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Tribune photo published August 27, 1957
Saturday morning was an extra holiday for some 650 Ames youngsters.  The small fry, and some not so small, are shown marching down Main street on their way to the Collegian theatre to se a free movie, courtesy of the J. C. Penny Co. store here.

The most prominent structure in the background is the Spurgeon's Store at the corner of Burnett and Main.  That building was constructed in 1909 by Frank E. Morris for his livery business that until that year (and since 1893) had been located at the site of today's Sheldon-Munn Hotel. 

In the spring of 1909 he [Frank Morris] erected his present livery stable, which is the largest building in Ames.  It is three stories and basement, with gable roof, is fifty-one by one hundred feet and fifty-one feet in height.  It is built of glazed brick and is used exclusively for the livery business.  Its location is at the corner of Main and Burnett avenue, and Mr. Morris has about twenty-five head of horses, together with vehicles of all kinds, and three hearses and a number of closed carriages for funeral use.  His livery barn is accorded a liberal patronage, and the business has grown along substantial and gratifying lines.

1911 History of Story County by W.O. Payne

When Frank Morris retired in 1916, the Adams Furniture Company, Furniture and Undertaking occupied that site, now owned by M. Jay Adams.  In 1924, the undertaking portion of this business would be moved to 502 Douglas and would then be known as Adams Funeral Home.  The building at 330 Main Street continued to be used as a furniture business with a Mr. Henderson (Henderson Furniture), and later Elmer Hoversten (Hoversten Furniture) as the owners until 1941.  From 1941 until 1957 Spurgeons’s Mercentile Company operated from the building, followed by J.C. Penney Company until 1972.

The building sat vacant for several years after North Grand Mall opened, but in 1976 the east portion (326 Main) was divided to hold many small shops (a mini-mall) including Minsky’s Pizza, a jewelry store, Pandora’s Box antiques, Figure Plus Fashions, Dagwoods Sandwich Emporium, Cook’s Emporium, Chic Salon, State Job Service of Iowa, Downtown Deli (beginning in 1982) and many more.

After 1976 the west half (228-330 Main) became the home of Cheese and Puppets until 1994, and Big Table Books began operations there in 1993.

Upstairs tenants have included the US Dept. of Agriculture, Doane Agricultural Service, KASI Radio, John Hancock Insurance, ACTORS, the Puppet Perch, theYarn Shop, and others.

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Main Street, circa 1913

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Main Street photo postcard retrieved from the 1915 City Hall Time Capsule

September, 2008 Russ McCullough and David Keller, partners of The McKel Group, have an option to purchase the Town Centre building which is located adjacent to Tom Evans Park, just east of Lucullan's Restaurant.  McCullough said it will be a couple more months before he is certain the purchase will occur.  Their development proposal would remodel the Town Centre building at 328 Main Street to hold a restaurant/bar, a live music and convention venue that could hold up to 700 people, retail space, a patio area adjoining Tom Evans Plaza, and public rest rooms.  McCullough said they took their design proposal guidelines from the downtown catalyst project supported by the city council in 2006, which targeted the site for a development that would spur further economic growth in the downtown area.

We may have a decision by the end of August, even, he said. We are still looking at issues like tax increment financing and historic preservation tax credits. Historical preservation and restoration is expensive. But these kinds of financial incentives can make it viable.

The McKel Group has done other historic preservation projects, which include the Iowa House Bed & Breakfast Inn in Ames and Court Center on Third Avenue in Des Moines near Principal Park.  Iowa House at 405 Hayward is the former location of Delta Chi fraternity.  It was built in 1924, and has 13 rooms in its recently completed B&B renovation.

McCullough said he has always liked old buildings, but demolishing them is cheaper than restoring them. Without financial incentives, it is hard to make the project successful. One case in point, he said, is the former J.C. Penney building at 702 Story in Boone. The McKel group also did that project.

But it could have been so much nicer with the financial incentives we are looking into for the Town Centre building, he said.  McCullough said a destination project is being considered for the Town Centre building with two or three restaurants. He also has sketches of entertainment space and an outdoor patio overlooking Tom Evans Park.  Russ does not imagine any residential space in the building.

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This Tribune photo from December of 1957 shows the former Spurgeons's building being remodelled for the expansion of the J. C. Penney's Store.  The sign reads, Coming Soon - A Greater more Modern Penney's for your Shopping Convenience - Watch for the opening date!

1970 Postcard view of Ames Main Street