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Past News


December 2008

A ECHS Board meeting was held on December 16. Founding board president, Richard Netolicky, and founding board director, Leo Modracek, stepped down from the board after 5 years of serving. Thank you to both for their interest and support of our society from its beginning to the present. Ed Vavra was appointed to the board and elected president. Mark Krob joined the board as a director. Clary Illian agreed to continue as Secretary/Treasurer, and Barb Horak agreed to continue as V. President.

Work continues on a wall display that will feature the Western and Shueyville neighborhood, to be located to the left of the "Our Early Settlement &Development" display in the lower level of the Community Center.

September 2008

The ECHS manned a booth to display historical information at the Ely Fall Festival. Clary Illian gave historic walking tours and our new t-shirts were for sale.

July 2008

We had a great response from the crowd lined up for the Ely Firemen's' Breakfast on the 4th of July this year. There were lots of interested lookers and we had some interesting conversations about history. Look for us at the upcoming fall festival in Ely!

February 2008

A wall display is now in place in the Council Chambers focusing on the history of the City of Ely (Government, Fire Department, Library, 1972 Centennial Celebration, Conversion of the School into a Community Center). Click on the "Displays" tab to the left for a preview.


October 2007

A display on early settlement in the Ely area is now complete and posted on the wall as you enter the Community Meeting Room in the lower level of the building. Click on the "Displays" tab to the left for a preview.


History Walk History Children

Clary Illian of the Ely Community History Society leads children on a "history walk".

Children look at the pictures in one of the historic wall displays in the Ely Community Center.

Children participating in the Ely Public Library Summer Reading Program, "Get a Clue", had a chance to learn some history on Thursday, July12. Clary Illian and Barb Horak of the Ely Community History Society led a group of about 30 children and parents on a history walk from the library to the History Center, which is located in the Ely Community Center.

Along the walk the children learned that the town first grew because of the coming of the railroad, learned a bit about the downtown section and the old Ely bank, and identified some of the oldest houses on Walker Street.

At the History Center the children learned that the building had once been the Ely School and discussed historic displays on the Center's walls. The children visited the history society's Archives Room and were each given a packet of historic Ely post cards at the end of the tour.

March 2007

We are currently doing background research for a wall display about the history of early settlement of the Ely, Western and Shueyville area.

February 2007

New Display - A display about the history of businesses in Ely is now completed and is located on the wall leading into the City offices on the second floor. Background information and photos were furnished to Will Thomson of Armadillo Arts, who designed the display.


September 2006

The Ely School House, now the Ely Community Center, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places as of September 20, 2006.

July 2006

Will Thomson of Armadillo Arts, an exhibit design and graphic arts company, will design our next wall display, which will focus on the history of the Ely School and its transition into the Community Center. His credits include exhibits in over 30 sites in Iowa, including the Kent Park exhibit, Devonian Fossil Gorge at Coralville Dam, and the Johnson County Courthouse exhibit. A future wall display will be about the history of businesses in Ely, which is now in planning stages.

The Ely Community History Society and Preservation Commission had an entry in the Ely Fourth of July parade, with old Ely school desks and historical displays. We also manned a booth during the annual Ely Firemen's Breakfast selling historical items and giving out information on our projects.

Ely July 4th Parade

The History Center's entry in the Ely July 4th parade featured desks from the old school

April 2006

We are presently in planning stages for the next historic wall display, which will be about the history of Ely School and its transition to Community Center. Work is also progressing on getting the building listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In the archives room we are processing incoming collections, and inputting information into our software.

February 2006

Remodeling on the Community Center building is nearly complete. We have re-opened the Archives Room.

January 2006

We apologize for the absence of our web site in recent months. Problems beyond our control caused it to be off-line. In the meantime the Archives Room is still closed while remodeling of the Community Center building is finalized. Hopefully, it will be open again in mid-February. We are anxious to get back to work on the archives!


September, 2005

The Archives Room remains closed while building remodeling is taking place.

Ely High School Reunion Samples Ely History

On September 3rd, 2005 the Ely High School Reunion was held at Gwen's Restaurant in Lisbon.

Clary Illian, representing the Ely Historic Preservation Commission, and Barb Horak of the Ely Community History Society attended to inform those present about the progress on the Archives Room and History Center. Several albums featuring old photos from the Archives were on display, as well as an original school desk.


Click photo to enlarge

(Photo) Lloyd Duffy, MC, speaks to the gathering of Ely High School graduates from various years during their reunion on September 3, 2005. In front is an original school desk from the high school, part of a display by the Ely Community History Society.

Will Page

Will Page, a Public Historian from Des Moines, talked on the progress of placing the Ely school building on the National Register of Historic Places, and his past work with the nomination process of the Dows Street Historical District in Ely.

August 2005

The Community Center building in which the archives is located is presently undergoing total remodeling. The Archives Room will be closed until the project is complete in a few months. Volunteers should contact 848-4963 or 848-4074.

June 2005

We are pleased to announce that we have received a grant from Iowa Network Services (INS), with a matching grant from South Slope Cooperative Communications Company for a total of $400. We thank them! These funds will allow us to purchase a scanner and photo-quality printer in order to handle the hundreds of photos we are in the process of preserving for our digital archives.

May 2005

The Archives has installed a new computer capable of handling multi-media tasks such as scanning and storing large images. In addition we have purchased archiving software.

The Preservation Commission is undergoing historical research as a background for listing the Community Center building on the National Register of Historic Places.

April 2005

Barb Horak & Laurie Rathje are working on a display featuring Gladys Holets and the Holec/Holets family association with Ely, as the History Center's first wall display. Funds from the Gladys Holets Estate, through the Putnam Township Benevolent Fund, will allow us to begin the long process of designing wall displays throughout the Community Center building.


November 2004

ECHS VOLUNTEERS visited the History Center in Cedar Rapids and received a tour and instruction from archivist Jill Jack on how to properly store items with archival materials and containers.

October 2004

PRESERVATION COMMISSION NEWS - Our new Historic Preservation Commissioner is Eileen Jacobson, who replaces Audrey Yarborough.

September 2004

From the State Historical Society of Iowa web site

REAP/HRDP FY04 and FY05 Grant Awards Announced

Historic Preservation Category – FY05 [For Year 2005]

Grant #: 05-001

Ely Historic Preservation Commission

Ely School National Register of Historic Places Nomination

1570 Rowley Street, Ely

Grant Request: $2,800 Project Total: $4,200 Funded: $2,800

The Ely Historic Preservation Commission will prepare the documentation for listing the Ely School on the National Register of Historic Places. The building, now called Ely Community Center, houses Ely City Hall, Senior Dining, and the Historic Archives Room.


Volunteers are continuing the slow process of recording, describing and organizing current holdings. If you are interested in learning how to help, call Clary at 848-4963.

August 2004


The Preservation Commission will receive a $2,800 REAP/HRDP Grant. The purpose of the grant is to employ a historian to facilitate nomination of the Ely School building (now the Ely Community Center) to the National Register of Historic Places. The matching grant will involve volunteer research efforts toward the nomination. The Resource Enhancement and Protection/Historical Resource Development Program (REAP/HRDP) is paid for by Iowa's Resource Enhancement and Protection Act. The State Historical Society of Iowa administers HRDP.


Jill Jack, Archivist at The History Center in Cedar Rapids, presented a workshop August 18th to archives volunteers on how to accession items, and set up policies and procedures. Volunteers are beginning the process of organizing current holdings.

Ely Community History Society will be receiving a $15,000 grant from the Putnam Township Benevolent Fund towards creating historical displays on the walls throughout Ely Community Center Building.

July, 2004

A sign in the area to the east of Ely Library has been installed depicting the Dows Street Historic District. Labor for the sign was donated by Bob Zvacek of rural Ely. Signage has also been obtained for each individual building that is part of the historic district. Stop down to see the new additions!

Counters and a computer have been installed in the the Archives Room.

June 2004

Volunteers installed new shelving units and filing cabinets in the Archives Room.

May 2004

A volunteer work crew laid new carpeting in the Archives Room.

Members of the Ely Historic Preservation Commission and Ely Community History Society attended a workshop at Kirkwood College entitled Preservation 101: Preservation Planning.

April 2004

A volunteer work crew removed the old carpet from the Archives Room and painted the walls in preparation for new carpeting, shelving and office furniture.

March 2004

We have received a donated computer and printer from The REACT Center for use in our Archives Room. We thank them for the excellent service they provide in distributing refurbished computers. The REACT Center, Rockwell Educational Access to Computer Technology, is a non-profit organization funded by Rockwell Collins Foundation and managed by The Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation.

February 2, 2004

The Ely Community History Society, Inc. has been granted tax-exempt status (181K .pdf file) from the IRS as of February 2, 2004 under Foundation Status Classification 509 (a) (1) of the Internal Revenue Code as an organization described in section 501 (c) (3). Related documents are available for public inspection upon request. Donations to the Society are tax-deductible.

February 2004

Donated funds are nearly at a level for us to proceed with remodeling the archives room. We are in the process of pricing shelving, archival supplies and labor. Thank you to all those that have responded to our fundraising letter!


December 2003

Through a grant application to the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation, the Ely Community History Museum has received a grant of $3,020.00 from the Nina E. &Victor Merveaux Historic Preservation Fund. These funds will be used for the archives room.

November 14, 2003

Through a long process spearheaded by the Ely Historic Preservation Commission, the Dows Street Historic District has now been listed on the National Register of Historic Places as follows: IOWA, LINN COUNTY, Dows Street Historic District, Dows St. bet. State and Main Sts., Ely, 02001026, LISTED 11/14/03