Images of the Past: Pioneering business location

Bloomfield businessman and musician Doug Dixon is now renovating one of Bloomfield’s oldest business locations — the building at 101 S. Madison St., the southwest corner of the intersection of Madison and Jefferson streets. The building is shown above in this 1875 engraving from A.T.

Andreas’ Illustrated Historical Atlas of the State of Iowa.

The building is on the site of pioneer merchant John Lucas‘ store, the first constructed on the

public square, following the laying out of Bloomfield in the summer of 1846. Lucas, an English immigrant, replaced this frame structure with Davis County’s first brick business house in 1850.

Lucas left for California in 1857. With his departure, the street corner’s history is unknown until the present building, part of a four-store business block, was constructed about 1874. It is uncertain who or what person or persons were behind the building of this impressive group of storefronts.

The bank shown in the engraving is the Farmers and Merchants‘ Bank, whose president was Canadian-born John W. Ellis. It was the first in a series of banks to occupy this location. When Ellis left Bloomfield for Kansas in 1877, it became Bradley’s Bank. Shortly thereafter, the block‘s most recognizable occupant was the Trimble House hotel (Images of the Past, April 15, 2015), which occupied the second floor (below), until it closed in the 1890s.

Banking came to an end at 101 S. Madison in 1930, when the Bloomfield State Bank merged with the Bloomfield National Bank. The new State Bank of Davis County chose the National Bank site on the southwest corner of the square for its offices (today’s Bloomfield Main Street office). That bank closed in 1932. Following the bank merger in 1930, the first floor of 101 S. Madison was occupied by the Ideal Shoppe and Anderson Abstract/Insurance. Today’s residents will remember that Dr. Richard Conn’s medical office was located there, followed by the law office of John Martin.

At various times during its history, the second floor has housed law offices and a beauty shop. In the years after World War II, hundreds of 18-year-old men climbed the stairway to the second floor, where the U.S. Selective Service offices were located, when they had to register for the military draft.

— Rudy Evans |