A Glimpse Into Oskaloosa History

Driving through Oskaloosa Downtown square, you are immediately take back by the beautiful brick buildings and intricate detailing on the facades.

The first resident of Oskaloosa was William Canfield in 1844. From there, a trading post was erected and by 1853 the small town of 13 cabins grew to over 1,000 residents. Oskaloosa transformed into a mining mecca within a span of two decades.

By 1873 Penn Academy – later named William Penn College- was built and later that same year the first band stand was constructed. Within five years, the first courthouse was built on what is now the east side of the square – which is still in use to this day! In 1903, the Carnegie Library was opened and the YMCA that was once in the square was dedicated by President Teddy Roosevelt.

Fast forward over a century later and you can see the history behind each stone and brick in downtown Oskaloosa. Recently, the city council and Oskaloosa Main Street approve the Facade Improvement Project. This project addresses the restoration of 18 downtown building on the north side of the square to preserve the non-historic and historically significant buildings.

One building in particular that is currently being restored is at 120 North Market Street. This building was once distinguished by having a front blue boarded facade with tan brick work on the second story.

Images from the architectural plans for the facade improvement project for 120 N. Market Street. (oskaloosaiowa.org)

After crews removed the lower blue tinged wood, a dated store front sign was revealed.

“Iowa Dress Club, Inc.”

After a little bit of digging, going through archived photos and requesting information from the Iowa Historic Preservation, the response was scarce. The Iowa Dress Club, Inc. building dates back to roughly the year 1900. Back when this building was first founded, the address was 303 A Avenue East. The store specialized in dry cleaning services as well as selling wedding dresses and other forms of attire.

As you glance through the downtown square of Oskaloosa, one cannot help but wonder all the memories and history each building holds under the surface.


Editor’s note: Hoping that with the updating and restoration of the facades, I can provide you with more information and background of the timeless treasures and hidden gems of Oskaloosa. 

Featured image is provided by the Wilcox Library Digital Archives.



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