"I Remember........."
Decatur County, Iowa

This discussion took place on the Decatur County Rootsweb Mailing List in July of 2009. Many of the posts to the list that had descriptions of buildings and memories are included here.

This is the first post that started the discussion.

"Does anyone have pictures or know where the Park Hotel and Hotel Hamilton were located? The best description of the Park Hotel location was from a newspaper article as follows: The Pioneer newspaper and the Park Hotel when it was located where the north side of the J C Penney Co building is now located. A handwritten note says "Park Hotel on the south side of the Leon Courthouse". Jo Achee"

"If you'd go north of the J.C. Penney Building, you'd be in the street between it and the Courthouse. The J.C. Penney Building was still located in that corner until the bank remodeled that 1/2 of a block. I think that was in the 1900's?"

"I used to sew a lot and was in 4-H as a kid. We always bought our material and notions at this J.C. Penney store. When my daughter was little, I'd meet my sister at J.C. Penney's and we'd have our kids' pictures taken there when Pixie Pics came to town."

"As I recall, there wasn't much on the north side of the J.C. Penney Building. I think there was a barber shop, but that's all I remember."

"I'm wondering if "they" meant that the Park Hotel was across the street west of the J.C. Penney Building. there was an outside staircase on the north side of that building. The street level business that have been there ever since I an remember are Mill Insurance & The Leon Journal-Reporter." Sharon Becker

"One of the oldest inhabitants of that half block, or at least in t1he 40s, was Charlie Cherrington's Drug Store. The first place I had a Cherry Coke. His store was adjacent to the alley which separates the first half-block from the second. That is where Sheryl's store was located later on. South of that (don't remember if it was adjacent to Cherrington's or further south) was Bill Pleuss' (sp) Butcher Shop. He used to sell dill pickles in a large barrel for about 2-3 cents, and he would give me one whenever we came in. Though all those buildings housed many stores over the years, one a remember was a cafe' (don't remember name) which offered very large steaks - that particular building later housed a bar. Going back to the north side of the Penny's store where the barber shop was located, the first occupant I remember was Dr. Doss' office...new guy in town. Over the years I think that he was one of the best Dr.'s that ever lived, and Decatur County was lucky to have had him." Carroll Fuller

"I remember Dr. Doss. By that time he was with the clinic on the north edge of Leon along Highway 69. Dr. Viner was our doctor and I adored him. Decades later, Dr. Viner's son, Dr. Fritz Viner removed my tonsils (I was quite elderly for this operation - 26 yrs old.) Seems like Dr. Doss was in semi-retirement at that time, late 1950's. Only had a few patients who had been with him for decades."

"South of the clinic & across the highway from the old hospital was the Dairy Queen - with the dog statues out front and the momma & baby elephant statues on the north side. Then, directly south of the DQ was Sullivan's Pharmacy. The dog statues are long gone. Don't know what happened to them. The momma elephant moved with the DQ to the north side of Highway 2. The baby elephant was sold and had broken its trunk, the last I knew. Some guy down on the south edge of town along Main Street had it. He recently died, so I don't know where the baby elephant is now."

"I remember the big sign painted on the north outside of the wall of the DQ with a big arrow pointing to the water fountain - telling everyone they could get a drink of "mineral water." Which was Leon water - heavily concentrated with minerals. YUCKY!!!! Or so I thought as a kid. The old DQ is a residence now."

"In the 1970's Sears had a store somewhere in there on the west side of Main Street, north of Highway 2. Richard and Ada Belle Foland ran it. I'm kinda fuzzy as to what was what. But the restaurant was on the corner. Can't remember what it was called but I sure remember the food. It was wonderful!!! It seems like it changed hands a couple of times in the 1970's and a couple of more in the 1980's."

"I asked Mom about the Park and Hamilton Hotel. She doesn't remember them. There was a big old building farther down south Main street on the west side of the street. It could have been one of those hotels since it was closer to the depot. I think that building was a nursing home for a while, then in the early 1970's Roger Gatton bought it and converted it into apartments. last I knew it was still standing. This would be about 2 blocks south of Harvey Park."

"Do any of you remember the old Pifer (or was it Piper?) Grocery Store when it had a deli counter in the s.e. corner? My great-aunt Mary Foland (wife of Harry) worked at the deli counter for years before retiring. If she was working, we'd stop into tell her "Hello." She was always glad to see us. By the 1970's it was A.I.G. Grocery Store. Then a restaurant in the 1990's. I don't know what it is now. This was located across Highway 69 from the Boord's Building. 1/2 a block east of Main Street." Sharon Becker

"Dr. Doss saved my life during WWII. I had scarlet fever, and in quarantine. Doc Doss, a doctor serving in the Army, came home on leave. Heard of the seriousness of my condition. Went somewhere in town and got permission to enter our home. Came every day of his leave period and gave me shots with a needle that looked to be 3 ft. long. In 2 days, my fever was going down, and by the time his leave was up, I was walking around and getting into mischief. The drug was sulfa. (I think it was a new drug at that time.) All doctors during WWII were required to carry those mysterious black satchels with their tools of the trade.'

"Yesssss! I remember Pyfer's Food City. I sacked and carried out groceries, stocked shelves, swept and mopped floors..25 cents/hr. (Compare that to $7.25/hr now.) Also, back in those days, going to town to do "their tradin'", especially on Sat nite was a "big doin's". Farmers would bring in eggs, cream, etc. and trade for vouchers that would be used to purchase groceries. One of the jobs, including the above work, was to candle eggs, and weigh cream..not a fun assignment, which was rotated. Charlie (Pyfer) also sold block ice in a small building located on the southeast portion of the parking lot. There was still need for ice, even during the 50s. Since we had little time off for lunch or dinner, we would eat at the deli counter. Was not bad at all!! The malts were very good. Sharon, do you mean the Boord's building, or, the Crouse building, for location. Pyfer's was located on Hiway 2."

"I remember the DQ...what a great addition. Up until DQ, fast cone business was handled by Charlie Crawford at the Crawford Locker, and cones were sold at a window on the west side of the locker. Didn't compare to/with DQ!! A year or two ago, someone was looking for a photo of the DQ that included the elephants. I responded and said I had one. But, I still have not found it. Going to open another box (you know, those old shoe boxes in the closet) of photos and see if can find. If so, unless it has already been done, will send to the museum, if they want it, and to the person who requested it...are you still looking? I won't event talk about the water..." Carroll Fuller


"I never heard of the Park Hotel or the Hamilton Hotel....but here's what I can say about the comments that have been entered - take straight from my questionable memory!

"Irma Overton was correct: the store just north of Penney's was a clothing store run by Shorty Cesler. Hoever, before him it was a clothing store run by G. B. Price and his wife Blondina. Doc Doss came back for visits after the war but he retired to Tennessee where he was born and raised. He also tended to me sometimes. Before Charlie Pyfer ran his supermarket on rte 2 he had the store just south of Cherrington's drug store. I worked the meat counter there for a while. When he moved to rte 2 he tore down the Leon Ice Plant and made that his parking lot. The building on the west side of Main at rte 2 was at one time Robert s grocery. Just north of it was the south poolhall (and beer hall) and then Pleuss' meat market. Then there was Edgar Epperly's grocery store. (Wow, 2 grocery stores in the first four buildings.) Sears put their store where Epperly's was. The nursing home that Sharon Becker mentions was the old Cap Brown home. My maternal grandmother died in that home. By the way it was a terrible fire trap and I am amazed if it hasn't burned down." Jack Scott

"Oops. I meant Boord's building on Highway 2. (Not 69 - type I didn't catch.) I worked at Grahams Dept. Store when the Central Hotel was still standing. Had a hopping bar ont he 1st floor of the hotel at the time. I had all the Boy Scout stuff, linens, and boy's clothing section of Grahams. Then Verlyn Blevins found out I could do a decent job with window dressing, I got to change the window displays every week. I loved doing that."

"Then, I got a job as the designer at Boord's - worked for Bob Boord until the business sold and sent to Florida. I did all the photography (had my very own darkroom) for the broker manuals, wrote all the broker manuals, and did some packaging design. This all being in the 1970's."

"As a kid I remember the locker. By this time a Mennonite family had it and still sold ice cream out of that window. I think cones at this time were a dime or so. We usually went there because the DZ was expensive, charging something like 15-cents for their cones. By the time I was living in Leon in the 1970's, the locker was long gone. While expecting my daughter, after the dr. visit and him telling me to watch my diet and not gain too much weight, I'd end up at the DQ ordering a chocolate ship mint malt. Of course at this time, there were a lot of eating choices in Leon - the restaurants, DQ, A&W, etc."

"I've never had to weigh cream but when I was in high school, I worked for Van Ritchie in Grand River. They had chickens behind the store and one of my jobs was washing and candling eggs. Then drying 'em and putting them in the egg containers. Not a fun job! Nor did I like taking down a shelf and dusting it and the tin cans. Van had one of those old-fashioned cash registers. I loved running the cash register - the kind that had the numbers pop up in the glass display at the top of the register. Had keys like an old-fashioned typewriter - you know, round & took a bit of pressure to depress the key. Seems like Van paid me 50-cents and hour. It was my 1st regular paying job."

"Before that I'd take care of people's pets or their livestock when they had to go away. One neighbor hired me for a week to go down and feed & water his hogs. This being in the middle of a muggy super-hot July. I rode my bike down and took about 1 hour in the a.m. and 1 hour in the p.m. - old hand pump to fill the water troughs. Came back home dying of thirst because I was afraid to drink from the pump. Got paid all of $2 for that job, but thought I was rich!"

"When I went to work for Van, I was excused from my dad's haying crew. But by that time my brothers were big enough to take over and they probably didn't miss me. I sure didn't miss that! Being the oldest child, I was always assigned to stack the hay & hated it when it got up under the rafters with an Iowan summer sun beating down on the roof. As for the water, it was worse in Davis City. I lived there a couple of years. Never could get used to coffee made from Leon or Davis City water. When I'd go home to visit, Mom & Dad thought I was a coffee addict since I couldn't get enough of it." Sharon Becker

"All this talk about hotels have got me confused. What was the name of the bus station hotel? Sharon: My mom used to work at that Penny's store...had a pneumatic tube device that the ladies had to use to send the money up stairs for change...Mac McClure"

"The bus station hotel was the Central Hotel, located north of the courthouse on the n.w. corner, across the street from Grahams. My Grandmother, who didn't drive, would take the bus from Boone and we'd pick her up there at the Central Hotel."

"I had forgotten about the pneumatic tube!!! ha ha. We loved that tube. Back then, after you bought your shoes, the clerk would tie the box up with string around the box. Then we kids would walk out of the store carying our new shoes, using the string like a handle."

"What made putting p hay under the rafters was not only did you have sun beating down on the roof (corrugated steel roofs were the worst!!!), but you had the heat and moisture coming up off the hay bales because they hadn't cured yet. Round bales were worst than square bales. Hard to get a good grab with your hay hook in a round bale and if you didn't have it just right it'd roll on you. I don't miss that part of farm life at all. (Nor do I miss mucking out the chicken house.) Sharon Becker"

"Thanks, Jack. I couldn't remember what that big old building was called. I just remember that it used to be a nursing home at one time. Did Penney's take over the north part of the building later? I remember it as being the last business on that block. Seemed like they had 2 doors, so I'm wondering if they expanded and took over the clothing store later on. (My earliest memory goes to the early 1960's.) i don't remember a clothing store there when I lived in Leon in the 1970's, thinking Penney's had the entire building."

"I don't recall who had the barber shop. I just remember that it was there. I emailed Mom and she doesn't recall a Parkor Hamilton Hotel. She emailed some of her friends and they don't remember either hotel either. A few of them are older than Mom - she's in her mid-80's and a couple of her friends are in their 90's. One of them used to work in the museum and she doesn't recall either the Park or Hamilton Hotel either. I do recall transcribing an old news item from around 1900 and it mentioned a hotel down closer to the depot. I'm wondering if that might be either the Park or Hamilton Hotel. That the building is long gone. Since that would put the hotel down in what has been primarily a residential area, most of those who were kids wouldn't remember it since most of the activity and family business was conducted around the square. Just guessing here. I'm tring to remember all of the buildings down close to the depot. The old Cap Brown home is about the only building I can recall that would have been big enough to be a hotel. All of the others I remember were clearly residences when they were built." Sharon Becker

"That's the one I have a picture of. There is no name on it but it's on the corner and it was down the street from Olin Rippy's grocery store. Remember those high curbs that had to have steps to get up to the sidewalk? I loved the old bricks but they paved them over (for safety purposes). They were so beautiful all around the courthouse square!" Jan Lund

"I can solve the problem as to the location of the Park Hotel. According to a 1924 Sanborn fire map the park Hotel was located on the east side of the square on the east side Idaho and the south side of 8th Street (now NE 3rd St.) . In other words across from the courthouse and south of where the jail used to be. I haven't found a Hamilton Hote. However I did find a Denison Hotel at Main and 10th (now SE 2nd Street) with the Leon Hotel just across Main from it. On a 1898 map there is a New Hamilton Opera House at Main and Commercial (Hwy 2) directly across from where the Western Auto store was later to be. On the 1907 map it's name had been changed to the Van Werden Opera House #2, The Leon Hotel adjoined it on the south. Could there have been some confusion between the Hamilton Opera House and hotel? When speaking of the depot in Leon there must be distinction made between which depots. There were two railroads serving Leon at one time. One was the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy; the other the Des Moines, Osceola & Southern which later became the Des Moines & Kansas City before being absorbed by the CB&Q. The DMO&S/DM&KC depot was on the north side of Commercial where it crossed the tracks (just to the east of where the motel now is and existed until the turn of the century. The CB&Q depot being at the south end of Main. The current depot was built in the early 1900's probably just after the DM&KC was absorbed thus eliminating the need for 2 depots. Hoping this provides some useful information." Meredith Johnston

"There were at least two hotels. One was the Leon Hotel owned and run by Olive Sparks and her son Delmar Sparks. It was located on the west side of Main St. about 40 yards south of rte. 2 After I left won ('43) I think it was converted into and apartment house."

"And, as several have said, the Central Hotel was across east from Grahams' Dept store, putting it on the NE corner. There are photos of it that are available and I have one taken from my dad's office if anyone is interested. The bus stop was on Main st adjacent to the restaurant contained in the hotel. That restaurant (cafe?) was at one time run by Johnny Boswell."

"Prior to that time the bus stop was on rte 2 in front of Archibald's Cafe (formerly John Fulton's cafe) in the location now occupied by city hall. I lived right across from that location and was always interested in the busses, the travelers and, in fact, anyone who would give me candy." Jack Scott

"I left town for a couple of days and y'all have come up with some great stuff about all the hotels and life as it used to be. I grew up on a farm in 60's and 70's and remember staking hay in the barn, walking beans, etc. I want to thank everyone for your great contributions. I will try to clear up some of the confusion I have created."

"My Harps (Charles Harvey Harp and Junietta Acton Harp aka C.H or Red Harp) people were hotel folks, don't believe they owned any of them, just leased them. The first we find them they are leasing the Denison Hotel and Mrs. Elizabeth Redmond did a wonderful job of researching hotels for us and came up with a picture of the Denison Hotel and a newspaper article. This hotel burned before they could get all their things out since they were moving to the Hamilton Hotel per the newspaper article by the Leon Reporter dated July 18, 1909."

"Just this week the great granddaughter of Edna Harp Wells Vaughn sent me some more hotel pictures and info from Edna. The next thing we now (sic) abou them f or sure is that Junietta dies May 14, 1911 and her obit says the funeral services were conducted "at the home, The Park Hotel."

"One of the photos I received this week shows what we all know to have been the Central Hotel on the corner of North side of the square only the sign on it says "Hotel Capitol Rates $1.00 - $1.30 per day C. H. Harp" but there is not a date on the back. Am sure it is still early 1900's there is part of a horse drawn buggy in the picture. The Leon Hotel and Opera house were located at the corner of Hwy 2 and South Main per Mrs. Redmond. The opera house was on the corner about a store, the Leon Hotel next to it and then the Broshwer Implement. The Central Hotel I believe was originally built in 1895 as the Hotel Leon per a newspaper article from the Leon Reporter dated June 20, 1895 on the Decatur Co site transcribed by Nancee (McMurtrey ) Seifert."

"Also another newspaper clipping from Mrs. Redmond showing old pictures and apparently a series of articles in a scrapbook says "Around the square with Martha Hoffman, Kate Humprey and Olin Rippey." There is a picture of the Central Hotel with a horse hitched to a buggy out front but you can't read a sign on the hotel. The caption says" "Street scene in Leon showing northwest corner of the square. Dated April 6, 1899. Just behind the buggy is the HOtel Leon where the Hotel Central is now located. Myers & Co. Druggists was located where we now have Lloyd Long TV - submitted by Decatur County Museum." Jo Achee

"Oops forgot to mention the Hamilton. From Himena V. Hoffman's book about Decatur County page 84: "In the first block south and west of the square Sam Farguhar sold tinware..."Further down the street Joseph Hamilton built in 1876 a brick structure ninety-six feet by forty-four feet and three stories high. Here there was not only a hotel but a store sometimes called Hamilton and Company."

"A second article also from Mrs. Redmond is from the History of the City of Leon printed in the local Newspaper Thursday July 28, 1892. There is a drawing with the article showing a 3 story building and the top two floors have HAMILTON HOTEL written on it. "Hamilton & Gammill. This firm is composed of G.M. Hamilton formerly of JF Hamilton & Co. and a M.A. Gammill, ex-county treasurer. They have been in business under the present firm name since May 23, 1890 located in the Hamilton block of south Main Street." So the store must have been on the first floor and the hotel above. The only other reference to it is from Decatur County Jornal dated September 2, 1897 a Eugene H Kehler and Miss Sadie Mccullough were married by Esq. W.H. Albaugh at the parlors of the Hotel Hamilton." That's all I have on the Hamilton. So some of the hotels changed names several times, such as the HOTEL LEON, to Capitol to the Central. Some of the others may have also burned etc." Jo Achee