Meeting at the Forks
The original Forks Hotel and Cafe was built by Robert O. Roberts in the winter of 1874 for loggers going back and forth from Fort Collins to Pingree Hill and then over the Divide to Steamboat Springs. It opened for business in March, 1875. The logs and rough timbers were hauled down from the mountains by Robert and his son George. The siding was shipped from St. Joseph, Missouri. Shingles were made by hand, and sheep's wool and hide was used to insulate the walls.
The opening was celebrated with a grand ball which lasted until the sun came up. The day's festivities included horse racing, shooting matches, and yarn spinning. Before the building was erected, emigrant trains, and rumbling covered wagons rolled past the site, often times stopping for a rest before beginning the tough climb up the hills towards Virginia Dale. When the Forks was opened in 1875, it truly became part of the moving landscape.
It was called "The Forks" because the old hotel and cafe were located at the fork of the road--one to Red Feather Lakes, the other, the Overland Trail (now US Highway 287), to Laramie, Wyoming.
In the early days, the frontier hotel and stage shop provided lodging as well as a post office, a place to vote, a reception hall for church servies, weddings, dances and balls, and a community center for the Livermore Valley. The second floor had ten tiny bedrooms for the weary traveler who arrived by horse or ox-drawn wagon. A little stone building on the back of the property was used as a sping house to keep butter and milk cool. A large barn, sheds, and corrals were provided for stock to be fed, watered, and sheltered.
In days gone by, "Meet you at the Forks" was a familiar remark when families would pile into the Model T and embark on a trip "to the mountains" on a Sunday afternoon. Two or more families would gather for the long drive to the hills, the cars forming a caravan. With the kids hanging out of the sides waving at the passersby, at least one dog on the running board, and bloated canvas water bags swinging along the side, the cars would travel at 25 miles per hour--or slower. Up through LaPorte, paralleling the old Overland Trail, along the gravel roads--it seemed like an endless trip. Finally ahead was the Forks. Everyone would pile out and stretch, the menfolk would kick the tires and check the radiators, the kids would play tag and get a drink, and the ladies would try to tame their windblown hair.
This historic 110 year old two-story wooden building was completely destroyed by fire on Friday the 13th of December, 1985. More than just a building went up in smoke. The Forks was a habit, a way of life, the community focal point of Livermore. It was a place where men with rough, work and weather-gnarled hands sat near the pot-bellied stove and sipped coffee, all the while swapping yarns about their times--good and bad. The Forks left behind a life time of colorful stories--the days when cowboys brought in their new-born calves to get warm, and when they sometimes rode their horse right through the front door. Local citizens and friends of The Forks were able to rebuild it on the same site led by the crusade of Derek Roberts, the great grandson of Robert who built it in 1874. In rebuilding, Derek tried to keep the structure as old-fashioned as possible--with at least one exception: the sheep wool insulation.
"The Forks: old-fashioned and rustic...
never fancy, but always friendly."
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