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This slide show contains a number of photos of Ely from the past, in honor of Ely's Sesquicentennial, which will be held August 12th and 13th, 2022.
Click the below link and follow the instructions. Enjoy!
From a Facebook post by Ed Vavra
On June 5, 1872, the Burlington, Cedar Rapids & Minnesota Railroad Co. treasurer, John F. Ely, signed over land owned by the railroad for public use as the village of Ely.
The town had been platted into 6 residential blocks consisting of 18 lots each. 3 blocks along each side of the railroad tracks were platted for businesses.
The first lot purchased was by Wesley Svacha on June 29th, 1872 for $100. Svacha would build a home and harness shop on this land where the library now sits. He sold the house and harness business to Wesley Valenta in 1880.
The second lot was purchased for $1 by the trustees of the Methodist Episcopal Church whose congregation had built a church East of Ely around 1859. They had hoped to increase attendance and financial support and moved their building into town. Lack of a permanent preacher and no new membership forced the church to close in 1885. Members of the St. John’s Lutheran church south of Ely purchased the building for $225 in 1886; this congregation still worships here today.
St. Johns Lutheran Church building around 1910. This building was originally built by a
Methodist congregation and located east of Ely.
John Dolezal built a saloon on a lot on the northwest corner of Dows and Walker streets. He advertised a dance in his "newly furnished saloon" to be held on November 25, 1872. In addition to his saloon, Dolezal was also an early farm implement dealer in Ely until his death in 1879. His saloon was purchased by Frank Poduska in 1876 who operated it for the next 25 years.
As Ely grew, men with an entrepreneurial spirit came from surrounding towns hoping to make their fortunes offering the business and services a new town would need. Most of these "outsiders" did not make it long and the Bohemian presence in the surrounding area moved in to fill these needs as Ely grew over the next 20 years.
|Joseph Holets standing in the door of his harness shop on Walker Street in Ely. His eldest daughter,|
wife, son (also Joseph Holets, and younger daughter are standing by the fence.
|A closeup of the Holets family from the above photo|
In 1880 Joseph Holets established a harness shop on the west side of Walker Street near the corner of Downs Street. Expansion of the warehouse soon housed an implement dealership.
FROM THE ”ELY ECONOMY", an Ely, Iowa newspaper. The paper has no date, but I believe the date would be about 1897 or 1898. (Since this is my husband's family I have made a few changes to the article with family knowledge.- Barb Horak)
The Holec (Holets) family came to the United States in the fall of 1857. Joseph Holets was born in 1859 on their farm about a mile south of Swisher, Iowa,and was raised there until 17 years old, attending school during the winter terms. At that age he began his apprenticeship with J.W. Pauba, of Solon as a harness maker where he served two years and then worked for J. E. Dolezal at Ely as a journeyman for 18 months, till the death of Mr. Dolezal.
He worked for his brother, John Holets, of Fairfax for two and a half years. In September 1880, he married Miss Katherine Sedlacek at Danforth (later Swisher) and in November began business for himself in Ely where he has remained since and prospered in this line of business. Mr. Holets is an enthusiastic member of the AOUW (Ancient Order of United Workman) in which he holds the master’s degree. He and his family are members of the Bohemian Reformed church near Ely. Mr. Holets is one of the respected and substantial business men of Ely who are doing not only for themselves but for their fellow men what they believe to be right. His business as a harness maker is prosperous and his customers are all over this region.
|The Holets harness shop after expansion to include implements. This view is looking down |
Walker Street towards Dows St. with the long-gone Poduska Saloon in the background.
Article from a Cedar Rapids newspaper - in family possession - no date (Spring of 1939)
JOSPEH HOLETS OF ELY KILLED BY TRUCK
Joseph Holets, 79, retired Ely business man, was killed at 5:40 p.m. Friday, when run over by a truck, which Leonard Reyhons, 23, was backing into Ely's main street from an alley beside the retail store he manages.
Mr. Holets, who would have been 80 May 7, suffered a crushed chest and broken back. Following an investigation with Deputy Sheriff Harlan Snyder, Dr. B. L. Knight, coroner, said there will be no inquest.
Accompanied by Frank Kos, 78, and J. C. Dvorak, 78, both Ely men, Mr. Holets had left the post office just across the street from the accident scene. Kos and Dvorak started east on the north side of the street and Holets was walking across the road southward, apparently scanning newspaper headlines as he entered the mouth of the alley, witnesses said. Acquaintances said Mr. Holets was hard of hearing.
Mr. Holets was born about one mile south of Swisher. For a half-century he operated an implement and harness store at Ely. He and his wife, Katherine, who survives, would have passed their sixtieth wedding anniversary next September. He was affiliated with the Masonic lodge at Fairfax.
Other relatives include a son, Joseph W. Holets of near Ely, and two daughters, Mrs. Frank Henik of Mount Vernon and Mrs. Thomas Horak, route 2, Cedar Rapids; one brother, John Holets of Cedar Rapids; two sisters, Mrs. Joseph Kubicek and Mrs. A. O. Latimer, both of Cedar Rapids and seven grandchildren. The body was taken to the Brosh Funeral home in Cedar Rapids.
Joseph's son, Joseph W. Holets was a banker in Ely for many years.
Cedar Rapids Gazette
Tuesday, 3 April 1984
Joseph W. Holets, 97, of Ely, manager of First Trust and Savings Bank in Ely from 1943 until retiring in 1965, died Monday morning at St. Luke's Hospital of heart failure.
Born July 17, 1886, in Ely, he married Ida Barta on Nov. 28, 1911. She died in 1965. He farmed and served as secretary and treasurer of the Ely Livestock Shippers Association, was secretary of the Board of Education, served on election boards and the Ely Volunteer Fire Department, and also as township clerk and town treasurer. He was a member of Ely IOOF Lodge 581, Linn Encampment 49, Canton Rainbow Patriarchs Militant 22 of Cedar Rapids and Posledni Taborita 16 of Ely, and a charter member of Ely Rebekah Lodge 56.
Surviving is a daughter, Gladys Holets of Ely.
Gladys Holets served as a clerk in the Ely bank for many years.
|Joseph Holets and wife, Katherine Sedlacek Holets|
|Joseph W. Holets with his wife, Ida, and daughter, Gladys|
Joseph W. Holets built a brick house where his father's harness and implement business had been. He,his wife, and his daughter, Gladys, lived there for many years. The house still stands today on the west side of Walker Street.
On November 14, 2003, The Dows Street Historical District was entered into the National Register of Historic Places.
The below map is the sign next to the Ely Public Library showing the Dows District.
Click the below image and you will be able to enlarge it.
National Register of Historic Places Click to see all the paperwork about the Dows Street Historical District.
(Most of the below is copied from the nomination papers on the above link. Other photos have been added to clarify.)
The following thumbnail sketches of resources were researched, analyzed, and written by Clary Illian, chair, Ely Historic Preservation Commission. Her research in newspapers, abstract and assessor records, oral history interviews, and project coordination were of invaluable assistance to this nomination.
Most photos are from 2002 in Ely
Martin Vanorny House & Garage (Site #1) - 1505 Dows St.
Martin Vanorny was a rural mail carrier in Ely, beginning in 1904. He built this house himself in 1918 and lived there with his family. The property remained in the Vanorny family until 1941, when Harry Upmier purchased and used it as a rental property until 1944. In that year, Leo and Bess Jansa purchased the property and lived there until 2000. The barn at the east lot line of the property was built in 1920, according to Linn County Assessor's records.
The Sanborn fire insurance map of Ely, 1934, shows a porch wrapping around the southeast corner of the house. A photo in the Ely Centennial Book, page 15, shows a porch on the east side not shown on the Sanborn map. The photo also shows a post office building attached to the barn. The post office burned down in 1947. The house itself has a concrete block foundation.
Anecdote has the related Vanornys (brothers or cousins) competing to build the largest house at 1505 Dows Street and 1585 Dows Street. Various family members have not heard of the competition and define the relationship as uncle and nephew. Anecdote also relates that 1585 is older than 1505, which is contradicted by the historical record.
Charles Vanorny House (Site #2) - 1585 Dows Street
When Charles Vanorny retired as a farmer, he himself built this house as his family's dwelling. He constructed it in 1913. The property remained in the Vanorny estate until 1940. Since then, the property has remained residential.
Anecdote has the related Vanorny s (brothers or cousins) competing to build the largest house at 1505 Dows Street and 1585 Dows Street. Various family members have not heard of the competition and define the relationship as uncle and nephew. Anecdote also relates that 1585 is older than 1505, which is contradicted by the historical record.
This house features a block and concrete foundation. The Sanborn fire insurance map of Ely, 1934, places a porch around the entire south and east side of the house, and it can be seen in a photograph on page 67 of the Ely Centennial Book, left hand column, second from the bottom, dated 1918. The porches were taken off between 1947 and 1951. A garage on this property, said to be constructed in 1930, does not appear on the 1934 fire insurance map, but likely dates soon thereafter.
Adolph Kohl Meat Market (Site #4) - 1655 Dows Street
In 1901, the ownership of this land passed to Adolph Kohl. The Solon Economy notes on January 29, 1901: "Adolph Kohl is tearing down the old butcher shop which he will replace with a new building." In March 26, 1903: "Adolph Kohl is now ready to serve his customers in his fine new meat market." During the early 1900s, Dr. Lowry maintained his offices on the second floor of this building. (Ely Centennial Book) The first floor continued as a meat market, under various proprietors, until at least 1930. From about 1956 to the present, the building has been used as a tavern and, more recently, a pizza parlor. The storefront entrance was rebuilt in 1999 and the storefront clad with vinyl siding.
Commercial Building (Site #5) - 1665 Dows Street
This is a new building, having been built in 2000 to replicate the historic design of the building it replaced. That building was constructed a little before 1910. It was used for various purposes over the years, including the Ely Cooperative Telephone Association.
Frank Krall General Store (Site #6) - 1675 Dows Street
This building's construction in 1902 is documented by an entry for it in the new buildings column in 1902 of the Putnam Township Assessor's book and a bump in the 1903 property taxes. From 1902 to 1906: Frank Krall, General Store. In the Solon Economy of October 16, 1902: "Mr. Krall has moved his goods into the Kriz Building [at Dows Street]. His old store will be torn down and a new one built." In the October 23, 1902 edition of the newspaper: "John Hanus and Frank Novotny are tearing down Krall's old store." In October 30, 1902: "The foundation is being laid for [Joe?] Krall's new store." In January 22, 1903: "Mr. Krall's store is ready to be plastered." In May 7, 1903: "Mr. Krall has moved into his new store." From 1906 to 1917, various occupants, including Joseph M. Bartosh (use unknown), Frank Elias and Charles Sladek (rental as a restaurant). The restaurant quickly changes to a general store. From 1913-1924, Fred Michalicek and Charles Sladek operated the property as a general store. The Sladek family continued this use until 1967.
This building includes a small addition attached to the west. A 1917 photo shows a lean-to in this space. We are unable to date the construction of this addition, but it has been there in the memories of many of the older folks in town, which would date it anytime between 1917 and 1925. The present configuration shows in the 1951 aerial photo, centerfold of the Ely Centennial Book.
This property has a stone foundation. The preservation of the original storefront is notable. Although the addition at the side might date as late as 1951, its wood construction and scale is compatible with the 1902 building. The cover-up materials over the storefront were installed in 1993 and are easily reversible.
J. C. Dvorak Farm Implement Store (Site #7) - 1685 Dows Street
J. C. Dvorak operated a farm implement dealership and hardware store at 1685 Dows Street prior to the construction of this building at 1695 Dows. However, we believe he rebuilt the farm implement premises at the same time that he contracted with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows to jointly build the commercial building at 1695 Dows Street as an upstairs lodge hall and downstairs hardware store in 1901. The two sections of the building have separate wall systems and foundations; however, there is no siding between them. In the 1902 Putnam Township Assessor's book there is an entry in the new buildings column of $1,000 for the property.
The 1685 property is counted as one contributing resource, and the 1695 property is counted as one contributing resource in this nomination. This is justified because the buildings served different purposes. The 1685 building features two bay openings at street level and a set of large double doors on the second floor of the facade. Both of these elements provided access for heavy machinery into the building and call attention to its specific function as a farm implement store. This function differs from the hardware store function in the 1695 Dows Street building.
J. C. Dvorak Hardware Store-International Order of Odd Fellows Lodge #581 (Site #7)- 1695 Dows Street
J. C. Dvorak operated a farm implement dealership and hardware store at 1685 Dows Street prior to the construction of this building at 1695 Dows. However, we believe he rebuilt the farm implement premises at the same time that he contracted with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows to jointly build the 1695 Dows Street portion as an upstairs lodge hall and downstairs hardware store in 1901. The two sections of the building have separate wall systems and foundations; however, there is no siding between them. In the 1902 Putnam Township Assessor's book there is an entry in the new buildings column of $1,000 for the property. The property's abstract of title includes a contract between the International Order of Odd Fellows and Joseph C. Dvorak to construct this property. The 1903 Putnam Township records show a jump in taxes. The Odd Fellows records show that they moved into the building in 1901.
Dvorak operated a hardware store from the first floor of this building from 1901 to 1935. From 1902 to 1914, the Ely Telephone Office was located in a back room of this building. From 1901 to at least 1972, the Z.C.B.J. Lodge Posledni Taborita #16 met in the Odd Fellows hall.
From 1936 to 1972, the building was used as a rental property for various commercial businesses. From 1985 to the present (2004), Clary Illian has owned the building. She uses it as a pottery studio, showroom, and residence.
Woitishek-King-Krob Grain Elevator (Site #33) - 1700 Dows Street
Completed at the end of 1900, the Woitishek-King-Krob Grain Elevator anchors the eastern end of the Dows Street Historic District. News items in the Solon Economy reported its construction. October 1,, 1900: "Joseph Woitishek is making preparation to build a large elevator which is to be built within sixty days." November 1, 1900: "The stone and lumber for the elevator has arrived and the work will be commenced as soon as the weather permits." November 15,1900: "Work on the new elevator is progressing rapidly and ten days or two weeks will probably see it ready for operation. The main structure is to be 24' x 24' with additions to the north and south of 18' x 24' each. It will be fitted with dumps and a rapid sheller, gasoline engine and modern improvements for rapid and easy hauling of grain. It is rumored that Jos. Woitishek has sold half interest in his store and grain business to Wm. Yessler of Western, and the latter is expected to take possession after closing his term of school at Western." [Later accounts of the elevator and its operations do not mention Yessler.) November 29,1900: "The new elevator at Ely now nearing completion will be when finished one of the best in any county town in Iowa. Mr. Woitishek is sparing no pains to make it complete in all its details. The building adds much to the appearance of the town and will be a great help to the grain trade. If business men in Ely will unite to put down local jealousy and work together the town will soon take a step forward in progress." December 13,1900: "The new elevator is completed and is pronounced to be one of the best in this part of Iowa."
In 1905, Woitishek sold the elevator to C. S. King, according to David Krob, but C. S. King is first mentioned in connection with the elevator in the Solon Economy on July 2, 1903: "Mr. King has purchased a new engine for the main elevator." King moved to Ely in October of 1903. Several photographs dated 1906-1907 show the elevator with King's name on the building. King shows up in the 1904 Ely telephone book with an ad for grain, seeds, and coal.
In 1910, Frank J. Krob and Wes Fiala, his brother-in-law, purchased the elevator. In 1952, Frank sold out to his three sons and his son-in-law. Also in the 1950s, the railroad quit claimed the land to the Krobs. The land on which this elevator stands belonged to the Burlington, Cedar Rapids, and Minnesota Railway. For this reason, it is hard to trace the dates and names of those involved in its erection and proprietorship. No abstract has been found.
In addition to the historic grain elevator, this property possesses a series of modern structures, including large metal grain storage bins, mostly dating from the post-World War II period. The elevator is well-maintained and currently in use. It is clad with corrugated metal siding.
There was a big jump in taxes in the 1890 local Putnam Township Assessor's Book, so this building was built in 1889 by Joseph Woitishek. From 1889-1905, it served as Joseph Woitishek's general store. From 1893-1901, lodge #581 of the International Order of Odd Fellows met upstairs. Later, other merchants rented the building and operated general stores from the site. From 1914 to 1918, a part of the building was used as the U.S. Post Office in Ely.
The building features a stone foundation, brick load-bearing walls, and pressed metal cornices and hood molds. The upstairs today is used for apartment rentals.
Commercial Building (Site #14) - 1652 Dows Street
Old frame commercial building but with recent and substantially remodeled storefront. (Now Odies)
Commercial Building (Site #15) - 1650 Dows Street (Hanus & Sons Undertaking)
No tax jumps were found in local Putnam Township Records between 1895 and 1903. Folk's Directory lists John Hanus & Sons at this address between 1895 and 1929. This suggests a construction date prior to 1895. From 1929-1947: Milo Lustik, barbershop, pool hall, and cabinetry (violins! by anecdotal account and walnut desks, one of which is currently in a residence in town). We have photos of the interior of a pool hall and barbershop dated 1918, but they are probably in the Woitishek Commercial Block at 1680-1690 Dows Street, where Lustik briefly rented space. Lustik appears in Folk's Directory as a barber in 1910 and as a barber and billiard hall property in 1922. Hanus disappears from Folk's Directory in 1922. Could Lustik have rented this property prior to buying it?
The Ely Bank (Site #18) - 1600-1608 Dows Street
This building was opened as a bank by J. H. Smith & Sons in January of 1903. Township records show a jump in the property's value in 1903. In the Solon Economy of September 11, 1902: "A new bank will soon be built on the comer of Dows and Walker Streets." In the September 25, 1902, edition: "Work has begun on the bank." In November 11, 1902: "A new sidewalk has been put around the bank. The counters have arrived for the bank."
Cover-up siding was installed in the 1970s. Although it is visually distracting, the material can be removed and the original brick exposed. The building's cornice remains intact. An addition to the bank was constructed adjacent to it on the east in the mid-1990s. Its facade is roughly copied from the facade of the Lorenc Drug Store, an historic building now nonextant.
Cottage (Site #19) - 1580 Dows Street
From 1905 to 1941 this was the residence of the various blacksmiths who also operated a shop built around the garage at 1576 Dows Street. This blacksmith shop was taken down by previous owners in the late 1950s or early 1960s, according to Dick Netolicky.
Evelyn Stastny remembers a narrow passage between the blacksmith shop and the 1575 Dows Street property. She says that her uncle Martin Varnory used the blacksmith shop as a place to weave and sell rag rugs.
This house features a stone foundation. It is dated 1900 in County Assessor records. A bump in this property's taxes in the 1893 Putnam Township Assessor's Book suggests its construction might have occurred in 1892.
Commercial Building (Site #20) - 1576 Dows Street (This building is gone in 2022)
On Linn County Assessor's records the date of building is listed as 1940, with a concrete floor and no foundation material noted. However in old photos it looks like a very similar building is on the site. In an old photo (horse and wagon in background) cornice is horizontal; in sewer line installation photo (late 1960s) the cornice has a peak; and now the cornice is horizontal again. Also in another Stanek's store photo you get a glimpse of a slanted roof. [All this information suggests a construction date no later than circa 1940.]
Some anecdotal reports say that this building was used as part of the blacksmith business located at 1580 Dows Street, but others say it was always a separate garage or storage building. The garage was never owned by the blacksmiths. The fact that this building directly abuts the public sidewalk points to its function as a commercial building.
Stanek General Store (site #21) - 1550 Dows Street
Norbert John Jordan is listed as owner of the land for the first time in 1903 (township records), but the deed was transferred to him in 1901 from grantor J. A. Horak. Jordan is listed as general store proprietor 1897- 1908; postmaster and justice, 1899-1902 (Folk's Directory). We have an old photograph of this building with a post office sign on front, no date. In the Solon Economy newspaper as early as April 28, 1897, there is an ad for Jordan's new store. Folk's Directory lists Louis Stanek at the property from 1904 to 1935. The removal of the boomtown front from this store is regrettable because it substantially diminished the building's appearance as a commercial building. For this reason, the property is classified as noncontributing to the historic district.
Stanek House (Site #22) - 1500 Dows Street
Anecdotal evidence from Nancy Nagle, the present owner, suggests this house was built by Louis Stanek around an older house in late 1922 or 1923. The new addition was to the front of the house. In an Ely Centennial Book photograph of the house on the property before this house was built, the building looks to be too close to the street for this to be true, and the gable is oriented differently. The assessor's card lists 1900 as the building date. Stanek operated a general store next door to the east. In the 1940s and 1950s, his wife and son, also named Louis Stanek, lived in the house.
This property was the site of the N. J. Jordan House. Norbert John Jordan was a general store proprietor, postmaster, and justice of the peace in 1899-1906. The present building was probably constructed circa 1915
Elv Fire Station (site #3) - 1520 Walker Street
A 1955 tax levy in Putnam Township and town enabled construction of the new fire station in 1956. In 1975 the building was expanded with the addition of three more bays. Another addition was completed in 1997, with the construction of a cooking pavilion at the east end of the building. In 2001, the fire station moved to a new location in Ely. Now, the Ely Public Library plans to remodel the Walker Street building for library use.
Novotny Cottage (Site #48)- 1525 Walker Street
No bumps in taxes from 1882 to city incorporation in 1903 indicate possible date of building. The earliest photograph is from 1906 to 1907. Anecdotally it is thought to be older than most of the commercial buildings on Dows Street. Present owners have been told that it might be as old as 1870, and it is listed in the County Assessor's office as having been built in 1870. When they estimated the dates of the buildings in the district, they usually estimated 1900, so the specificity of this date is convincing.