A History of Sugar, Ice, and Hard Work in Downtown Windsor, Colorado

Just down the road from the new homes of Prairie Song lies the charming town of Windsor, Colorado, where a pioneering Colorado history can be seen at every corner. The history of Windsor is one of resilience, ingenuity, and an enduring spirit that has carried through to the modern day.

Windsor is steeped in our agricultural heritage and is a place built on hard work. The richness of life here is rooted in the farmland charm that Windsor is known for.

Downtown Windsor’s Origins as the Sugar Beet Capital

Windsor began as a stop on the Overland Wagon route, settled by a man named JL Hilton in 1873. The stop became known as the Halfway House and remained the midway point between Greeley and Fort Collins until it was made obsolete by the arrival of the Great Salt Lake and Pacific Railroad in 1882.

This railroad connected the established towns of Greeley and Fort Collins, and it also made possible the growth of farming in the area by simplifying the export of large amounts of crops. Many crops were farmed in Windsor, but perhaps none as fruitfully as the sugar beet.

Drawn by the promise of fertile soil and abundant sunshine, settlers flocked to Windsor, and sugar beets became a popular cash crop, a common story in northern Colorado towns.

With the establishment of the Great Western Sugar Company in 1903, Windsor flourished as the “Sugar Beet Capital of Colorado” until the company’s closure in 1966. The majority of the immigrants who came to Windsor to work at the Great Western Sugar Company were Germans from Russia, and their cultural influences can still be seen in the town today.

Walk Through History in Downtown Windsor

Take a stroll through the picturesque streets of downtown Windsor and you’ll encounter an array of historic buildings that stand as testaments to the town’s storied past.

The iconic Windsor Mill, with its weathered brick facade, stands as a beacon of the town’s enduring heritage and now serves as an event venue. Additional architectural treasures have been carefully preserved by the Windsor History Museum.

Windsor’s very first landmark historic site is the original Halfway House, which, along with the Dickey Farmhouse from 1907, is only open to the public during special programs and events. For those looking for a hands-on experience with history, the Windsor History Museum stewards a number of other historic buildings at Boardwalk Park.

A proper tour of Boardwalk Park begins at the Train Depot, built in 1882 and operational until 1970, then moved to Boardwalk Park and restored as a museum in 1975. Also at Boardwalk Park, you’ll find Windsor’s original, two-room schoolhouse built in 1885.

The Windsor History Museum also offers an opportunity to see a traditional farmhouse from the early 1900s, a “beet shack” that served as temporary housing for laborers at the Great Western Sugar Company, and a historic chapel that served the community in the early 1900s. A walk through these buildings effectively demonstrates the deep, abiding roots of this pioneering mountain community.

The Fascinating History of Windsor Lake

No exploration of downtown Windsor would be complete without mention of the tranquil beauty of Windsor Lake, which is very much a main character in the development of the town.

The lake not only made possible the booming agricultural industry, but also inspired an industry of its own: ice.

Around the turn of the century, from the late 1800s to the early 1990s, ice was harvested from Windsor Lake during the winter season. Residents would harvest thick chunks from the lake’s surface and ship it east on the railroad. Literal tons of ice left Windsor in this era, and a special railroad track was constructed up to the lake’s edge to simplify the export. When this industry ultimately fizzled out, Windsor Lake was officially open to swimming in 1957 and remains a recreational resource for the town.

A Pioneering Spirit That Lives On

At the heart of downtown Windsor lies the indomitable spirit of its founders, whose unwavering determination shaped the landscape of this community. Their legacy of hard work and perseverance continues to inspire those who are drawn to downtown Windsor in search of new beginnings and fresh opportunities.

Prairie Song offers an array of new homes just up the road from Windsor. It’s the perfect place to call home in downtown Windsor and become a part of its rich tapestry of history and community.