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NELSON FARM HISTORY
(combined from a 1995 report presented to the City of Fort Collins Planning Department and a 2002 utility bill insert)
John Nelson, one of the region's first and most successful dairy farmers, immigrated with his wife in 1871 from Ayrshire, Scotland, to the Fort Collins area. He purchased 240 acres just 3 1/2 miles southeast of town, near the present intersection of Lemay and Swallow, and built a house and planted wheat and oats. There was only prairie stretching in all directions.
Some believe the grasshopper plague of 1874-1876 persuaded Nelson to switch to dairying. He brought the first herd of registered Jersey cows into Larimer County. This was the county's first dairy business, and some historians say it was the first in the state.
Building on Nelson's success, other farmers began dairying operations as well. In the 20th century, a number of local dairies operated profitably, as milk production has remained an important industry.
In addition to his dairy operation, Nelson also raised Clydesdale horses for a time.
Around 1880, he built a sandstone milk house which has been preserved and is all that remains of the farm that once covered a large tract, including all of what is now the Foothills Fashion Mall. The Nelson Farm milk house is located on the southwest corner of Lemay and Swallow Streets, surrounded by suburban homes.
The City of Fort Collins received the building in 1978 as part of their historic preservation efforts. By 2000 the milk house needed a lot of attention. The City was awarded a $10,000 State Historical Fund grant which the Parks and Advance Planning Departments matched with $3,400.