The Fort Collins Museum of Discovery presents living history with Culture in the Courtyard

Julia Trowbridge

Every third Sunday of the month during the summer, the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery opens up the Heritage Courtyard on 200 Matthews St. This exhibit, called Culture in the Courtyard, features volunteers and employees of the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery, some dressed as the early settlers who owned the houses showcased, who inform viewers of the origins of the buildings and the people who lived there.

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A bookshelf in the corner of the Upper Boxelder Schoolhouse, which was built in 1905 (Julia Trowbridge | Collegian)

“Antoine Janis was the first settler in Fort Collins,” said Jeff Stone, dressed as the first French settler in Fort Collins. “Janis saw the land and claimed ‘this is the most beautiful place on earth,’ and the Arapaho tribe gifted him land to build the first house in Fort Collins.”

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The Joseph Antoine Janis Cabin was built in 1859 by a French-American trader, who claimed the land of Fort Collins was the most beautiful place he had ever seen (Julia Trowbridge | Collegian)

Jeff Stone continued to relay Antoine Janis’s story. In the late 1870s, when the natives were forced to reservations, Antoine Janis was offered a choice: either divorce his wife, who was a medicine woman in the Arapaho tribe, and stay in the town, or to move to the reservation with his wife and family. He chose to go with his wife.

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Jeff Stone, dressed as Antoine Janis, tells Janis's story as the citizens of Fort Collins view one of the first buildings in Fort Collins (Julia Trowbridge | Collegian)

The courtyard also featured the home of “Auntie” Elizabeth Stone, a supporter of women’s suffrage, which was a building of many purposes. This home was originally located on Mason Street, and was moved to the Heritage Courtyard as the only building from Fort Collins’ years as a military post.

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The multi- purposed building, owned by "Auntie" Elizabeth Stone, was the beginning of the town that came to be Fort Collins and the only building from Fort Collins' years as a military post (Julia Trowbridge | Collegian)

“Elizabeth Stone’s house was not only her private residence, but a mess hall for military officers, a school house and eventually the first hotel in Fort Collins,” said Ethan Raath, a public historian and a volunteer with the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery. “This building was really the beginning of the town of Fort Collins.”

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The multi- purposed building, owned by "Auntie" Elizabeth Stone, was the beginning of the town that came to be Fort Collins and the only building from Fort Collins' years as a military post (Julia Trowbridge | Collegian)

The Franz and Smith house, another early residence placed in the courtyard, was originally built in the area of Harmony and Shields, and was moved to the courtyard to be preserved historically.

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The Franz- Smith house, first owned by the Franz family in 1882, and then bought and renovated by the Smith family in the early 1900's (Julia Trowbridge | Collegian)

“The first residents here were Henry and Caroline Franz, who were German settlers from Russia,” said Angela Kettle, a public programs assistant at the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery. “The Franz family were sugar and beet farmers. The following residents from this building, the Smith family, farmed cattle and sheep, and added more of the modern comforts, like electricity, that can be seen today.”

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The Franz- Smith house, first owned by the Franz family in 1882, and then bought and renovated by the Smith family in the early 1900's (Julia Trowbridge | Collegian)

The courtyard gives the public the opportunity to learn about Fort Collins’ history.

“The Fort Collins Museum of Discovery opens the courtyard to the public so the citizens of Fort Collins can experience living history,” Kettle said. “The cabins were moved from their original locations and placed here in the Heritage District so people can see what the city used to look like.”

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A look into the Upper Boxelder Schoolhouse, which was built in 1905 (Julia Trowbridge | Collegian)

The Culture in the Courtyard exhibit next month is on July 16 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. The event will feature homemade ice cream for National Ice Cream Day.

Collegian Reporter Julia Trowbridge can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com.