May is Historic Preservation Month

Last Updated 5/9/2022

With the National theme of “People Saving Places,” May is dedicated to Historic Preservation and is meant to celebrate the nation’s heritage through historic places. Organizations across the country promote a variety of activities on the local, state, and national levels. Whether touring historical sites or helping to preserve community history, there is something for everyone. The stories connected to the historic places are equally important- family times, major events or everyday activities shine a light on the importance of preservation.

“Whether the story is found in archives or attics, peeling back the layers of time helps us understand the past. Recording stories help to provide a rich and lively history of the people who lived and worked there. We can better imagine their hardships, what they overcame, and the difficult decisions they made in the face of adversity.”

Why Preservation Matters

Recently, Osceola’s Historic Downtown District suffered a destructive fire. What most people call ‘The Old Flowers ‘N More’ and Hallmark Building’ was nearly destroyed. Generations of Clarke County citizens and visitors have memories of time spent inside those walls.

Two Osceola Sentinel Tribune articles, one written by Marie White, give a glimpse into the history of the building and of the early 1900’s building boom around the square. During this time, Osceola improved more than any Iowa town of its size. Eight blocks formed the downtown business district, but scores of new residences and barns were also built. Tradesmen of every kind came to Osceola to work, live, and contribute to the local economy. Visitors saw scaffolding and torn-up sidewalks everywhere, which was good advertising for the growing town.

Two prominent businessmen joined forces to create the 85-foot, two story, Lewis-Bailey block on the N.E. corner of the square. According to the articles, after ten days of intense cold weather, on Christmas Day 1901, masons laid stone for the foundation of the R.M. Lewis Building. Hollow brick in two sizes rendered the walls fireproof and damp-proof. These bricks were patented and higher priced than common brick.

“The two large business blocks of Bailey and Lewis added greatly to the appearance of Osceola’s business district. Those two gentlemen exercised good judgment and a fine sense of discrimination in building with an eye to artistic beauty, as well as substantially. The pressed brick cornices, in fancy design, and the stylish fronts gave the entire block a metropolitan appearance.”

The lower half of the Lewis-Bailey block housed a large furniture store and mortuary, and the second floor of the building was the general mercantile opened by F.M. Jamison, Lewis and son Roy. “There was an inside stairway customers used to go upstairs to buy clothes. Ada Farson ran the dress shop upstairs with Emma Duncan as seamstress, if customers wanted something made. Jess Turner ran the shoe store, Sam Monger the men’s clothing store and Rolla Glenn the grocery store in the back. There was a dry-goods department. It was a big store. Directly behind the building to the north was Nat McNichol’s monument shop.”

This is just a glimpse into the history of a small section of the downtown. OCMS encourages the community, especially the younger generation, to learn more about your community. Talk to the people who remember what was where and when; visit the Clarke County Historic Museum or the Historical Society’s Facebook page; research newspaper archives or visit the historic Carnegie Library.

Join Us Locally to Celebrate

Check out our Facebook Page this month as we celebrate Historic Preservation Month locally with fun facts and an engaging scavenger hunt about Osceola's Historic District. 

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