On June 10, 1872, Edward Hollister received his land patent for an 80 acre parcel of land in the fertile valley known as Cache la Poudre Valley just west of what is now known as downtown Windsor. Once deemed as a “hinterland” between Greeley and Fort Collins, Hollister is known as the founder of Windsor. He along with his family became large landowners and was one of a handful of dry-land farmers and stock raisers in this booming section of northern Colorado.
Ideally located between Fort Collins and Greeley, the actual town site of Windsor developed primarily because of irrigation and railroads. Additionally, the town was served by a man-made reservoir just to the north of the downtown area first known as Lake Hollister and then later as Kern Reservoir or Windsor Lake. The lake was the source of irrigation for many Windsor area farmers. In 1891 the Lake Supply Ditch Company used Windsor Lake as a resource to ship over 1,500 tons of ice to use for refrigerated box cars or to sell to city’s icehouses.
The lake was a vital source of ice for Denver and the railroads until the evolution of mechanically produced ice.
While irrigation for the farmers was readily available, this new town had no reliable transportation in which to ship its bounty to market. In 1882 the Colorado Central Railroad (CC) with financial backing from the Union Pacific Railroad (UP) expanded into Northern Colorado under a variety of names. That same year the town was named for the Rev. Samuel Asa Windsor, a visiting pastor from Fort Collins. Today the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway maintains the railroad through Windsor.
In January 1890, Otis Hill and Harry Teller formed the Windsor Mercantile Company. By the end of the decade the store had built the largest retail business block in town. Anotherinfluential commercial developer in that time period of early Windsor was John M. Cobbs who developed one of the most prosperous cattle feeding operations in Weld County. Cobbs invested his profits into Windsor’s commercial development and is responsible for many of its existing commercial storefronts.
Windsor officially became an incorporated town on April 2, 1890 and consisted of everything south of the railroad to Locus Street and First Street west to West Street. The first meeting of the town board occurred on April 30 of that same year and consisted of Union Colony pioneers and prominent businessmen. The town continued to grow and mature steadily into the turn of the 20th century as a center of local commerce and agricultural processing. Windsor posted impressive shipping statistics with the Greeley, Salt Lake & Pacific and later Colorado & Southern Railroads for agricultural produce, particularly grain and potatoes, as well as passenger receipts. During this time period consumers stated that Windsor offered “everything one could ever want” in a small town.
By 1900 tariffs on foreign sugar had created a market for new sources of sugar. Windsor-area farmers planted sugar beets and shipped them to a Loveland factory, the first in Northern Colorado. This added to the town’s prosperity thusly increasing investments into the downtown area.
Sugar beets, however, required large numbers of “stoop laborers. “ The sugar beet factories were desperate to find cheap but reliable laborers, a need that was met by German imm
t the Germans from Russia and their large families and incredible work ethic, the sugar beet industry would have been very hard pressed to find the necessary labor to igrants from Russia who had settled in Nebraska and Kansas. In 1902, the sugar factories brought hundreds of families of Volga Russian descent to Northern Colorado.
Without the work in the beet fields. Moreover, these immigrants would achieve financial success within one generation and own the highest producing beet farms. Many second and third-generation people of German origin still reside in Windsor, including some of the most prominent farmers, livestock feeders, merchants and professional business leaders.
The 1910 U.S. Census indicated that 569 of Windsor’s 1,780 residents identified themselves as Germans from Russia or the children of Germans from Russia. That number accounted for nearly one-third of the town’s entire population (By 1920 the percentage was even higher).
Unfortunately, due to decreased sugar beet acreage in this area, the Great Western Sugar Company closed in the mid-1960s. A few years later, however, Kodak opened a Windsor factory on the Great Western Sugar Company’s site to establish its Colorado headquarters. Kodak Colorado became Eastman Kodak’s major manufacturing facility and was one of the single largest employers in northern Colorado. By 1980, Kodak Colorado Division employed 3,000 people, 85% of whom the corporation hired locally. Moreover, Kodak assumed an active role in dealing with the growing pains that inevitably happened because of the arrival of a large industry. To that end, the Windsor Chamber of Commerce led the effort to revive downtown. It appointed a Main Street committee to research, plan and implement the revitalization of the central business district.
Kodak’s influence spurred economic development and a population surge in the community. Because of the today’s digital world, however, Kodak Colorado’s plant was forced to significantly downsize. Since that time, Windsor has drawn new industry and businesses such as Hexcel and Ice Energy, Vestas, an international and state-of-the art turbine factory, commercial and residential development such as Water Valley, and many other local retail and professional businesses. With a current population according to the 2010 Census of 18,644 people, this thriving, growing and progressive community is located in the heart of Northern Colorado and is an ideal environment in which to start a new business, raise a family, retire, or just play and explore the beautiful Rocky Mountains. Windsor represents “quality of life” at its finest.
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