Colorado History: Sugar beets were Loveland’s largest industry for many years
As the turn-of-the-century approached, the town of Loveland had a population of about 2,000.
Although it had a flour mill and creamery, Loveland lacked any substantial industry.
This 1904 photograph shows the Loveland sugar factory, located south of present-day Home Depot
on Madison Avenue. It was the fourth sugar factory constructed in the state and the first built
by the Great Western Sugar Company. (Kenneth Jessen collection)
Town leaders were aware of the developments in the beet sugar industry, and in March 1898, a meeting was called in the A & B Building on the southwest corner of Fourth and Cleveland. Merchants donated prizes for the best locally raised sugar beets.
In 1899, Denver capitalists Charles Boettcher, John Campion, Eben Smith and others formed the Colorado Sugar Manufacturing Co. and opened Colorado’s first sugar factory in Grand Junction.
This effort failed for a variety of reasons, but other sugar factories were constructed in Sugar City and Rocky Ford.
The same investors who had formed the Colorado Sugar Manufacturing Co. in Grand Junction became seriously interested in Loveland.
John Campion and Charles Boettcher offered the citizens a firm proposition backed by a $50,000 dollar bond deposited in a local bank. The terms of their offer called for Loveland to pay them $8,000, give them acreage for the factory, and furnish contracts for at least 3,500 acres.
The time given to meet the conditions of the offer expired, but sufficient acreage had been contracted and the land upon which to build the factory was secured.
The committee was a long way from getting the required cash bonus, and Charles Boettcher extended the deadline. He promised a plant having daily capacity of 1,000 tons, almost triple that of his original proposal.
At this point, Loveland’s beet sugar committee put together an auction to raise the cash bonus. Investors agreed to turn over the first 100-pound sack of sugar produced by the Loveland plant so that it could be divided into one-pound lots and sold to the highest bidders.
The auction took place on Dec. 4, 1900, and the highest bidder paid $325 for one pound of sugar, while the second-highest bid paid $300.
The Loveland mayor gave $14 to weigh the first sack. The sack itself went for $5 for the inner lining and $2 for the outer lining. The drawstring went for 50 cents.
In all $3,286 was brought in by the auction, enough to reach the required amount for construction of the factory.
Contracts to raise sugar beets soon totaled more than 6,000 acres. The amount of sugar produced would exceed the combined output of both the Rocky Ford and Sugar City plants.
Construction of Great Western’s first sugar factory in Loveland began in February 1901.
Long wooden sheds on the north side of the factory were built to protect both wagons and railroad cars while they were unloaded. The sheds covered nearly a quarter of a million square feet including six parallel tracks.
Water-filled concrete flumes ran parallel to the tracks and carried the beets into the factory.
The sheds were town down in favor of trestles where bottom dump railroad cars could quickly unload beets directly into the flumes. The trestles were eventually replaced by a wet hopper where beets frozen into railroad cars could be quickly thawed using powerful jets of boiling water.
Trucks ultimately replaced delivery by rail.
The Loveland sugar factory was the fourth of its kind built in Colorado, the first built under the Great Western name, and the first built in the northern part of the state.
Soon other factories were constructed in Fort Collins, Windsor, Eaton, Greeley, Longmont, Brighton, Fort Morgan, Sterling and other Colorado towns.
At one time 22 sugar factories operated in the state. Now only Fort Morgan remains in operation.
In 1985, the Great Western Sugar Co. went bankrupt, and the Loveland plant was closed.
The factory was partially dismantled, leaving it in ruins. Only the office building and the silos remain standing.
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