Images of the Past: Main Street in Floris, a century ago

Times change, and this photo from about 1907 looking east down Main Street in Floris reminds us how that crossroad community once was a thriving little town. The telephone exchange had recently arrived. The town was a stop on the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad. Floris could brag about its community band, the IOOF lodge, the school, the churches and a variety of businesses.

One curious thing about this photo: It highlights muddy streets, not dirt streets, mind you, but mud. Nothing says “wish you were here” like muddy streets. With the arrival of the 20th century and the advent of the automobile, there soon would be a push in Iowa to get the state out of the mud by upgrading those dirt roads. The movement was pushed by Iowa business interests and community leaders. With growing public support, the “Get out of the mud” movement would lead to graveled roads and later to connecting sections of the county with hard-surfaces farm-to-market roads. But the easier travel was not without its social costs: Towns like Floris would reach their apex about World War II and start a gradual decline as residents could drive to bigger communities and patronize businesses and organizations there, taking some of the vitality out of the smaller communities.

Today, only the brick building at the far left in this photo still stands. A bank was built just out of view at the right a few years after this photo was made. That building today houses the U.S. Post Office. With these two buildings, the intersection of Main and Allen Streets has little to suggest how vibrant life in Floris was 110 years ago. But the community spirit still can be found in the handful of businesses, the town’s veterans’ memorial and the community’s annual Flag Day celebration.               

—Rudy Evans  |  revans1953@gmail.com