Friday, July 29, 2016

Headed West on Iowa Hwy. 2 – Town of Bloomfield

Continuing west toward our goal in Omaha, we stopped to take a couple of photos of historic places in Bloomfield Iowa.

The Davis County Courthouse in Bloomfield, Iowa, United States was built in 1877.   This courthouse is the second building to house court functions and county administration.  The county’s first courthouse, built in 1844, was a 24 foot by 40 foot log building.  By 1851, the first building was unusable and a Methodist church functioned as a courtroom until 1877.

Politics ruled!  It took 5 different proposals before the voters would finally approve the funding for the present courthouse!   The cornerstone for this magnificent Second Empire/Victorian “General Grant Gothic” structure was laid in August of 1877.  The final cost for the building was $61,496.58. 
The cupola and the belfry are topped by a statue of the goddess of Justice.  The four-sided clock was made by the Seth Thomas Company and it still operates up in that clock tower.


·       On August 27, 1924, Henry "Dare-Devil" Roland, "The Human Fly," attempted to climb the northwest corner of the courthouse. He fell to the ground from about 25 feet, breaking his hip.  He was hospitalized in Bloomfield for six weeks.  On June 28, 1932, Roland made a return trip to Bloomfield to remove the blot from his record of successful climbs. This time, in just 11 minutes, he was sitting astride the statue of Blind Justice.

Bloomfield’s Town Square with the courthouse as the focal point is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  It includes 55 commercial buildings all of which were built between the 1850s and the 1890s.  Most of the buildings are of brick construction with no early frame buildings on the square.  I couldn’t determine what type of store occupied the Latimers building but I did note that that name is still active around town.

In the photo above, all of the buildings were constructed in 1893.  As it happened, the entire block that faces Franklin Street burned to the ground early that year.  They were immediately rebuilt.  All around the square, many of the buildings have retained their original windows, doors and overall appearance.

This is the East Jefferson Street side of the town square.  It certainly is colorful!  The yellow building and several others were built before 1870.  According to the document submitted to the Federal Government justifying the square as an historic place, the yellow building once served as a hatchery.   The gray building to the right of it has played several roles in Bloomfield.  It has served as a tin shop, a newspaper office and both men's and women's clothing stores.

It isn’t shown in the photo but the building at 101 East Jefferson Street was originally J.R. Shaeffer's Jewelry Store.  Shaeffer's son Walter went on to open his own jewelry store in Fort Madison Iowa and in the back room of his store, he founded the Shaeffer Pen Company.  That company, now owned by the A.T. Cross Company still produces pens…although they’re now being produced in China.
Serious efforts are underway to refurbish and enliven Bloomfield’s Town Square.  In addition to facelifts and landscaping, part of the project involved the construction of a number of apartments on the second floors of the old buildings.  To learn more about this positive effort, just go to

This sad derelict of a building is the former Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad combination depot in Bloomfield.  I was unable to determine when it was built. 

I did find an article from 2004 which said that after much debate, the city decided to take this old landmark and put it up for sale.  It all came down to money.  City budgets had been cut and the costs to refurbish the depot couldn’t be justified.   It would have taken several thousand dollars to make it useable.  Up to that point the old Railroad Depot was home to the Davis County Day Care and Preschool.  They were forced to close out after state inspectors found lead-based paint that can be harmful to children. 

Before the building was to be officially put on the market, the city needed to hold a public hearing for the community as well as have a resolution written and passed on the issue.  Either nothing has been done or no one has come forward to purchase this depot in the last 12 years. 

The first rail service to Bloomfield was by the Fort Madison, West Point, Keosauqua and Bloomfield Railroad.  It started operations in 1853 but it was only in business until 1857.  Another company bought the railroad and continued operations.


·       Railroad growth peaked in Iowa with roughly 10,500 miles of track between 1911 and 1917.  By 2001, the state had lost about 6,595 miles of track, with 3,800 miles of that loss occurring since 1975.  Currently there are only 3,905 miles of active trackage in the state.
·       The naming of the Davis County Seat was done by the county commissioners.  The commissioners all favored different names so the matter was settled by the luck of the draw.  The name Bloomfield was pulled out of a hat. The other choices were Jefferson and Davis.  Politics at its best!

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave


  1. Interesting post about a pretty Iowa town/city.... I am disappointed that they couldn't keep up the railroad station --like they have other areas in the town... But--as you said, it all comes down to MONEY and POLITICS. Fun Fun...


  2. I love the history and architecture of old buildings and the courthouse is a gorgeous example, and it's fantastic that they clock is still ticking on. Can't imagine the cost of building it now.
    And the downtown area is great, esp. with the windows all resembling each other.
    Hopefully the railroad station will find an owner and be re-purposed!
    Great post, I enjoyed reading it! Have a great weekend, Dave!

  3. Howw beautiful and amazing buildings dear David. I love the first picture!!
    I love buildings about 1800!!

  4. It's good to see a downtown that is revitalizing rather than a bunch of empty buildings.