Many of the historic buildings in downtown Ames have fascinating stories to tell. Some of these tales date back to the very beginning of the Ames community. The Ames Historic Preservation Commission, the Ames Historical Society, the Main Street Cultural District (MSCD), and the Ames Public Library have partnered to bring these narratives to life. Exploring Ames Past: A walking tour focused on stories, people and architecture will take place on Saturday, May 28, in conjunction with the Ames Main Street Farmers’ Market.
“For 34 years there was a popcorn wagon at Douglas and Main. For 24 out of those 34 years it was operated by a gentleman named Ben Young,” said Judy Gilger, Design Chair for the MSCD. “For the tour, we will have a popcorn cart there, and an actor dressed as Ben Young to tell his story and give away popcorn.”
There will be 21 stops on the tour with guide brochures available at Tom Evans Park and at the Ames Public Library. A cast of actors, organized by Jason Paul, will be dressed in period clothing playing the role of historical figures important to downtown Ames. Tour stops are historic buildings where plaques are installed that show and tell about the architecture and history of that particular building. The plaques, which were made in Pella, Iowa, were all installed in the past year after two years of planning and research.
“There were at least ten hours of research done for each plaque,” said Gilger. “When you stop to look at each plaque you also need to look up and see the architecture that makes each building so unique. The buildings downtown have beautiful brick pattern work and other details usually located above the upper story windows. We want to help people discover the beauty of these buildings.”
Other highlights of the tour include the story of a man dubbed the “human fly” who climbed the front of the Sheldon Munn building, and a flower cart at 400 Main, near what is now Bar la Tosca.
“We will give away free flower seed packets at the flower cart to celebrate the history of the Olsan Building,” said Gilger. “That is where the first florist and seed company in Ames was located.”
Gilger says the idea is to celebrate the rich and colorful history of Ames with anecdotes you wouldn’t typically hear about.
“I think people would be amazed at all the quirky fun stories that have taken place in our downtown,” said Gilger. “We plan to make downtown come alive again with these tales from the past.”
The tour will be held from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. on May 28, with refreshments being served at the Public Library. If you miss the May 28 event featuring the actors, you will have the opportunity of pick up a brochure at the Ames Public Library, the Ames Historical Society or the Ames Chamber of Commerce during regular business hours to take your own walking tour of downtown Ames at a later date.