Archive for June 14th, 2010

From the Archive: City directories are swell!

by Lesley Drayton, Curator, Fort Collins Local History Archive

Did you know that the Fort Collins Local History Archive has a nearly complete set of Fort Collins city directories dating from 1903 to 2008 in its collection, and that these books contain an incredible amount information?

What are city directories, you ask? Well, they’re similar to phone books but the oldest ones pre-date phones and have a lot more personal information about local residents. They are fantastic if you are trying to research a particular person or family in Fort Collins.

For instance, check out this section from page 112 from this 1908 Fort Collins city directory:

You can see a business listing for Owl Drug Store on 100 East Mountain Avenue, and find out that Fred Ottmar was a shoemaker on North College Avenue, and that Bertha Owen was an ironer at Wheeler Laundry….and the information goes on and on. Many researchers will use city directories to trace a certain person through time, discovering what they were doing and where they were living in Fort Collins in the past.

One of the best characteristics about most city directories is that they contain reverse listings, meaning you can look up a particular street and find out who lived at each address. This is great information if you are doing research on your house and want to find out more about past occupants. Here you can see all the residents along North Sherwood Street in 1908:

Many city directories also feature advertisements, maps, listings for rural residents, and business rosters. Suppose you needed a livery stable in 1908…here are your local options:

Finally, the Fort Collins Local History Archive has many digitized city directories available for your perusal on the Fort Collins History Connection website. Try “flipping” through the digitized directories page by page and see what you discover!

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