The Loveland Museum and Art Gallery, a combination history and art museum, in Loveland, Colorado reminds me once again why I enjoy visiting museums. Before my recent visit, I knew nothing about the history of north-central Colorado. The Loveland Museum/Gallery is the place to learn about the area’s local history as well as see some stunning artworks. Without it, I don’t think that I would have ever even known about how the local area came to be.
The history portion of the museum tells much of the story of the Loveland’s sugar beet processing industry. The Great Western Sugar Company’s factory was built in 1901 and remained open until 1985. For years Loveland was a one-industry community. Sugar beets are grown throughout Colorado’s Front Range plains, so it makes sense that the industry would pick a central location like Loveland to process the beets from which sugar is manufactured. The Great Western Railway, a subsidiary of the sugar company, was formed in 1901 to serve the growing sugar beet industry. Excellent stationary displays demonstrate what working in the local sugar beet industry was like.
The museum and Loveland, however, have more to tell than just the story of the local sugar beet industry. This museum is a trip back in time for those of us who are curious about what life was like in Loveland, Colorado in the late 19th to early 20th century as well as those of us who are interested in more recent local events that impacted the Loveland area. A large relief map shows the area affected by the tragic Big Thompson flood that occurred on July 31st, 1976. The flood, caused by a stalled storm that dumped twelve inches of rain in four hours, killed 145 people.
The museum was founded in 1919, so its displays cover many aspects of local life. More important than just the objects in the collection, however, are the stories behind them. One display tells the story of the Proctor Alabaster Gift Shop. The Proctors opened their gift shop in 1936 to sell pieces they made from alabaster found in a quarry located at Owl Creek northwest of Fort Collins. They stayed in business until the early 1970s.
The museum also has displays depicting the life of local mountain man, Mariano Medina, an early settler in the Loveland area, the Loveland Fire Department, and the Loveland House, a hotel built in 1878 that welcomed out-of-town travelers to the newly founded town.
And that is only a partial description of the many separate history exhibits that the museum has.
The museum also has three art galleries that change displays about every eight to twelve weeks. When I visited, I saw stunning works done by local artists, and I saw a special exhibit of Jeannine LeCompte’s teacup collection. The display known as “Design To A Tea” has china dating back to the 1700s. This display ends on July 1st, 2012, and will be replaced by another rotating exhibit, but is indicative of the high quality exhibits that this museum strives to, and does, have. The changing exhibits are exactly the reason why I have visited this museum twice over a two-month period.
The tour of the history section is free of charge, while the art section admission fee is five dollars–money well invested I should add.
Allow about two hours for your visit to this excellent museum. You will want to take in the amazing art exhibits and you will want to take the time to read the informative and educational posters in the history section.