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Tour of Dows Street Historic District


In the early 1870's The Burlington, Cedar Rapids, and Northern Railroad constructed a line running roughly parallel and to the east of the road and the creek. You can still detect the right-of-way along the side of the grain elevator stretching to the northwest along the back of the city's maintenance shed, Vavra's Lumberyard and the Ely Manor.

In 1872 the railroad purchased sixty acres of land from Andrew Fuhrmeister, a member of one of the first families of settlers, and the town was laid out along Hoosier Creek and its floodplain. It was named after John F. Ely, the treasurer of the railroad. One of the streets is named after Fuhrmeister and others are named after various members of the railroad's governing board. Even before the town was platted, a sawmill and a general store (established by William S. Cooper) had been located within its limits, but no traces of these buildings remain.

After platting, the town grew quickly; in 1878 the populations was 250 and more than half were Czech immigrants. Businessmen included: Joseph Woitishek, general store; J.E. Dolezal, saloon and agricultural implement store; W. Swacha, harness shop; John Janko, lumber company; Anton Horak, blacksmith; Joseph Stepanek, blacksmith; and Hanus &Son, cabinet makers. Fuhrmeister &Woitishek also operated a grain warehouse in Ely.

In 1903 the town was incorporated and in the first part of that decade many of the present buildings of the business district were erected. By 1910, the development of Ely's central business district, located primarily on Dows Street between Main and Walker Street, was virtually complete, its businesses providing the usual consumer staples and services.



NEXT –The Post Office &Grain Elevator