What’s the Story Behind This Iconic Fort Collins Building?
Old Town Fort Collins is filled with personality. From charming bungalows to 150-year-old buildings with fading ghost signs, much of the city's original architecture has remained unchanged and intact throughout time.
One example of an iconic Old Town building is the structure that sits at 133 Mathews Street. The interesting, bright white building with bold blue letters stands out among the other brown, brick facades on the block - but what's the history behind this local landmark?
This historic building was constructed in 1947 in the Art Moderne (Streamline Modern) style. This architectural fad featured aerodynamic designs that emphasized curving forms, long horizontal lines, rounded corners, flat roofs, horizontal bands of windows, and smooth walls with no ornamentation. Walt Kuhn Brickmasons supplied the pumice block that was used for the construction of this distinct Colorado structure.
According to a local architectural historian, the property's first owner was R. L Norton, who owned Norton Food Lockers. Norton opened his meat-based business on Mathews Street on October 1, 1947. The Frozen Food Center offered 800 all-steel frozen food lockers for rent, butchering and processing services for meat and game, and also sold frozen food products such as quarters/halves of beef. The business was helpful to families in the Fort Collins community who could not afford to have a freezer at home, especially during hunting season when people needed somewhere to store full elk or deer carcasses. Those who used to visit the Frozen Food Center have memories of how cold it was inside, which was an excuse to stop in during the summertime. Women could also store their fur coats here.
Norton's establishment served the Choice City for 10 years.
In 1957, the building was purchased by Don's Meat Company. It was business as usual for years, until 1966, when an unexplained explosion occurred on-site. The event caused two of the building's side doors to fly across the alley. Chunks of glass from the windows were embedded into the nearby fence and utility poles. To this day, the fire department doesn't know what caused the damaging explosion.
Many Fort Collins residents also remember when the Thyfault family took over ownership of the property. Former employees enjoyed their time working at the Old Town business. During Halloween one year, the owners set up a spooky haunted house inside the building.
A Reddit user explained that during the 90s and early 2000s, 133 Mathews Street housed a company that went around to dairies and bought their colostrum, dried it, and mixed it with whey and other ingredients to make a calf supplement. The business then distributed its products to other stores around the region.
From around 2018 to 2023, the building was converted into multiple one-bedroom apartments. On a Reddit thread, several people posted memories from when friends or they, themselves, lived in the unique Fort Collins rental. One former resident mentioned setting up lawn chairs above the sign and watching New West Fest happening down below.
Others remembered the units having radiator heat, as seen in the bathroom and living room photos below, courtesy of Zillow. At one point, rent was $475 a month, but eventually escalated to $1400 for the same space.
The property is currently owned by Opsand-McChensney Rentals and continues to operate as an apartment complex.
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Gallery Credit: Matt Sparx