Mason and Hottel Mill Race

The first agricultural diversions from the Poudre supported crop production in the vicinity, but early town residents quickly recognized the river’s potential for supporting industrial activity as well. Industrial use of water for commercial production began in Fort Collins in 1869 at the Lindell Mill, the first flour mill in the region, which was constructed by two of the city’s earliest residents, Elizabeth “Auntie” Stone and Henry Peterson. The mill structure stood at Willow Street and Linden Avenue at the present-day Ranch-Way Feeds facility. The flour milling operation relied on water drawn from the Poudre River at a location west of College Avenue and carried to the building via a 1.5-mile open channel mill race that required two years to construct. The ditch was 13.5 feet wide and 18 inches deep and provided a drop of four feet to the mile to move the water by swift gravity flow. After passing through the wooden flume at the mill, the water re-entered the river near the present-day Lincoln Avenue bridge. The mill race, like ditches used to bring water to crops, became a multi-use water source in an era when the town lacked full water services. Stories exist of area residents going to the mill race to do their laundry and to skate on its frozen surface in the winter.

While the headgate and mill race location changed periodically during the years of operation due to post-flood reconstructions and the development of rail lines in the area, maps from the early twentieth century indicate that the mill race headgate diverted water from the Poudre River from an area due north of Loomis Street and carried it southeast through the present-day Lee Martinez Park, across College north of Cherry Street, and then southeast down Willow Street to the Linden Avenue intersection. A concrete structure thought to be either the original headgate or a later replacement is still visible at the location in an area adjacent to the Poudre River Trail. After several changes in ownership, including a period from 1873 to 1885 when local businessmen Joseph Mason and Benjamin Hottel owned the mill, the Colorado Milling and Elevator Company converted the mill to electric power in 1919, thus ending a fifty-year period of river water-powered production at the site. Because the mill race was abandoned, its presence on the landscape slowly faded as it was filled in during the following decades.1

  1. Tatanka Historical Associates, Inc. “Historic Structures Along the Cache La Poudre River Corridor, Mulberry Street to Shields Street” (Fort Collins, December 27, 2013); Jason Marmor, “Historic Contexts for the Old Fort Site, Fort Collins, Colorado, 1864-2002,” (Fort Collins, June 2002) .

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