Lincoln Highway: Olsanville Greenhouse

In 1896, F. J. Olsan opened this large commercial greenhouse located at 308 North Lincoln Way.  This was just west of where the College of Design is today on the north side of Sheldon after it turns towards Hyland.  (Farwell T. Brown Photographic Archive)

Frank J. Olsan came to the United States from Moravia, Czecho-Slovakia in 1887.  His ancestors had been horticulturists for 480 years.  Olsan located in Iowa City for a time, then went to Nebraska before settling in Story County in 1891.  The Olsans had nine children, several of whom followed thier father's trade.  George became a Des Moines florist; Irma Olsan and Florence Shivers established a Webster City store known as the Olsan's Flower Shop, which they managed from 1934 to 1955.  Frank J. Olsan & Sons (Charles and Bill) were the first florists in Ames.  In the early days, they sold vegetables for use on the Iowa State College campus and later supplied the grocers of Ames with fresh produce.  In 1911 the Olsans constructed a building at 400 Main Street.  There they established the Olsan Flower Shop, selling flowers, plants and corsages supplied by their greenhouses located on North Hyland in the college section of Ames.

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This view of Olsanville Greenhouse is from around 1915.  (Farwell T. Brown Photographic Archive)

North Lincoln Way (now Sheldon Avenue) is visible between the Olsanville office and the house to the left.  Mr. Olsan turned the business over to his sons in 1916.

Olsan delivery truck ca. 1915  (Farwell T. Brown Photographic Archive)

Ames streetcar conductors are shown gathering at Olsanville passenger station for this photo taken not long after the loop line opened in 1916.  (Farwell T. Brown Photographic Archive)

Expanding his business, in 1912 Mr. Olsan built the first fireproof building in Ames, a cast concrete building at the southwest corner of Burnett and Main Street in downtown Ames.  (Private Collection of Margaret Elbert)