Located at the southwest corner of Washington & Jefferson, the Cummings home, circa 1875, served as a hospital from 1916 to 1925.  The home to the left, dwarfed by the imposing structure, is a “Sears home,” purchased by the owner from the Sears catalog and assembled on site from pre-cut pieces.
Located at the southwest corner of Washington & Jefferson, the Cummings home, circa 1875, served as a hospital from 1916 to 1925. The home to the left, dwarfed by the imposing structure, is a “Sears home,” purchased by the owner from the Sears catalog and assembled on site from pre-cut pieces.
Last week this column presented a tour of downtown Spring Valley using the 1927-42 Sanborn Fire Maps. These showed all the buildings in town, their composition and all information important to the fire department. We pondered the buildings on the east side of North Broadway, through Vine and June Alleys, and over to Section Avenue; then south as far as Park Street.

This week, let's consider the west side of Broadway, and head south. On the Jefferson St. corner, Ezra Allard built a three-story brick structure, which must have been eye-popping in 1875. The double front featured retail on the ground floor, professional offices on second and a fine hall on third.

Many folks were enjoying a theatrical production when the September 1894 "cyclone" destroyed much of northwest Spring Valley and in 1899 the state fire marshal declared it a firetrap; the building was reduced to two stories as it appears today. Again, all the buildings in the two block downtown area were of brick except for the one stone block. Leuthold built the exceptionally handsome double front in 1893; Leuthold's clothing store on the south side with the telephone exchange upstairs and F.J. Harris hardware on the north side with his tin shop upstairs. The Molstad general store was on the corner of Courtland, and to its north - Huntley Drug. Out back, across Porter Alley were grocery and hardware warehouses.

Crossing Courtland we find the First National Bank, brick but stone faced, built in 1902. First National remained at this location until moving to a new building at 208 North Broadway in 1958. In back of the bank along Courtland stood the expansive home of Dr. Simon, now the site of our police and fire departments.

Four doors south of the bank was a restaurant for many years; then Emilius Parson's imposing Stone Block. Built in 1871-72, called "High Victorian Italianate" with seven arched windows on both floors, it was awesome. Divided into two business areas, early tenants included Otto Chiostri's Oyster Parlor, Mr. Temple and Mr. Laging's restaurant, later the Coast to Coast Store, Bernard "Rosie" Rosenberg's Peoples Store, and many others. The upper hall was a home for the Masonic Lodge and Odd Fellows. Bud Hughes operated a furniture store there in 1971, and sold to the VFW; it is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

Across Main St. we would find the building erected by Rafferty & Week's Farmer Store in 1899. It was our first large department store; later bought in 1935 by Joe Mlinar who converted it to a dance hall and movie house. We now know it as our community center, busy almost every day of the week.

South, another business, then a garage of brick and tile. Along the street, signs indicating Railroad Crossing for the Milwaukee Road, and the South Broadway bridge. Beyond the railroad tracks to the west were large coal sheds, and we're told these were used for storage of paper collected during WW II, but never used and eventually destroyed.

Going back north to Jefferson St. and coming south on Washington, we found the impressive Spring Valley Hospital in a large brick structure. Completed in 1875 by I.N. Cummings, it was a magnificent three story dwelling, later the home of Hans Andersen (of Andersen Windows fame) but used by Doctors Eby and Simon as a hospital, 1916 to 1925. The building was taken down before 1942.

Then on the corner of Courtland and Washington, the lovely Molstad home. Built in 1888 by M. E. Molstad just one block west of his general store, it is now the home of Mark and Julie Mlinar - and she is the director of the historical society museums.

To the home's west is the venerable M.E. Church, built in 1875-76 by the aforementioned Hans Andersen. Today it is known as the town's Laura Ingalls Wilder Site where the James Wilder family helped to build it, and where Laura and Almanzo Wilder attended in 1890-91. It, too, is on the National Register of Historic Places, thanks to its Victorian Gothic architecture and remarkable windows.

Across the street is the historic Washburn-Zittleman Home, built in the 1860s by Charles Washburn, and south of that on Hudson Avenue, the First English Lutheran chapel and residence, also of brick. That is where I attended six weeks of kindergarten in the basement, back in 1939.

On the corner of Washington & Main is the beautiful brick home built by W.R. Ewing in 1872, a block west of his new Commercial House hotel. It was long known as the Kumm House, later apartments operated by Dr. and Mrs. Zittleman, and for 25 years as the historical society's Pioneer Home Museum.

Yes, wonderful houses, buildings and histories, fun to ponder what was and is now.

Blessings to you and yours for a wonderful Christmas and all good things in the New Year.