Have you ever noticed how interesting the building at 3713 Cleveland Ave (currently Thistle) is? Have you ever wondered what came first – the brick front or the house attached to the backside? Well stay on the line and we’ll tell you, no transfer necessary.
As the town of Wellington was developing in the early 1900s, there was an obvious need for a phone system. Ranchers and the North Poudre Irrigation Company had established two minimal, local telephone systems. In 1903 the Colorado Telephone Company, which operated the Fort Collins exchange, expanded the Wellington system and connected it with the Fort Collins switchboard, requiring the installation of a network of poles and wires. By the end of that year, 33 Wellington subscribers had accounts with the CTC. By the middle of 1904, it was apparent that Wellington needed its own local exchange and so a small false-front wood frame building was constructed on Lot 4 of Block 8. By August Wellington had its first switchboard and new lines installed and the system became operational.
In October of 1905, North Poudre Irrigation sold the lot to the Colorado Telephone Company and in 1906 the Board of Trustees approved an ordinance that provided the company with a 20-year franchise to operate. This allowed the firm to install numerous new poles and miles of wire to expand the system. By late 1910, 100 parties were subscribed to the Wellington telephone exchange.
In October of 1925, after being transferred to the Mountain States Telephone and Telegraph Company and doubling the number of subscribers to around 200, the decision was made to expand the building to house a more modern facility with the ability to handle future growth. The wood frame building that had been there for 20 years was moved to the back of the lot and in front of it the firm would then construct a one-story, 25’ X 25’ masonry building with a basement using the same type of brick as the new high school being built only a few blocks away. The building would house the exchange, with the attached wood frame building to the rear providing living quarters for the manager. After a $7,000 remodel, the exchange reopened in January 1926, capable of handling as many as 600 telephones.
Throughout the decades, the switchboard had been staffed primarily by young women in the community, but in 1939 it was announced that the exchange would shift over to a direct dial system. To accommodate the necessary equipment, a small brick building was built in the back of the lot occupied by the post office at that time. That lot is 3729 Cleveland Ave, the current home of North Poudre Irrigation, and that building is the small brick structure that still stands today. (I don’t know about you, but I’ve spent a long time trying to figure that one out!) Direct dial service went online in April 1940 and eventually, the local staff needed to operate the system was no longer needed as it became automated and centralized.
Little is known about the use of the building from the end of its tenure as a telephone company in the 1970s, however, it was likely rented to a series of tenants for commercial and residential purposes. In September 1972, the former exchange was sold to the Rocky Mountain Natural Gas Company which immediately started a $5,500 upgrade to the plumbing and electrical systems and a remodel to the storefront. The gas company firm remained there through at least 1980.
In more recent years, the rear of the building has continued to be leased to tenants as a residential property and the front has housed retail businesses such as The Tin Barn and Thistle, which opened in 2017. The property was purchased by Thistle owner – and Wellington Chamber of Commerce member – Kelly DeVries. In 2021 DeVries was one of more than 10 businesses on Main Street to receive the Main Street Open for Business Facade and Energy Grant enabled by SB-252, designed to:
- Increase property values and visual appeal
- Increase sales and revenues in re4habilitated buildings
- Reduce energy consumption and lower utility bills
- Increase job retention/creation.
The grant paid out over $550K in total. To qualify, businesses had to match 20% of the funds provided by DOLA, and all work had to be completed by June 30th, 2022. With the grant, DeVries and Thistle were able to get new windows, brick repointing, add solar panels, a new front door, new siding, new paint, and a new retainer wall along the side of the back portion of the building as well as a new mini-split heater/ac in the retail portion. It pays to be a member of the Wellington Colorado Main Street Program, and to be a Main Street business!!