year listed in the booklet) that, "My Fort Collins Junior High is now departmentalized. I try to keep up with the newest educational trends." Which, to be honest, doesn't shed a whole ton more light on the issue as it is "now" departmentalized implying that it was Something before this time. But what was it? Was it a junior high in name only until it was departmentalized? (And if it's called a junior high, is that enough to say that it is a junior high?)
In Robert Pike's history of Fort Collins High School, he mentions the junior high a couple of times. On page 11 he writes, "The building [on Meldrum Street] was occupied as a high school until the fall of 1925 when the high school was moved to a new building at 1400 Remington. It then became known as Fort Collins Junior High School." On page 15 he writes, "Friday, May 9, 1924, was a cold, windy day in Fort Collins. However it failed to dampen the spirit, excitement and enthusiasm of the large audience that witnessed the laying of the cornerstone to the new $400,000 Fort Collins High School building.... High school and junior high had been dismissed for the occasion." What?!!! That's the first and only mention I ever found of there being a junior high before the high schoolers had even moved to their new building. This again underscores the question, when can you say the junior high school started? When people started calling it a junior high school? Or when the school district organized a specific set of classes/departments specific to that level of school?
It would help if the junior high had been part of a grade school elsewhere and then packed up and moved into the high school building when it was vacated. Then perhaps you could say that the 7th and 8th graders were grade school students one year and clearly junior high students the next. But in both the Franklin building and the building on Meldrum, several grades were present in addition to the high school. In Robert Pike's book, he quotes the Fort Colins Express as having said in 1903, "The first floor will be occupied by the grades: Miss Goldsborough will have the northeast room with the seventh; Miss Welch the northwest with the sixth and fifth; Miss Thompson the southeast with fourth and Miss Smeigh the southwest with the third."
The very fact that the school building never had a name of its own, but was called the Fort Collins High School from 1903 - 1924 and was called the Fort Collins Junior High after makes it hard to know if the junior high began when the high school moved out, or if it had existed prior to that but was unnamed because the high schoolers had already claimed the building's name.
I think that if I had to come up with a specific date, I'd probably say that the junior high started in '25, just because it's a year that comes up fairly frequently in anecdotal references. But I suspect that folks were using the term before that. Perhaps as early as the 1920 or 21? (The first junior high in America was established in 1910 in Berkeley, California. So the term had been floating around educational circles for awhile at this point.)
In the end, though Lincoln is the oldest middle years school in town, it's very hard for them to toot their horn about that because they can't definitively say when they began. That leaves anniversary-type fundraising pretty open ended. I can see the entryway banners now, "Lincoln Junior High/Middle School. A Fort Collins Tradition for 90-ish some years."
I have seen copies of Memories of an old friend: Fort Collins Lincoln Junior High in the Lincoln Middle School library as well as among documents stored at the district records office.
Pike, Robert H., M.D. Home of the Champions: The History of Fort Collins High School, 1889-1989. Fort Collins, CO (403 Pitkin, Fort Collins 80524): Lambkin Enterprises, 1994. Copies can be found at both the Harmony and Main library.
The photos were all found online at http://history.fcgov.com.
The junior high student officers photo was taken by William Reddick Martin and was featured in the Fort Collins Express-Courier on February 9th, 1938 (one year before the school changed its name to Lincoln).
There's a new blog in town - Forgotten Fort Collins. Hopefully Maggie will pick up where Cat left off in her Lost Fort Collins blog. The most recent post is exactly the kind of stuff I love to read about. Maggie explored the story of the Miller family, the original owners of the house she lives in. It's a neat way of seeing the history of Fort Collins through the lens of one specific building and the family that lived in it.