Commercial District Walking Tour

photo of Cedar Rapids Commercial Club on Main Street

See also: Commercial District and the Commercial District Multimedia History Tour

Written by Dr. Richard H. Thomas

Welcome to Mount Vernon.  This is a short walking tour of the National Register of Historic Places Commercial District. It places the built environment in the historical context of the growth of the area.

To begin this tour, you need to be standing on the corner of First Avenue (Highway 1) and First Street (the main street of town).  You need to be standing in front of the building located at 100 First Street W, next to the signal light.

Introduction: Mt. Vernon and the Commercial District

If you look to your right (south), you’ll see how the hill sharply drops.  It is interesting to note that the hill has been shaved three times to reduce the grade.  It is difficult to imagine the tremendous amount of energy that was required from a team of horses or oxen to pull heavy wagons up to the top of this hill when it was dry let alone in wet conditions.

Mount Vernon owes its existence to Iowa’s first state road and to its topography.   A furrow dug with a plow and oxen from Iowa City to Dubuque today marked as Iowa Highway 1. Lyman Dillon was awarded a contract from a Congressional appropriation of 1840 to create the trail of 100 miles. The trail had been laid-out by Army Engineers. They called it Military Road because it was to mark the way for troops to come from Dubuque to protect the territorial capital in Iowa City, as there were a number of Indian nations to the west of Iowa City. Where the Military Road crossed the crest of the moderate hill or “paha,” businesses quickly developed.  When travelers reached the top, they would certainly want to stop, water horses or oxen, and take a break before going down the hill towards Anamosa or Iowa City.  Highway 1, the first marked highway in the state of Iowa, was as so the first major north-south link in the state.  Because of this, almost all of the traffic going toward the state capital had to go both up and down this hill regardless of the direction of travel. Remember, Dubuque was the largest town in the territory and the early population was on this eastern edge.

The Black Hawk War of 1832 resulted in the land in this area being taken from the Sac and Fox tribes, and Mount Vernon’s first residents began settling here soon after. The farmers took the flat lands or lower lands. Within months of each other, William Abbe began farming the land to the east of town in 1836 and Daniel S. Hahn farmed the land to the west.  Because no farmers wanted to plant and plow on the large hill this uptown area along the crest of the hill was not only an economic choice, but also an opportunistic option for merchants.

Early Merchant Settlers

We are standing on the corner that separated the dry goods and general business from the equipment and maintenance areas for wagons and later, cars. The mechanical services have traditionally been located to the east and the dry goods and general merchants to the west of this corner.  This intersection at the top of the hill has, and continues to be, the historic heart of the town.  Through the years we have photographic evidence that there was a watering trough right in the middle of this intersection, which again testified to the fact that the horses, mules, and oxen would water at the top of the hill before going on.

photo of Funeral Procession-1900
Note: Board sidewalks, animal watering tank in middle of Highway #1 and Main Street.  @ 1900

Another interesting point to note is that the topography of the hill clearly demonstrates the historical development.  Mount Vernon developed primarily along the hill with the south side, with its more gentle slope developing first. The grade of the hill falls more sharply to the north than the south, which may account for the slower development on the north side.  Just two blocks east of this corner is a steep stream bed that must be crossed to reach the cemetery, which acted as a barrier to Mount Vernon’s development to the east.

The downtown area, the one block that we will be walking along, was originally filled with small wooden structures dotted with some of locally made brick.  What we see today is the rebuilding after a series of disastrous fires in the 1890s and generally constructed local brick between 1888 and 1904. The economy was rather good and the fires of 1893-94 created the opportunity for new brick (fireproof) buildings.

100 First Street East – Olliver Day Building

Photo of 100 First Street East
100 First Street East @ 2019

100 1st St. E (Neff Block/Day Building)

  • Conflicting information as to when it was built, but circa 1860
    • Dick Thomas’ Walking Tour of Downtown Mt. Vernon says it was built in 1856 
    • National Register of Historic Places Application says it was built in 1860
  • M.K. Neff bought in 1890 for furniture company NRHP Application
    • Went bankrupt in 1909
  • 1890–1909: M.K. Neff Furniture Mount Vernon Sun Index Cards, Sanborn Maps, Walking tour of downtown Mt. Vernon by Dick Thomas, NRHP Application, & 1907 MV City Directory
    • 1891–at least 1894: T.A. Gormly’s Dentist Office MV-Lisbon Hawkeye, 1894 Sanborn Fire Map
    • Hall on 3rd floor
  • 1907: E. Busby Hardware 1907 MV City Directory
    • Busbys lived on 2nd floor
  • 1914: Iowa Electric Walking tour of downtown Mt. Vernon by Dick Thomas
  • 1920s: Ticket office for Interurban Trolley Walking tour of downtown Mt. Vernon by Dick Thomas, 1921 Sanborn Fire Map
  • 1932–at least 1984: Iowa Electric Light & Power Company MV City Directories
    • 1932: Also bus station
    • 1956–1959: Louis C. Ross was manager MV Chamber of Commerce Records
  • 1989–at least 1991: Mt. Vernon Antiques 1989 City Directory, MV Sun
  • 1993: The Penny Pincher 1993 Mount Vernon Visitor’s Guide
  • 1997–2005: The Right Frame of Mind Commercial District Master List, MV Sun Archives
  • 2005: Uniques & Antiques Commercial District Master List
  • 2013: Gifts, Framing, Photography
  • 2019: Sing-a-long Bar & Grill

The oldest building in the commercial area is the painted brick building across the street from where you are standing (Southeast corner of First and First). It was originally a three story building constructed in 1856. In 1957, there was a disastrous fire in which the third floor was removed.  Throughout its history, it has been a hotel, a community-meeting place, and the home of some fraternal organizations, and retail space. We know it was remodeled in 1891. When Iowa Electric opened the Inter Urban Street Railroad (which ran up and down the middle of First Street) around 1914, it bought the building as its office for both tickets and electrical needs. The building is constructed of locally made brick. This can be observed because it is made from local clay with rounder edges.  Note the large round disks on the west wall. These “tie rods” are at the end of iron rods that help strengthen the building by holding the exterior walls to the interior structure, which prevents the weight from causing the walls to bow. Tie rods were usually found between the floors.

Brick House Halfway Down the Hill to the South 

Currently:  Residence

Notice the small gray house (east side of the street) to the south, about a half a block down the hill.  It is one of the early brick homes in a rectangular shape with virtually no ornamentation on it at all. It is also one of the earliest brick homes in the community, ideally located here on the original highway. Behind the current insulating covering is a home of locally made brick in the Greek Revival style, which dominates the town until well after the Civil War. There is another early home on the east side of the highway just a block to the north.

Notice the heavy limestone foundations on all these major buildings facing Highway 1.  The stone came from the local quarry, and that same quarry provided all the stone for the building of Cornell College’s King Chapel in 1876.

101-103 First Street West – E. D. Waln Building 

Photo of 103-101 First Street West
101-103 First Street West. @2019

101 First Street West (Waln Building)

  • Built 1881 Walking tour of downtown Mt. Vernon by Dick Thomas
  • 1881–at least 1907: Rood & Young Clothiers on east half of building 1993 NRHP Application
  • 1894–at least 1907: Gough’s Grocery Store on west half 1993 NRHP Application, Sanborn Fire Maps, 1901 MV City Directory
    • E.T. Gough runs grocery first, then the store is in F.A. Gough’s name
    • Masonic Hall on 2nd floor
  • 1921: Restaurant 1921 Sanborn Fire Map
  • 1932: Dale F. Johnson Hardware 1932 MV City Directory
    • Johnson Hardware was still a business in 1959, but the location is uncertain
  • 1952: 
    • R.H. Day occupied 101 ½ 1952 MV City Directory
  • 1962: The Carry-Out-Kitchen 1962 MV City Directory
  • 1967: Thomson Radio and TV (Murl Thomson) 1967 MV City Directory, MV Chamber of Commerce Records
    • There’s also evidence Thomson radio was around in 1956 (Chamber of Commerce Records), but maybe not at this location
  • 1969: Lutz’s Restaurant 1969 MV City Directory
  • 1975: John & Dee’s Restaurant March 1975 Directory
  • 1989–2019: Lee’s Town & Country 1989 MV City Directory, MV Sun, 1993 MV Visitor’s Guide, Main Street Iowa Binder
    • 1989: Lee Niederhauser residence, Marilyn Meyer residence
      • Also Financial Insurance Association Inc.
      • Gary Born occupied 101 ½ 
  • 1991: Video Village MV Sun
  • 1993: Right Frame of Mind 1993 MV Visitor’s Guide
  • 2008–2019: Coldwell Banker Main Street Iowa Binder
  • 2015–2019: Also Roadshow Logistics, LLC (suite 4) Tom Fisher, Downtown Business Owner Questionnaire
    • Budget Blinds was there sometime before Roadshow

103 First Street West

  • Built in 1881 by Elijah D. Waln NRHP Application
  • 1894: Clothing & Gentlemen’s Furnishings 1894 Sanborn Fire Map
  • 1900: Tailor, Clothing, Gentlemen’s Furnishings 1900 Sanborn Map
  • 1901: Rood, Young, & Wilcox Clothing Store 1901 MV City Directory
  • 1906: Meat Steam Kettle 1906 Sanborn Fire Map
  • 1921: Confectionery 1921 Sanborn Fire Map
  • 1926: Mt. Vernon Bakery
    • Building owned by J.F. Barrett
  • 1932: Ryerson Bakery 1932 MV City Directory
  • 1940: 1940 MV City Directory
    • Ray Farr occupied 103 ½ 
  • 1941: Store, bake house oven 1941 Sanborn Fire Map
  • 1952–at least 1967: Yeisley Bakery (Jack Yeisley) MV City Directories, MV Chamber of Commerce Records
  • 1975: Mt. Vernon General Tavern 1975 MV City Directory
    • William G. Ellison, Auctioneer
  • 1984: Mercantile 1984 MV City Directory
    • Also Greyhound bus lines
  • 1989: Vacant? 1989 MV City Directory
    • Mark & S.M. Broulik occupied 103 ½ 
  • 1991–at least 1993: Video Village 1993 MV Visitor’s Guide, MV Sun
    • Richard Broulik owned building
  • 2005: Hands on Screenprinting and Embroidery (Connie Broulik owned building) Commercial District Master List
  • 2013: Czech Feather & Down
  • 2019: The Local–Glyn Mawr Winery 

Looking across the street, kitty-corner from the Olliver Day Building, we see Lee’s Town and Country Real Estate. The same metal facade covering as is still on the east side of the structure covered the front of the building. The metal front was recently removed – revealing the original brick facade.  It is probably the second building on the site known as the Waln corner.   Waln was one of the earliest settlers and founding fathers of the town and Cornell College. The building was constructed of soft, local brick in 1881.

As you look at this corner building, you’ll notice a great deal of pressed-tin that reaches across the two buildings which really indicates that it was built as one.  The pressed tin on the left has been painted to accentuate its Victorian detailing.  There are pressed tin with limestone sills on the windows.  Notice a line of bricks used as dentils or small little teeth-like brackets are across the front.

We are looking at another merchant block here. A merchant block consists of two or more stores under one roof and decorated on the upper floors as one structure.  As a whole structure, it is a very imposing and lovely building. You’ll see more of these “merchant blocks” just up the street.   This is a wonderful example of 19th Century merchandising and building.

100 First Street West – W. E. Platner Hardware Store and Tin Shop

Photo of Kae Apothecary 2019
100 First Street West
Kae Apothecary 2019

100 First Street West (Gillett Hotel/Platner Hardware)

  • Conflicting information as to who built the hotel, and when
    • Richard Thomas’ Walking tour of downtown Mt. Vernon by Dick Thomas says it was built as a hotel in 1849 by E.D. Waln
    • The Works Progress Administration says “[In 1851] Mr. Willits built a two and one-half story frame building 40×40 feet square, where he opened his store and established a hotel, then a Mount Vernon House, but generally known as ‘Gillet’s Hotel.’ This was burned in 1868.” WPA History of Mt. Vernon, 1936
  • 1849: Asa G. Hampton puts shoe shop in Gillett Hotel (WPA) History of Mt. Vernon, 1936
  • Rebuilt by Henry Gillett in 1869, still hotel Walking tour of downtown Mt. Vernon by Dick Thomas
  • 1870s–at least 1906: Platner Hardware & Tin Shop Walking Tour of Downtown Mt. Vernon by Dick Thomas, Sanborn Fire Maps
  • 1901: N. B. Twogood Hardware Store (maybe as a partner, or maybe the tin shop wasn’t Platner’s at that point) 1901 MV City Directory
    • W. L. Adams lived on 2nd floor
  • 1915–at least 1921: Moving pictures Site Inventory, 1921 Sanborn Fire Map
  • 1928–1939: Gordon Cash Store Site Inventories & 1932 MV City Directory
  • November 1939–at least 1940: Pringle’s Quality Store (Doris & Don Pringle) 1940 MV City Directory, MV Hawkeye-Record Archives
  • 1952–1979: Kaliban Appliance Company (Leo Kaliban) MV City Directories, MV Chamber of Commerce Records
  • 1980–1998: Traver Appliance MV City Directories, MV Sun
    • 1989: Jill & Barbara Traver lived at 100 ½ 
  • 2001–2017: Big Creek Emporium (Karen Thornton) 
  • 2017–2019: KAE Apothecary (Andrea Gorsch)

We are in front of 100 First Street West.  This wood framed hotel was built also by E. D. Waln in 1849.  It was probably the first commercial hotel in Mount Vernon.   It burned in 1868 and a year after the fire, Henry Gillett built another hotel here and it is probably the shell of this current building.  W. E. Platner owned the building in the late 1870s and then used it to operate his hardware store until 1878 (Platner Hardware and Tin Shop).  It may well have been Platner who “modernized” the building by adding the cornice and window hoods, both of which are made of pressed tin.  These additions were rather characteristic of small town store styles in the 1880s. (Remember, Platner was in the tin business.)

The windows above are trimmed and the cornice at the very top of the building is trimmed in pressed tin.  They may look like limestone, but if you notice carefully where they begin to weather and where the paint peels, you can tell they are really tin.  The pressed tin was a commonly used material because it was light and could be tacked to the framework around the windows.  It also could dramatically update and change the building from a very plain brick building, such as the ones across the street, into a very lovely modern building for the 1890s and turn of the century.  We will see more pressed tin as we go along.

This building demonstrates the wonderful 19th Century concept of merchandising.  At the time, people did not rely on newspapers, radio or television. Instead, they relied on window-shopping.  Note the door is recessed considerably from the outside of the building providing some protection on a rainy day.  This was a great merchandising technique because as you window shop you are gradually well inside the space of the store before you get to the door.

Before we move on look again at the east wall of this building.  Notice another pattern of tie rod ends.  Here we have a star. The top of the  building is much more finished.  Look just below the roof line at the top and you’ll see the little brick dentils that give the building a sense of completion.  Such decoration is not on the top of the building across the street because the third floor was removed.  You’ll also notice a large area filled in with new brick and glass block that was once a bay window overlooking the street.  The window would have provided light into what might have been a hotel sitting room or apartment.  It also could have served as a wonderful place to watch the traffic on the Military Road.

101-103 First Street East – Wolfe-Ellison Block

Photo of building at 101-103 First Street E
101-103 First Street East @ 2013

101 1st Street East (Wolfe-Ellison Block)

  • Built in 1881 Walking Tour of Downtown Mt. Vernon by Dick Thomas & 1993 NRHP Application
  • 1894: west side was doctor’s office, east side was a sample room 1894 Sanborn Fire Map
  • 1895: H.F. Haesler’s pharmacy, Attorney William Glen, T.F. Roche Insurance, Frank Kubler’s Laundry, and Miss Fitch’s Art Studio 1993 NRHP Application
  • 1900: Drug store 1900 Sanborn Map
  • 1901: J.F. Killheffer Drug Store 1901 MV City Directory
    • W.H. Davis lived on 2nd floor
  • 1906: Grocery and Dry Goods, office 1906 Sanborn Map
  • 1921: Electrical fixtures 1921 Sanborn Fire Map
  • 1932: New Thought Cafe 1932 MV City Directory
  • 1940–at least 1991: Northside Tavern MV City Directories, Sanborn Fire Maps, MV Chamber of Commerce Records
    • 1952: Curtis Kuehl residence, L.O. Keedick residence
    • 1957: Northside Tavern owned by Myron Becker
    • 1967: Buster Brown occupied 101 ½ 
    • 1984: Al Randall occupied 101 ½ 
    • 1989: 101 ½ occupied by Tim Schmelzer, Daniel Winslow, and Roger Davies
  • 2005: Junior’s Corner (Keith Grimes) Commercial District Master List
  • 2008–2019: The Skillet (Cherie & Fran Guillaume) Cherie Guillaume, Business Owner Questionnaire

103 1st Street East

  • 1894: Designed and built by Cedar Rapids firm Joselyn & Taylor Walking Tour of Downtown Mt. Vernon by Dick Thomas
  • 1894: Photo Gallery 1894 Sanborn Fire Map
  • 1894–at least 1921: Ellison Harness shop Sanborn Fire Maps, MV City Directories
    • Ellison’s Hall on 2nd floor
  • 1925–at least 1932: H. B. Ellison Shoe Store 1932 MV City Directory, MV Hawkeye Archives
  • 1952–at least 1975: Beranek’s Hardware (G.A. & J.A. Beranek) MV City Directories & MV Chamber of Commerce Records
  • 1984: The Dance Place 1984 MV City Directory
  • 1989: Chloe’s 1989 MV City Directory
    • R.L. Hladek occupied 103 ½ 
  • 1991: Pfisters (Jody Rife) MV Sun
  • 1993: The Piknik Basket 1993 MV Visitor’s Guide
  • October 2003: Cottage Kitsch MV Sun Archives
  • 2004–2019: Fuel Art & Espresso (Tommie Ouverson) Tommie Ouverson, Downtown Business Owner Questionnaire
    • Tommie also says at one point Julie Stamper owned Cottage Kisch; there was a wedding shop; an office. Many years ago, she says Jim Engelbrecht talks about his dad owning a butcher shop there.

Now look at the building across the street, 101-103 First Street East.  This building was designed and built by a Cedar Rapids architecture firm of Joselyn & Taylor.  All of the stylistic features you see in this building are repeated some place or another up and down the street here. This was built in 1894 following the serious 1893 fire that destroyed several buildings in this area.  The Drs. Wolfe and Mr. Ellison funded this merchant block. The former wood structure that burned was known as the Smith-Hogel Block. Following the great fire, Smith and Hogel went up the street westward and built a similar brick building at 109.

Notice how the brick is laid so it creates arches that accentuate the top of the building and decorate the large brick wall.  Also, we see some of the capstones that were originally on these buildings, even though most have been removed.

Note the large plate glass windows.  If you look at the doorway in the middle of the structure, you’ll notice steel foot plates.  WHAT ARE THESE? You can see the pressed tin work above the window line with the decorative pieces painted on the right. At the end of those pressed tin pieces you see they are hiding a steel beam.  Keep your eyes open for tie rod ends as we go through this tour as you’ll note at least four or five different patterns in the downtown area.

At this point you should be standing again in front of 100 First Street West.

102 First Street West – Gillett Building

Photo of building at 102 First Street W
102 First Street West @ 2018.

102 First Street West (Hoover Jewelry Store/Butler Building)

  • Unclear when the building as we know it was built NRHP Application
  • 1894: Millinery 1894 Sanborn Fire Map
  • 1900: Lunch & Fruit 1900 Sanborn Fire Map
  • 1901: Henry Byers’ Restaurant 1901 MV City Directory
  • 1906: Millinery 1906 Sanborn Fire Map
  • 1907: Mrs. E. A. Hudson Millinery Store 1907 MV City Directory
  • 1915–at least 1932: W.H. Hoover Jewelry (he also owned the building) 1993 NRHP Application, Sanborn Fire Map, 1932 City Directory
  • 1928: building divided: Hoover on east, Laurie’s Apparel Shop on the west (closed in 1930) 1993 NHRP Application
  • 1937–1960: Vernon Beauty Shop (Mary Staab Butler) in west side 1993 NRHP Application, MV City Directories, MV Chamber of Commerce Records
    • 1952–at least 1957: Charles O. Butler residence
  • 1962–at least 1967: Ardis’ Beauty Shop (Ardis Morningstar) MV City Directories & MV Chamber of Commerce Records
    • 1967: Esther Wooff occupied 102 ½ 
  • 1975: Douglas Moses residence 1975 MV City Directory
    • Potter Real Estate occupied 102 ½ 
    • Sargent Office Service also occupied 102 ½ 
  • 1984–at least 1991: Dale Sargent, accountant MV City Directories, MV Sun
    • 1984: Thomas D. Barthel also occupied
    • 1989: Jill Tauber occupied 102 ½ 
  • 2005–at least 2006: Michael Alan Jewelry Design (Michael Robison) Commercial District Master List, MV Sun Archives
    • Building owned by Michael Alan
  • 2010–2014: The Purple Elephant Danielle Chargo, Business Owner Questionnaire
  • 2014–15: Ain’t Life Grand Danielle Chargo, Business Owner Questionnaire
  • October 2015–2019: Letterpress Stationery–Iron Leaf Press (Danielle Chargo) Danielle Chargo, Business Owner Questionnaire

The little building to the west is 102 First Street West.  We know Gillette’s name appears on the abstract by 1869. Behind this facade may well be part of the Gillette Hotel from 1869. What you see today resembles a much earlier building documented in some photographs. The current owner accepted the recommendations of the Preservation Commission and created this facade that fits 19th century storefronts in Iowa. It has greatly improved this south side of the district.

104 First Street West – Charles Kepler Building

Photo of building at 104 First Street W
104 First Street W. @ 2018.

104 First Street West (Captain Charles Kepler Building)

  • Built in 1892 by Charles Kepler Walking Tour of Downtown MV by Dick Thomas
    • H.D. Butterfield Dry Goods Mentions of Commercial Buildings in MV-Lisbon Hawkeye
    • 2nd floor was Kepler’s law office
  • 1894–at least 1906: Dry Goods (most likely Butterfield’s) Sanborn Fire Maps
  • 1907: J.H. Merritt Dry Goods Store 1907 MV City Directory
  • 1921: Barber 1921 Sanborn Fire Map
  • 1932: Blue Parrot Cafe 1932 MV City Directory
    • 104 ½: Carl Becker Law Office
  • 1940–at least 1952: Jaynes Photography MV City Directories
  • 1956–at least 1967: Roberts Photo (Hugh Roberts) MV City Directories, MV Chamber of Commerce Records
    • 1967: also Robert Mullen residence
  • 1975: Iva Roberts residence 1975 MV City Directory
    • 104 ½: Esther Wooff residence
  • 1980–at least 2006: Farm & Home Realty & Ins. MV City Directories, Commercial District Master List, MV Sun Archives
    • 1984: Iva Roberts also occupied
      • William Abshire occupied 104 ½ along with Edna Whitman
    • 1989: Greg Kos also occupied
  • 1991: Also Roberts Photo (Karen and Roger Martin), Suzanne Stoner owned building
  • 2013–2019: Hands in Harmony/The Angel’s Nest (Wahneta Dimmer) Downtown Business Owner Questionnaire

The next building is a red brick structure made not of soft local brick, but modern hard brick indicating it could have come by train. The railroad came through the town in about 1858, and by the 1880s, a bridge over the Mississippi River in Clinton, linked Mount Vernon with the rest of the country, specifically New York and San Francisco.  This hard brick can be molded and baked in shapes other than rectangles. Brick of this molded type is often called terracotta brick. The brick is set in very narrow mortar and you will notice that the mortar is also colored, which is another phenomena of the 1890s.  Frank Lloyd Wright, notably in his Robie House in Chicago, used the thin colored mortar extensively.

The “shopping windows” are large and inviting with a recessed door. Above the panels is a pressed tin piece that covers a steel beam.  The garlands with the design pieces on each end have been painted in a copper color to accentuate this very important part of the building.  Looking just above the copper banded pressed metal piece, you can see the use of molded brick in the shape of eggs all across the building, underneath the limestone.  When the egg is used with an extra piece of molding, it is called egg and dart and is found extensively as a decoration inside and out. The limestone pieces used above and below the windows are called lentils.

A local Civil War hero and attorney named Captain Charles Kepler built this structure in 1892. He rented the first floor to merchants, the first being H. D. Butterfield Dry Goods and had his law office was on the second floor. These full glass windows let in considerable natural light and heat on the second floor. The large glass area was needed to provide light for reading law books in this pre-electric era.  Above the limestone we see more red terracotta-style floral patterns and on the freize there is a more delicate designed terracotta. There are about 4 or 5 different brick designs on this facade, and when combined with the massive limestone, they give this building a unique character.

Notice under the large first floor windows there is a cement sill.  On the corners, the brick is laid to accommodate this interesting angle of the entry.  Now while you are looking down, look at the wonderful cast iron grate piece (or door plate) in front of the doorway to 104.  These were very popular among merchants as they served as mud scrapers.  When walking across the mud scrapers some of the mud and manure from the barnyard fell off the boots of customers and kept the store cleaner.  Some of the first store floors also had oiled floors that made cleaning up easier.  The entrance into the second floor of this building is through the door marked 104. The hallway originally had a much bigger window in order to permit sunlight to brighten the dark hall in the era before electricity.  You will notice that at the west edge of the building the bricks are rounded. This is a very unusual pattern for this town.  Not only is there the pink mortar, but also the rounded corner bricks.  Molded clay baked under high temperatures could be made into many different shapes.

106-108 First Street West – Humbolt Block/Bockstaller Block

Photo of building at 106-108 First Street W
106-108 First Street West @ 2018

106 First Street West: Humbolt/Bockstaller Block

  • Built circa 1860 NRHP Application
  • 1860: Espe & Herman furniture NRHP Application
  • 1869: Armstrong Dry Goods & Grocery NRHP Application
  • 1894: Drug store 1894 Sanborn Fire Map
  • 1900: Dry goods 1900 Sanborn Fire Map
  • 1901: J. D. Harrington Dry Goods Store 1901 MV City Directory
  • 1901–at least 1907: C. W. Kepler Law Office, 2nd floor MV City Directories
    • Dr. T. S. Kepler Office, 2nd floor
  • 1906: Grocery store/Grocery warehouse 1906 Sanborn Fire Map
  • 1921: Grocery 1921 Sanborn Fire Map
  • 1932: Jordans Grocery Store 1932 MV City Directory
  • 1940: Litts Grocery 1940 MV City Directory
  • 1952–1960: White’s Grocery (Ed White) MV City Directories, MV Chamber of Commerce Records
  • 1952–at least 1957: Ed White lived on 2nd floor MV City Directories
  • 1962: Mt. Vernon Upholstery 1962 MV City Directory
    • 1962: Barron J. Bremner residence
  • 1967: Clara’s Gift Shop 1967 MV City Directory
  • 1975: Village Carpets 1975 MV City Directory
    • Virgil J. Clark Residence
  • 1984: Odeen’s Radio & TV 1984 MV City Directory
  • 1989: Vacant? 1989 MV City Directory
    • Clifford Allhouse occupied 106 ½ 
  • 1991–2019: Pizza Palace (Larry and Faye Alger) MV Sun, 1993 MV Visitor’s Guide, Commercial District Master List

108 First Street West: Humbolt/Bockstaller Block

  • 1869: Bockstaller & Zercher Boots & Shoes NRHP Application
  • 1894: Dry Goods, Boots & Shoes 1894 Sanborn Fire Map
  • 1901: A.B. Chubbuck Law Office, 2nd floor 1901 MV City Directory
    • Henry Byers occupied 2nd floor
  • 1906: Restaurant 1906 Sanborn Fire Map
  • 1921: Confectionery 1921 Sanborn Fire Map
  • 1932–at least 1940: Vernon Inn MV City Directories
  • 1941: Restaurant January 1941 Sanborn Fire Map
  • 1952: Rocky’s Radio & Television 1952 MV City Directory
  • 1957–at least 1962: Day’s Snack Bar–Recreation & Barber Shop (Richard Day) MV City Directories, MV Chamber of Commerce Records
    • 1962–at least 1967: Mrs. Minnie Collins & Robert P. Collins occupied 108 ½ 
  • 1975: Thomson Radio & TV 1975 MV City Directory
    • P.G. Farr occupied 108 ½ 
  • 1984–at least 1989: W.C. Harrison dentist office MV City Directories
  • 1991: Dr. Smith’s office
  • 2000–2004: Downtown Dental (Mary Jo Strait) MV Sun Archives, Downtown Business Owner Questionnaire
  • 2005–2019: The Mount Vernon Sun Commercial District Master List, Downtown Business Owner Questionnaire

The original store that was here was called the Humbolt Block and built around 1860. This store burned in December 1996. The facade of this building was reconstructed from photographic evidence. At the time of the fire, the facade was covered with metal siding which obscured the simple brick work. In the reconstruction, about 8 feet was added to the height to stabilize the two walls on the buildings on either side. By continuing the brick pattern of the lower original section on to the increased footage, a rather nice integration was achieved and the historical character remained. The front windows were larger in the original building and where you see wooden panels under the front windows you would have seen more glass to let light into the basement.

110 First Street West – Kopf Brothers Building and Hawkeye Building

Photo of building at 110 First Street W
110 First Street W. @ 2013

110 First Street West: The Kopf Bros. Building

  • 1894–1900: Restaurant & Bakery, printing on 2nd floor Sanborn Fire Maps
  • 1901: Mrs. E. A. Hutson Millinery Store 1901 MV City Directory
    • George W. Dege barber shop, 2nd floor
  • Current building built in 1904 by the Kopf Brothers Walking Tour of Downtown Mt. Vernon by Dick Thomas
  • 1906–at least 1967: City Meat Market Sanborn Fire Maps, City Directories, MV Chamber of Commerce Records
    • 1921: Hall on 2nd floor
    • 1952: Owned by Vodicka
    • 1956: Owned by Ken Bailey
    • 1959: Owned by Walter Faris
  • 1975: Page One Books 1975 MV City Directory
  • 1975–at least 1989: Guy P. Booth & Fred Dumbaugh, attorneys occupied 110 ½ 
    • 1975: Larry G. Gutz, attorney occupied 110 ½; The Third Day Unlimited Foliage Plants occupied 110 ½ 
  • 1984: Apple Boutique 1984 MV City Directory
    • Alarm Systems Inc. occupied 110 ½ 
  • 1989: The Dance Place 1989 Mount Vernon City Directory
    • Joe Neff also occupied
  • 1991: Peggy Sue’s Malt Shop & The Dance Place (upstairs) MV Sun
    • Richard Creger also occupied
  • 1993: Shari’s Bridal Boutique 1993 MV Visitor’s Guide
  • 2000–at least 2005: Home Horizons MV Sun Archives, Commercial District Master List
  • 2008–2019: Scarlett Boutique (Tasha Erickson) Main Street Iowa Binder

We move on to the west to 110. We know that the first Mount Vernon newspaper published by S. N. Bauman was printed in this building for many years.  The building comes from 1904, about the same time as the Bauman Clothing Store coming up on the corner.  However, while a distinctive red brick is used on the Kepler and Bauman buildings, here there is an unusual (for Mount Vernon) brown or sand colored brick.  Noting this, the influence of the railroad and a new awareness of materials and styles become very obvious.

Notice again the thin mortar used on the edges & above and the steal beam above the large plate glass windows.  Here, instead of being covered by a copper or pressed metal piece, the beam is exposed.  Floral medallions are then bolted onto the beam.  If you look on up you’ll notice round arched or Romanesque windows.  This type of window is used often in this district.  In the center of the building is a brick column that ends just below the windows. By recessing three bricks at the bottom of the “column” back we have a decorative arrangement.  At the top, the overhanging brick forms an extension that gives this building a very distinctive elaboration.  Notice the bricks set on edge just below the corners or dentils all across the top.  While brick may seem monotonous at times, by raising brick forward or backwards over a straight wall you can create a sense of decoration, texture and depth.  Here we have a great deal of imagination used in a brick pattern.

118 First Street West – Clark & Hayzlett Block

Photo of 118 First Street West
118 First Street West, 2019

118 First Street West: The Clark & Hayzlett Block

  • Shown on Sanborn maps and early directories as 114. Even though it occupies the westernmost spot on the block, it bears the address 118 and what is currently Ink Expressions bears the address 114.
  • 1894: I.O.O.F. hall on 2nd floor, Grocery 1894 Sanborn Fire Map
  • 1901: Alexander & Kyle Staple & Fancy Grocery 1901 MV City Directory
    • IOOF Hall on 2nd floor (shares 2nd floor with 116)
    • Dr. J.B. Robinson office also on 2nd floor
  • 1906: Part of Grocery, Hardware, Paints, & Notions store 1906 Sanborn Fire Map
  • 1907: Part of J.G. Fox Cash Store 1907 MV City Directory
  • 1921: General store 1921 Sanborn Fire Map 
    • Hall on 2nd floor
  • 1932–at least 1975: Masonic hall on 2nd floor MV City Directories, Sanborn Fire Maps
  • 1932–at least 1940: W.F. Zache Tailor Shop MV City Directories, Sanborn Fire Maps
  • 1940: Kaliban Cash Grocery & Market 1940 MV City Directory 
  • 1952–at least 1993: Stoll’s Ben Franklin/Variety Store (Carrol J. Stoll) MV City Directories, MV Sun, 1993 Visitor’s Guide
  • 2019: The Sweet Factory & Farm Bureau Financial Services

We cross the alley to 118 First Street W. Look at the east wall down the alley. Notice the tie-rod ends on this building – yet another pattern. We are looking at what is historically known as the Clark & Hayzlett Building. It was built in 1869 and has been modified many times.  At one time, this area of the street was called a Mammoth Block and whatever was here burned in 1867.  Hayzlett and Clark built here in 1869 but the brick facade was added later after a fire, perhaps as late as the early 1900s. It was in the style of the merchant block with an entry in the middle of the building and a recessed doorway. The facade was remodeled again in 2017.  The second floor of this building served as a community auditorium and home of the Masonic Order but is now apartments.  This was really a very gorgeous building and used to have a large beautiful overhang with brackets and a large cornice which have been removed (see Centennial Book between pages 104 & 105 – Wilcox  Hall).  One of the important details left concerns the vertical row of coins at the corner of the front and side facades. This is a very large structure and the loss of some of its historic details is really a tragedy.

114 First Street West: The Fourth Wolfe Brothers Building

Photo of 114 First Street West
114 First Street West, @2019

114 First Street West

  • Built in 1869
  • 1894–at least 1921: Boots & Shoes Sanborn Fire Maps
  • 1932: Mathison Shoe Store 1932 MV City Directory
  • 1952–at least 1958: Jennie’s Store 1952 MV City Directory, MV Hawkeye Record Archives
  • 1991–at least 1993: Part of Stoll’s Ben Franklin MV Sun, 1993 MV Visitor’s Guide, NRHP Application
  • 2003–2018: Video Village (Terri Schumaker) MV Sun Archives, Main Street Iowa Binder
    • 2006: Iowa Martial Arts occupied 2nd floor
  • 2019: Ink Expressions

Let’s go on. You will see an older brick structure near the top. This could be from the original building which was built around 1870. The building uses the recessed door with the large “shopping window” which was undoubtedly part of the original structure. The building has obviously undergone many modifications. Our research indicates it was funded by C.W. Kepler and built by W.W. Dean in 1870.

120 First Street W – Old Wilcox Building (Old Bank)

Photo of 120 First Street West
120 First Street West

120 First  Street West

  • 1894–at least 1901: Meat market (most likely G.A. Rundell’s) Sanborn Fire Maps, 1901 MV City Directory
  • 1906: Restaurant 1906 Sanborn Fire Map
  • 1907: W.H. Hoover Jewelry 1907 MV City Directory
    • Also E.E. Kyle Shoe Store
  • 1921: Tailor 1921 Sanborn Fire Map
  • 1932: Mid-Continent Petroleum Corporation 1932 MV City Directory
  • 1952: Stoltz Cleaners 1952 MV City Directory
  • 1967: Village Inn Cafe 1962 MV City Directory
  • 1975: Neff Flower & Gift Shop 1975 MV City Directory
  • 1984–at least 1997: The Flower Stall (Part of Stoll’s Ben Franklin) MV Sun, 1993 MV Visitor’s Guide, MV City Directories, MV Sun Archives, Iowa Site Inventory
    • Stoll’s owned by Rob and Karen Stoll
  • 2004–at least 2008: Garden Style Floral MV Sun Archives, Commercial District Master List, Main Street Iowa Binder
    • 2005: Angie Baxa owned building
  • 2013: Art Gallery Supplies & Farm Bureau Site Inventory Pictures
  • 2019: Vacant

120 First Street W was built in 1871 as a storeroom for Isaac Wilcox. T. S. Brokaw, who served as Postmaster, occupied the building for some years.

122 and 122 1/2 First Street West

Photo of Squiers Studio and Shear Image 2019
Squiers Studio and Shear Image Salon 2019

122 First Street West: Commercial Building/Old Wilcox Building

  • Built around 1871 by Isaac Wilcox Walking tour of downtown Mt. Vernon by Dick Thomas
  • 1894–at least 1907: Millinery Sanborn Fire Maps, 1901 MV City Directory
    • 1901: Randall & Kepler Millinery Store 
    • 1907: M.G. Yerger & Co. Millinery Store 1907 MV City Directory
  • 1907: C.A. Switzer Merchants’ Cafe 1907 MV City Directory
  • 1921: Drug store (includes 122 ½, no wall) 1921 Sanborn Fire Map
  • 1932: Clifford W. Iosty Drug 1932 MV City Directory
  • 1952–at least 1967: An-nu Dress Shop (Carmen Kamberling & Marcella Goodyear) MV City Directories, MV Chamber of Commerce Records
  • 1984–at least 1989: Kudart & Holmes, lawyers MV City Directories
  • 2005–at least 2008: Envisage studios (Lisa Hazlett) Main Street Iowa Binder, Commercial District Master List
    • Building owned by Art Kudart
  • 2019: The Squiers Studio Architecture

122 ½ First Street West 

  • 1894: Barber 1894 Sanborn Fire Map
  • 1906: Restaurant 1907 Sanborn Fire Map
  • 1907: C.A. Switzer Merchants’ Cafe 1907 MV City Directory
  • 1921: Drug store (includes 122, no wall) 1921 Sanborn Fire Map
  • 1932: Clifford W. Iosty Drug  (includes 122, no wall) 1932 MV City Directory
  • 1952–at least 1967: An-nu Dress Shop (Carmen Kamberling & Marcella Goodyear) MV City Directories, MV Chamber of Commerce Records
  • 1984–at least 1989: Kudart & Holmes, lawyers MV City Directories
  • Wall goes up sometime before 1993?
  • 1993: Rainbow Beads 1993 MV Visitor’s Guide
  • 2006: Farm Bureau Insurance MV Sun Archives
  • 2019: The Shear Image Salon

124 First Street West – Odd Fellows Block

Currently:  Bauman’s Clothing

Photo of building at 124 First Street W
124 First Street W. @ 2013

124 First Street West: The Odd Fellow’s Block

  • Built in 1904 by the International Order of Odd Fellows Walking Tour of Downtown Mt. Vernon by Dick Thomas
    • Rood & Young Clothier was 1st ground floor occupant
    • Rood and Young went bankrupt in 1909
  • 1910–2019: Bauman’s (Fred Young, Corlyn Bauman, & George Brown) MV City Directories, Main St. Iowa Binder, MV Chamber of Commerce Records
    • 1932: I.O.O.F. Hall occupied 124 ½ 1932 MV City Directory

The next building has a cornerstone from 1904.  This is the Bauman’s Clothing Store built by the International Order of Odd Fellows.  If you stand in front of the door and look to your left, you’ll see the door that leads to a large stairway. This stairway goes up to the lodge meeting room on the second floor.  Again, we have the exposed steel beam that is supporting the upper stories in the area below with the large glass windows. Its functionality is disguised by decorated medallions in floral pattern.  At one point between each of these floral medallions was a letter to spell out Bauman’s in gold leaf.  This building is truly a treasure because it is practically untouched from 1904.  It bears the name of the Odd Fellows Organization on the corner near the top.  The first floor occupants of this building, Rood and Young, went into bankruptcy in 1909.  The present clothing store, Bauman’s, took over in 1910.  This is the oldest continuous merchant business in the community.  The posts holding up the beam are cast iron. These are the original shape and dimensions of the windows.  Notice the enormous transom window over the door.  This is all original.  If you can take the time, I suggest that you go inside where you can see the clothes racks that pull out from the wall, all the cases of a bygone era on display, and in the back, the high balcony where the manager could sit and watch the front door or observe his employees at work.  The building also has a full basement that has housed barbers, tailors and craftsmen through the years.  Now, it is a place to come and have coffee every workday with retired persons in the town, as well as the young merchants.

As you walk past the building and look south down the Second Avenue, you’ll notice that the Bauman Building also has a wonderful limestone foundation.  You will also see the outlines of large windows that were once there to let light into the rather dark basement.  Towards the back of the wall are glass blocks and brick where a door to the lower level once stood.

125 First Street West – The S. N. Bauman Corner

Photo of Ink Store built in 1853.
125 First Street West: Ink Store. @ 2017

125 1st Street West 

  • 1894: Grocery & Bakery 1894 Sanborn Fire Map
  • 1900: Jewelry on 1st floor, photography on 2nd floor 1900 Sanborn Map
  • 1901: C. Hartman Barber Shop 1901 MV City Directory 
  • 1906: Jewelry on first floor, photography on second, barber shop on east side 1906 Sanborn Fire Map
  • 1907: G.E. Brown Barber Shop 1907 MV City Directory
    • G.W. Kidder Photo Gallery on 2nd floor
    • A.L. Reid Barber Shop in basement
  • 1932: Mitchell Studio 1932 MV City Directory
  • 1932–at least 1984: E.C. Prall, dentist occupied west side MV Sun Archives, MV City Directories
  • 1940: Northside Barber Shop occupied east side
    • 1940–at least 1957: Also Mrs. F.A. Bauman Residence
    • 1962–at least 1967: Also L.C. Ross residence
    • 1975: Kim Murphy occupied 125 ½ 
    • 1984–at least 1989: J Gaarde occupied 125 ½ 
  • 1967: Ralston Barber Shop occupied east side 1967 MV City Directory
  • 1984–at least 1993: Gemini Hairstyling (Diane Poduska) occupied east side MV City Directories, MV Sun Archives, 1993 MV Visitor’s Guide
  • 1991–at least 1993: The Perfect Blend (Anne Booth) MV Sun Archives, 1993 MV Visitor’s Guide
    • Building owned by Joy Gaarde
  • 2006:  Floorcraft, Hair Peace, The Locksmith, and DeVine Wine & Beer Cafe all occupied MV Sun Archives
  • 2006–2008: Accessories on Main (Sarah Gaarde) occupied east side Main Street Iowa Binder, MV Sun Archives
  • 2008–2019: Lincoln Wine Bar (Matt Steigerwald)

Now as we go back onto Main Street and look across the street, looking north, we see a large building that shows how structures are modified and changed over time (125-123).  This building is almost completely reconstructed.  The building on the corner was a lovely building with a high parapet with lovely pressed tin designs and finials across the top.  About the only piece that remains from that original structure is the overhanging bay window.  It bares very little resemblance to the original. Perhaps the elevated entrance and bay window are all of the front facade that remain.  The Centennial Book has a good picture of both the original Bauman home set back a good distance from the street.  You will also see a large store addition to the front with its vertical lines (see pictures p. 210, between pp. 96 & 97, and between 105 & 106). Look at the west wall and see if you can trace the additions and modifications.

121 First Street West – Morrissey Building

Photo of 121 First Street West
121 First Street West @2019

121 First Street West

  • Building as we know it constructed by Norma Morrissey in 1980 MV Sun Archives
  • Built in the late 1800s Walking tour of downtown Mt. Vernon, Dick Thomas
  • 1894: Grocery store 1894 Sanborn Fire Map
  • 1901–at least 1907: F.J. Benesh Shoes Sanborn Fire Maps, MV City Directories
    • 1901: also J.F. Newbern, watchmaker 
      • Mr. & Mrs. George Ellison, 2nd floor
      • Otis L. Kepler Real Estate & Insurance, 2nd floor
  • 1932–at least 1940: Deluxe Sandwich & Coffee Shop 1932 MV City Directory
    • 1932: G.M. Law Office occupied 121 ½ 
    • 1940: G.M. Wilson, attorney occupied 121 ½
  • At least 1951–1952: Hawkeye Grill 1952 MV City Directory, MV Hawkeye Records
  • 1962: Walter L. Meeker, realtor 1962 MV City Directory
  • At least 1965–1967: Hawkeye Grill 1967 MV City Directory
  • 1975: Vacant?
    • F.M. McClelland occupied 121 ½ 1975 MV City Directory
  • 1989: Kelsey’s Family Restaurant 1989 MV City Directory
  • 1991: Vacant MV Sun Archives
  • 2003: Venuto’s World Bistro MV Sun Archives
  • 2006: Country Foods MV Sun Archives
    • Dance studio in basement
  • 2019: Mt. Vernon Creates

The next building to the east shows the effort by a property owner to create a 19th century storefront.  It was designed by a local architect, Ed Sauter. He recreated this after a great deal of research on Iowa small town merchant buildings. Features and designs were selected to reflect the look and historic character of the small town and appropriate to the Mount Vernon streetscape.  The  building is joined to the building at the right.  If the facade from the upper part was removed, the original style of the building could be observed.  This was a merchant block–two stores with a second floor entry up the middle. The East portion of the building is original and may reflect the original structure from 1894.  However, the brick on the west portion was so badly deteriorated that this new facade was necessary. We are not sure about the condition of the brick behind the current covering of the east side.

119 First Street West

Photo of 119 First Street West

119 First Street West @ 2019 Chameleon’s

119 First Street West 

  • Built in 1894 MV Sun
  • 1894: Stationary & notions, photo gallery on 2nd floor 1894 Sanborn Fire Map
  • 1900–at least 1907: J.H. Merritt Grocery Store MV City Directories, Sanborn Fire Maps
    • 1901: Mackie, Harlan, & George Johns residence, 2nd floor
    • 1907: Oakley McNamee resided on 2nd floor
  • 1921: Grocery 1921 Sanborn Fire Map
  • 1932: Ross F. Emerson Plumbing
  • 1940–at least 1967: Dale F. Johnson Hardware MV City Directories
  • 1984: Engel’s Fine Meat & Deli 1984 MV City Directory
  • 1989–at least 1993: Mount Vernon Hair 1989 MV City Directory, 1993 MV Visitor’s Guide
  • 2005–2019: Chameleon’s Commercial District Master List
    • Building owned by Randy Bruns

117 First Street West @ 2013

Photo of building at 117 First Street W

117 1/2  & 117 First Street W. @ 2013

117 1/2 First Street West

  • Until at least 1941, this building bore the address 119.
  • 1898–1963: W.G. Power/Bloom’s Bookstore (W.G. Power, then Jasper W. Bloom) MV Sun 1959 Profile on Jasper Bloom, Sanborn Fire Maps, MV City Directories, 1956 MV Chamber of Commerce Records, MV Sun Archives
  • 1963–1965: Vacant MV Sun Archives
  • April 1, 1965–at least 1975: The Wooden Horse (Janet & James Brooks) MV Sun Archives, MV City Directories
    • 1975: Also Mick Snodgress Insurance
  • 1984: Hillside Market 1984 MV City Directory
  • 1989–at least 1991: The Scarab 1989 MV City Directory
  • 2006–2019: The Silver Spider (Anne Silva) MV Sun Archives

117 First Street West

  • 1894: A tiny building selling jewelry was there, but not the building we know today 1894 Sanborn Fire Map
  • Built in 1895 NRHP Application
  • 1900: Restaurant 1900 Sanborn Map
  • 1901: John T. Bair & Co. clothing 1901 MV City Directory
  • 1906: Clothing 1906 Sanborn Fire Map
  • 1907: G.W. Border & Co. Restaurant
    • Also G.W. Border & Son Real Estate Office
  • 1920: Cobbler, boots & shoes 1921 Sanborn Fire Map
  • 1941: Store January 1941 Sanborn Fire Map
  • 1952: Roy Allshouse residence 1952 MV City Directory
  • 1957–at least 1967: Vernon Confectionery MV City Directories
    • Also Mount Vernon Bus Depot
    • 1967: Also College City Cab
  • 1975: Bonnie & Clyde LTD 1975 MV City Directory
  • 1984–at least 1991: Lora’s Fashions MV City Directories
    • Also Aloe Vera Natural & Organic Products by Sasco
  • 1993: Le Sous Sol 1993 MV Visitor’s Guide
  • 2003–2008: Lincoln Cafe (Matt Steigerwald) MV Sun Archives, Commercial District Master List
  • 2019: Palisades Cafe

Now as we move east we come to the only one-story building in the north side of the district.  It is again a merchant block–two joined stores. The Wolfe Brothers, consisting of a doctor and dentist, built this building, as well as two more on Main Street.  It dates from 1894 and first housed a barber shop and restaurant.  As far as we can tell, the building is literally untouched.   If you look at the upper parts, you will notice that most of it is pressed tin.

113 First Street West – H. A. Collins Bank/Brackett Building

Photo of 113 First Street West
113 First Street West. @2019

113 First Street West (Shown as 115 on Sanborn Maps)

  • 1891: Built by H.A. Collin NRHP Application
  • 1892: Charles Brackett buys building NRHP Application
  • 1893–1900: Clothing & gentlemen’s furnishings NRHP Application, Sanborn Fire Maps
  • 1901–at least 1932: Citizens State Bank Tom Reding, Sanborn Fire Maps, MV City Directories
    • 1901: F.H. Zache & Son Tailory and T.A. Gormly Dentist Office on 2nd floor 
    • 1907: Dr. Alice Ackley’s osteopath office, T.A. Gormley’s dentist office, & Dr. J.B. Robinson’s office on 2nd floor
    • 1932: Dr. J.B. Robinson occupied 113 ½ 
  • 1933: Willis Barber Shop Tom Reding
  • 1938: Duckpin bowling alley (Dale Newbanks) Tom Reding
  • 1940–at least 1941: Goudy Cafe Tom Reding, 1941 Sanborn Fire Map
    • Also Modern Laundry & Cleaners
  • 1946–1949: Western Auto Parts Tom Reding
  • 1952: Raymond L. McConlogue, Attorney 1952 MV City Directory
    • Also Robert A Sautter, physician & surgeon
    • Also R.B. Tuberty, Optometrist
  • 1962: Vacant? 1962 MV City Directory
    • J.W. Bensmiller occupied 113 ½ 
    • Harold Batchelor occupied 113 ½? 
  • 1967: Vacant? 1967 MV City Directory
    • Glenn Davis occupied 113 ½ 
  • 1975: Vacant?
    • Glenn Davis occupied 113 ½ 1975 MV City Directory
  • 1984: M.B. Decamp & Diane Duarte occupied 1984 MV City Directory
  • 1989–2000: The Sun Newspaper (Dennis Herrick) MV archives, Tom Reding
    • 1989: P.J. Rife occupied 1989 MV City Directory
      • John K Wellso occupied 113 ½ 
  • 2000–at least 2008: Sauter-Baty Association (architect) Main Street Iowa Binder, Tom Reding, Commercial District Master List
    • Building owned by Jeff Miller and Ed Sauter
  • 2017–Present: Vintage 1891 Antiques & Collectibles (Tom & Colleen Reding) Tom Reding, Downtown Business Owner Questionnaire

113 is one of our best examples of 19th Century commercial architecture.  At the top we see “Bank 1891.” It was built in 1891 and was originally the Collins Bank. Collins died in 1892 and Brackett, who was a prominent builder of many homes in town, bought the building. Quickly, it became the Charles Brackett Store. You are essentially seeing the original building.  Fortunately, in the basement of this building, we found large colored glass transom windows that had been above each of the doors on the first floor and the original arch-colored glass that was discovered still in the frame but covered by a wood panel.  You will notice a very smooth brick, a large arch over the front window, and the narrow mortar.  This building is banded with limestone and along the top are lovely little arches that decorate the top. This building had a stair step series of limestone blocks up to a single capstone on the top. Most of the buildings in this historic district had the same style of caps that give a sense of verticality.  Today the streetscape is much more horizontal because these caps are gone.  Most were removed because they were not maintained and there was fear they would fall.

Looking in to the alley, there are a few historically noteworthy items.  You will notice long narrow windows on the building that are mostly all in their original shape, preserving historical integrity.  Notice just above the limestone footings, tie rod ends in the shape of an S–this is another practical, yet decorative design.

111-109 First Street West – Smith-Hogle Building

Photo of building at 109 First Street W
111-109 First Street West @ 2013

111 First Street West

  • Built in 1894 1894 Sanborn Fire Map
  • 1900: Jewelry & Drugs 1900 Sanborn Fire Map
  • 1898–1905: D.E. Long Dry Goods & Groceries MV City Directories, 1927 MV Hawkeye Archives, 1906 Sanborn Fire Map
    • 1901: Dr. A. Crawford Office, 2nd floor; Randall & Dennis, lawyers, 2nd floor; G.M. Wilson, lawyer, 2nd floor
  • 1905–1927: H.C. Gilliland Dry Goods Store and The Mt. Vernon Record 1907 MV City Directory, 1927 MV Hawkeye Archives, 1921 Sanborn Fire Map
    • 1907: Elwood Macy Insurance Office occupied 2nd floor; Dr. A Crawford’s offices occupied 2nd floor; G.M. Wilson Attorney Office occupied 2nd floor
  • 1927: H.F. Gordon buys Gilliland’s store, sells his own dry goods 1927 MV Hawkeye Archives
    • Dr. F.F. Ebersole practices on 2nd floor
    • Also Dr. George D. Reid, dentist, on 2nd floor
  • 1932: Spic & Span Bakery 1932 MV City Directory
    • Little Paris Beauty Shop occupied 111 ½ 
  • 1940: Hodge’s Restaurant 1940 MV City Directory
  • 1952: Mac’s Sugar Bowl Cafe 1952 MV City Directory
  • 1962–at least 1975: Shutt’s Pharmacy MV City Directories
    • Wall between 109 & 111 removed in 1964
  • 1984–at least 1993: Shepley Pharmacy MV City Directories, MV Sun, 1993 MV Visitor’s Guide
  • 1984: Alvah Needles occupied 111 ½ MV City Directories
  • Before 2003: Billibob’s Commercial District Master List
  • 2003–2005: Hilltop Bar & Grill The Sun Archives & Main St. Iowa Binder
    • Building owned by Al Shepley
  • 2008–2019: Scorz Bar & Grill Main Street Iowa Binder

109 1st Street West: The Smith Hogle Block

  • Built in 1894 by J.S. Smith & George W. Hogle NRHP Application, 1894 Sanborn Fire Map
  • 1900: Dry Goods 1900 Sanborn Map
  • 1901: A.J. Berryman Drug Store 1901 MV City Directory
    • Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) Hall, 2nd floor
  • 1906: Drug Store 1906 Sanborn Fire Map
  • 1907–at least 1932: Joseph Bennett Drug Store MV City Directories
  • 1940: Walgreen Drug 1940 MV City Directory
    • James Clark occupied 109 ½ 
  • 1952: Heasty Drug Store 1952 MV City Directory
    • Joseph Bennett Residence
  • 1957: Meredith Drug Store (Tom Meredith) 1957 MV City Directory, MV Chamber of Commerce Records
    • Joseph Bennet residence
  • 1962–at least 1975: Shutt’s Pharmacy MV City Directories
    • Ms. Joseph Bennett residence
    • 1967: Gladys Wilson occupied 109 ½ 
    • 1975: Carlene Kuntz occupied 109 ½
  • 1984–at least 1993: Shepley Pharmacy MV City Directories, MV Sun, 1993 MV Visitor’s Guide
    • Charles Hirsch occupied 109 ½ 
    • 1989: Scott Johnson occupied 109 ½ 
  • Before 2003: Billibob’s Commercial District Master List
  • 2003–2005: Hilltop Bar & Grill The Sun Archives & Main St. Iowa Binder
    • Building owned by Al Shepley
  • 2008–2019: Scorz Bar & Grill Main Street Iowa Binder

Now we are in the front of 109, which was once the Smith-Hogle Building of 1894.  It was part of a rebuilding after the disastrous fires in the downtown area in 1893-94.  It also is a merchant block and you will notice the entrance in the middle again where you are under a roof and can window shop.  This is all now one store.  It also has a door in one corner at a 45 degree angle so that you can enter the building not only from the front directly, but from the angled corner.  This building bears a great deal of similarity to the other buildings along the street in the way it uses brick and the use of the brick column.

Notice that the stores on this north side of the street have awnings because of the late summer sun.  The awnings up and down the street protect merchandise from fading, as well as providing shade.  They also add a great deal of color and charm to the community.

107 First Street West – Mt.Vernon Bank Building

Photo of building at 107 First Street W
107 First Street West. @ 2013

107 First Street West (Mt. Vernon Bank Building)

  • Conflicting information regarding construction of the bank
    • 1925 MV Hawkeye says the bank was established in 1884 MV Hawkeye Archives
    • National Register of Historic Places Application says it was built as a bank in 1891 NRHP Application
  • Circa 1890–at least 1962: Mt. Vernon Bank Sanborn Fire Maps, MV City Directories, 
    • 1891: Dr. Hogle’s office, 2nd floor Mentions of Commercial Buildings in the MV-Lisbon Hawkeye, compiled by Jeff Clark
  • 1892–at least 1901: A. L. Reid Barber Shop, 2nd floor Mentions of Commercial Buildings in the MV-Lisbon Hawkeye, compiled by Jeff Clark; MV City Directories
    • 1892: Charles Stoufer, dentist, 2nd floor
    • 1906: Dentist on east side
    • 1907: William Smyth occupied 2nd floor; Frank Davis, attorney occupied 2nd floor
  • 1967–at least 1991: Dr. John Ware’s Office MV City Directories, MV Sun
  • 2005–2019: Mt. Vernon Insurance Agency Commercial District Master List, Main Street Iowa Binder, Downtown Business Owner Questionnaire

107 is a remarkable reflection of the spirit of 1891 when it was built. It was built for the Mt.Vernon Bank, largely owned by William Smith and Dr. Charles Carson who first occupied it.  I regard it as one of our finest landmarks. Underneath the large window on the second floor are rounded bricks.  If you go across the street and look at this you will see the use of large amounts of limestone, varieties of the arch shape, and tubular shaped terracotta bricks. The top of this building would have had three or more limestone blocks leading to a cap.

105 First Street West – Old Post Office Building

Photo of building at 105 First Street W
105 First Street West. @ 2013

105 First Street West (Post Office Building)

  • Built in 1888 by Rood & Young NRHP Application
  • 1892: Wolfe Bros. Offices Mentions of Commercial Buildings in MV-Lisbon Hawkeye, compiled by Jeff Clark
    • T.I. Mitchell, veterinary surgeon
  • 1894–1967: Post office Sanborn Fire Maps, MV City Directories
    • 1901: Drs. J. D. & T. L. Wolfe Office, 2nd floor 
    • 1907: J.F. Killhefer, druggist
      • Neidig residence, 2nd floor
    • 1922: Cora & H.C. Hemenway occupied second floor
    • 1932: 105 ½: Dr. L E Bigger’s Office 
  • 1975–at least 1984: Breese Co. Inc MV City Directories
  • 1975–at least 1989: Buster Brown residence MV City Directories
  • 1989–at least 1991: Steve’s Grocery (Steve Brown) MV City Directories, MV Sun
  • 2005–at least 2008: The Hair Studio (Geneva Brown owned building) Commercial District Master List, Main Street Iowa Binder
  • 2019: Right Frame of Mind

105 was built as a Post Office for T. S.  Brokaw in 1888 by Rood and Young, also merchants on Main Street.  There is an enormous amount of brick detailing as well as terracotta and a pressed tin piece that looks like a scroll at one end.  You will notice other places that look like stone, but may be brick.  Just above the metal flashing are wood cornices that duplicate pressed-tin pieces.

Ending the Tour

We are back to the most historic spot in Mount Vernon–the junction of the first highway in the state of Iowa and main street Mount Vernon.  When the original town was plotted this was almost exactly in the middle.  The original town was about a block and a half to the east and west and a block north and south from this very spot.  It was plotted in 1847. The top of the hill became a small trading center for all the farmers in the immediate area and it is still a street of small local merchants who continue to keep the town viable.  Anchored by excellent transportation and a strong private liberal arts college, Mount Vernon is a town with a proud heritage and we are glad we were able to share it with you.   Thank you for joining us.


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