Friday, May 27, 2011

Old Town Harperland USA rumor true! Take the tour and learn the story including the mysterious past of one it's building...

While on a Haunted History After Dark tour this last week, Becky and Hailey from Fort Collins (at left), really got into the Harperland USA spirit! Way to go girls!

As a Fort Collins historian, a lot of early settlers are my heroes. Their courage, tenacity and faith in something yet unseen, began a tradition of enterprise which continues today and helped make our wonderful town of Fort Collins what it is now.  Joe Mason, who Mason Street is named after, was the first sheriff, first postmaster, and first store owner. His Old Grout sutler store, where Green Logic is now on the corner of Linden and Jefferson, provided supplies to the cavalry which was stationed across the street in the 1860’s. Before his death in 1881, he suffered many setbacks and disappointments, but he kept on and is called “The Father of Fort Collins.”  William Stover, one of the two famous Stover brothers, started the second bank in Fort Collins, along with Charles Sheldon,  with only a borrowed safe and a desk on Linden Street in the 1870’s. It is now well known as Poudre Valley Bank.  But, one of my most admired heroes is a boy born right here in Fort Collins in March of 1911, and christened the name Ralph Harper Goff. So, for you new and old timers to Fort Collins history who already know the story…dust off those black eared-caps, hold tight to your Tinkerbell wand, and relive the story for those new comers to this magical tale.
Picture this. A boy is born in the late winter of 1911, Fort Collins, Colorado.  His father runs the local newspaper, the Express, which at the time was located above where La Creperie is now, at the corner of Mountain and Mason.  As a boy, Harper sits in the offices of the Express above Mason Street, watching as his father adjusts and reorganizes important news of the day, as the Colorado and Central Railroad tumultuously and noisily rumbles its way through town below. Harper exhibits enormous artistic talent as a young adult, and when the family relocated to California, Harper attends an art institute.  His talent provides him opportunities as an illustrator for Esquire and National Geographic. Eventually, this home town boy is using his talents as set director for such mega hits as Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Casablanca, and the African Queen, as well as designing the Nautilus for 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
Picture This. Bassett-Lowke Ltd. Shop in London, 1951. Our home town born and raised, Harper Goff, but now very famous, is visiting this shop.  Perusing model trains which remind him of the Colorado and Central that brought back memories of his youth in Fort Collins, Colorado, he reaches for a model train.  Another man is interested in that same model. Harper looks to see it is none other than Mr. Walt Disney himself.  Recognizing Harper’s talent, Disney asks him if he might be interested in helping him design a theme park he is trying to get started in Anaheim, California. Harper agrees.
Harper eventually took photographs and used 10 structures in Fort Collins as the models for Main Street U.S.A. for Disneyland. Out of those ten, only five survive in Fort Collins. Three of those surviving structures are on the Haunted History After Dark tours.
Learn about all of these buildings and how one of those undisclosed and mysterious structures, was “THE place to be seen…” in the 1880’s and according to ghost whisperer, Grace, it wasn’t candy corn and tickets to the Tea Cup ride they were sellin’ at this location!
Email hauntedhistoryafterdark@yahoo.com to book your reservation. Tours start at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday.

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