Presented by Home Repair Team
North Liberty may be a young community in terms of census demographics, but we do have some cool history to showcase. As part of North Liberty’s centennial celebration, and with the help of local residents and homeowners and the Home Repair Team, we’ve put together some of that history into a self-guided tour of North Liberty. You can use an online map, which will format itself to whatever device you’re viewing it, print your own map, or follow along with us below.
1: 210 N. George Street, built 1914
The house at 210 N. George Street was built in 1914, just one year after the incorporation of North Liberty in 1913. It was reportedly built by some relatives of the Myers, who built the house at 205 N. George St. in about 1907.
The house has natural oak floors and woodwork and nine and a half-foot ceilings downstairs. Upstairs, they used pine flooring and woodwork and there are eight-foot ceilings. The downstairs oak floors are laid on the diagonal, something that is true of several houses in North Liberty built about this time. The house remained more or less unchanged, structurally, until 1999, when a 13-foot addition was added to the back.
Bill and Caryl Lyons bought the house from the Jerry and Dolores Frese in 1973. The Freses had a genuine functioning full-sized carousel in the side yard (see photo); when the house was for sale, the carousel was stored in pieces in the attic, the basement, and the garage. For years after the carousel was no longer there, people would drive slowly past the empty lot, apparently looking for the carousel; often they would circle the block several times. Children would stand wistfully outside the fence, remembering when the calliope would play and the carousel would be available for neighborhood children to ride.
2: 205 N. George Street, built 1907
The house was built by the Myers family, a family known for owning the Purple Cow Restaurant in the building that now houses the in-town location of Hills Bank. Lloyd Myers, who lived in North Liberty in the 1970s when he was elderly, reported that he and his wife had been married in the bay window of this house.
Other owners of this house include two artists and their families: Ray Mullen, a potter who had a kiln in the back of the garage/art studio and was then a professor of art at Kirkwood Community College; and later, Ben Frank Moss, a painter and art professor at the University of Iowa. Still later, former North Liberty mayor Chuck Hippee and his family owned the home.
3: 325 N. George Street, built 1910
In the town and neighborhood of North Liberty, Iowa, no name is held in greater respect and reverence than that of Nicholas Zeller, Sr., father of the subject of this sketch.
It is told of him that while boarding at a hotel in Keokuk county he met a very profane and vicious man, whose cursing and swearing in the dining room made him a conspicuous object. Although the offender in avoirdupois was three times the size of Elder Zeller, the latter made bold to approach him, feeling it his duty to rebuke the man in the interest of his own soul. The man listened attentively, admitted his wrong-doing and respected Mr. Zeller’s advice to abstain from his profanity.
The greater portion of the town of North Liberty, part of the Zeller farm, has been platted and laid out by [the younger] Zeller.
4: 340 N. George Street, built 1905
All of the occupants have been interesting in their own right, but some of the most interesting tenants resided between 1960 and 1965. Vance and Anna Bourjaily and family lived in this house. The mother and daughter had horses on the property and were quite into riding and competing. Mr. Bourjaily was a writer, affiliated with the Writer’s Workshop, and it is said that many late night conversations took place here with other famous and soon to be famous writers such as James Michener, Kurt Vonnegut, John Updike, John Cheever and Toni Morrison. If only the walls could talk!
Some of the other families that have owned this property were the Zellers, the Andersons (who built the house in 1905), Peffers, Stoners, Gerkens, McCorkles, Jones, Steeles and Carlsons. Michael Garvin and Bonnie Winslow Garvin, who still live here, bought the house in 1996 and moved in with their 7-month-old twin girls.
In May 1981, Delma Dale (Anderson) Dever put together a short history of the house.
5: 115 N. George Street, built 1906
This house was built in 1906 and was originally a rural North Liberty farmhouse. When Interstate 380 was being planned, it was determined that the house was in their way, and either needed to be demolished or moved.
It was purchased for $1,000.00 by previous owners and was moved to its current location on George Street around 1970. The Dolphins purchased the house in 1972 and have done many updates and improvements. They say they love their old house!
6: 240 W. Zeller Street, built circa 1908
The current owners, Barbara O’Rourke and Randy Poole, have called this Annie’s House, and provided the following history:
From our reading of the abstract of title for our property, it is apparent that its early post-settlement history is similar to that of many of the older homes in this part of North Liberty, having its roots back to 1843 and the Bowmans, then through two generations of Zellers before becoming Lots 11 & 12 of Block 6 of Zeller’s First Edition around 1904. For that reason, we have focused our attention on the unique history of this property after 1904.
We have lived in this house since 1984; longer than any previous residents. During this time, what we have come to know about the property has come from a variety of sources. We have done a moderate amount of dedicated research and have talked to various neighbors and other North Liberty residents; both past and present. We have also talked at length with a close, personal friend of the people who lived here in the 1940s and 50s. She provided a wealth of information and had spent “lots and lots” of time with the elderly couple who lived here, helping them with numerous fix-up projects and often spending the night. In addition, our numerous restoration, landscaping and gardening projects have led to other discoveries as well. It goes without saying that some of what we share here is factual and some of it is anecdotal in nature.
For the most part, what we have discovered is pretty routine stuff; interesting to the homeowner, but less so to everyone else. For that reason we have decided to limit our discussion to the earliest residents and to a description of the house and property at the time that they lived here.
We’re calling our place, “Annie’s House” after Annie Panzer, the woman who, in all likelihood, was the one responsible for building the house, as well as other structures. If nothing else, she was the defining first owner and longtime resident of the property.
Annie purchased the property as a “single woman” in May of 1908 from one, A.S. Bane, who had owned the property for approximately one year. Later, in the fall of 1908, Annie would marry John Gouldy and would change her name to Annie Gouldy. The Gouldy’s lived here as a couple for the next six years. We know little else about John.
Annie (known also as, Anna) who was perhaps the daughter of first-generation pioneers, was a divorcee when she purchased the property. She was the mother of six sons and a daughter. We do not know Annie’s maiden name, but she was previously married to one Martin Panzer and they raised their children on a farm which may have been in the Solon area. Annie would have been around 54 years old when she purchased this property.
Of the Panzer children, Edward, born in 1893, was probably the youngest of the lot. He would have been around 15 years old at the time that Annie purchased the property and it is conceivable that he chose to come to live with his mother. Edward would later serve in the Armed Forces during World War I. Before and after that, however, Edward probably lived here for extended periods of time, and may have even called it, “home”. His burial next to his mother in North Liberty’s Ridgewood Cemetery, his designation as executor of her will and sole heir to the house and property suggest not only a special relationship between mother and son, but point to strong ties between Edward, the town of North Liberty, and to this property. Edward would have been around 43 years old when Annie died. He later married. His wife’s name was Emma and she is buried elsewhere.
Annie would later divorce John Gouldy in 1914. In 1919, she would marry again, this time to Chancy Dill. It’s clear that Chancy died before Annie and prior to 1932 when she wrote her will. He is not mentioned in Annie’s will and is not mentioned in the abstract after 1919. Year of death and place of burial for Chancy are unknown. They would have still been married at the time of his death.
Annie died on June 4, 1936. Her headstone reads, “Mother, Anna Dill, 1854-1936”. Edward sold the property in 1941 and he died in 1965. Their graves are adorned with peonies of the type that grows in the yard today.
The date of construction of the house is hard to pin down. A.S. Bane [see note below] was the first owner of the property as it currently exists. While he or she may have built on the property during the twelve months that he or she owned it, this seems unlikely. We are of the opinion that A. S. Bane may have been either a real estate speculator of sorts or perhaps an acquaintance or relative of Annie. In any case, we feel the house was probably built in the year that Annie purchased it, 1908, or perhaps in the following year.
[Joan Belnap, North Liberty resident, writes to add: “A.S. Bane stood for Albert Stewart Bane and he was the son of my great-grandfathers sister (Nancy Stewart, sister of Dr. David Stewart). Bert’s family originally lived in the house that Denny Fullweider lives in now on Dubuque Street. Bert lived back in the ‘Siberling’ addition, the road going toward the river from the curve before Fulweiders. Bert was featured in a Leader article as a ‘huckster’ who delivered such things as firewood and eggs, but he was also delivered the mail. I have very fond memories of Bert and he served as a township trustee and other things in the community. His family was very prominent.”]
The design of the house is essentially a variation of one that was popular for nearly one hundred years. Though modest even by standards of the day, it was built upon a foundation comprised of Portland cement and cement blocks. A fruit cellar was placed under the kitchen and today retains some of the original shelving, which was built using leftover lumber from building the house.
As was common, the house was framed in southern yellow pine. Southern yellow pine was also used for the interior trim and floors. Red cedar was used for the siding and exterior trim. Red cedar was also used on the original wood shake roof (the metal roof covering the main part of the house was done in the 1920s or early 1930s). The house was built as a three-bedroom home; two connected bedrooms on the upper floor and one downstairs. There was an open, metal-roofed front porch stretching across the length of the south side of the kitchen. An access door to the cellar was placed at the east end of the porch. There were two doors off this porch, one leading into the kitchen and one leading into the parlor to the west. In addition, there was an attic located above the second floor above the kitchen.
A metal-roofed extension was placed on the north side of the kitchen as well. Part of this extension was an open “mud porch” with a door leading from outdoors into the kitchen. The other part was an enclosed porch of sorts which was accessible only though the kitchen. This “three-season pantry” likely served numerous purposes, including storage and use as a summer kitchen.
We are told that, for years, the exterior of the house was painted white, likely with black or green contrasting storm windows. It is highly likely that it was painted in a similar manner at the time it was built. The interior appears to have been paint-over-plaster except in the parlor and stairway, which were wallpapered at some early date.
The house was wired for electrical service at the time of construction. It was heated in winter by means of the two coal-fired stoves in the parlor and kitchen, the latter being the cook stove. Heat to the upstairs would have been passive, utilizing the stairway and ceiling/floor registers as conduits to allow warm air to enter the upstairs rooms. We are told that the stoves were still in the house when Edward Panzer sold the property in 1941.
The house defined the southwest corner of North Liberty for many years. It would have been the first and last sight of North Liberty for the thousands of passengers who rode on the CRANDIC railroad’s interurban railcars.
The Property and Structures
Our description of the reminder of the property during these early years is based upon the following sources:
- The earliest assessor’s survey and field report for the property (conducted in the mid-to-late 1910s) which was referenced in records stored in the State Historical Society of Iowa building in Iowa City.
- Accounts of the aforementioned person who spent “lots of time” here. She was familiar with the property as early as 1941 or 1942. It was her opinion that, the buildings and property at that time, though older, were essentially unchanged from the 1910s.
- Accounts of other North Liberty residents who lived in town in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s.
- The unintentional archeological digs that have taken place in the course of any project wherein we have put a shovel into the soil.
- An enhanced version of a 1937 aerial photograph of North Liberty and the surrounding area.
There was a large barn to the north and slightly to the east of the house. This barn probably persisted into the late 1950s or early 1960s. A crude drawing from an early Assessor’s survey indicates a structure in this location, as does the aerial photograph. Most eye-witness accounts describe the structure as a “big” two-story barn. While the detail revealed by the photograph does not come anywhere close to that which is available today, one can make a rough guess as to its dimensions, which was in the neighborhood of 25 feet by 30 feet. A structure of this size would hint at its use for housing not only a horse but perhaps other livestock as well. In the 1910s, presumably a Model T would have taken over the horse’s stall. A driveway of sorts appears to have led from the west side of this barn to Stewart Street. When we moved into the house, the barn had long-since been torn down. There remained however, a sidewalk which lead from the back door and ended in the vicinity of its likely location.
In addition to the requisite outhouse and coal shed, there may have also been at least one other structure; perhaps a chicken coop. There was a large garden and apple trees in the eastern half of the yard. There are, in fact, indications that the entire eastern half of the property was surrounded by livestock-type fencing, providing further evidence for the notion that animals were raised here.
There was a well that we uncovered that was located about 10 feet from the house, directly east of the kitchen. We are told there may have been a second one dug as well, which was supposed to be somewhere north of the house. We have not uncovered this one, if it even exists. However, on the far north side of the property there is a slab of cement under about 6 inches soil that we have never excavated. This slab may be the cap on an old well.
The six large trees west of the house are very old sugar and black maples. Very old by maple tree standards that is, and were almost certainly planted during Annie’s time here. Despite their relatively uniform appearance, they were probably not planted at the same time. The trees on the either end of the row are probably older than the other four. The missing, seventh tree was lost in a windstorm in 1998. This tree was similar in size to the younger maples and a ring count put its age at 71 years, meaning it was planted in 1927. The older trees may be around a hundred years old.
You don’t believe in such things, do you? I don’t either, but long before I knew anything about the history of the house, there was this elderly lady … usually when I was working on a project or up on the roof or on a ladder, and when I would turn around I would just catch a glimpse of someone, a woman with gray hair and print dress, slipping around the corner or into the house. Still happens sometimes. Yeah, sure.
7: 105 N. Main Street, built 1893
This century home was the first residence in town to have hot running water and its own acetylene gas plant in the basement. Once a creamery in the late 1800s, the home was rebuilt into a boarding house for weary travelers on the Iowa City Railroad.
It is currently home to Main Street Studio, a photography business now specializing in architectural imaging for regional architectural firms and major builders.
This house now gets much of its operating energy from a solar system with the solar panels installed on the garage roof—a 19th century home with 21st century updates.
The property and its people made an appearence in a history of Johnson County.
8: 130 N. Front Street, built circa 1900
While not known for significant history, colorful characters or , the house has been carefully cared for since its completion, a tradition the current owners have honored.
9: 205 N. Front Street, built circa 1900
Both the house and the garage were built around 1900 in the “prairie box” style of architecture, with pine floors, 9-foot ceilings downstairs and 8-foot upstairs. The interior features original pine woodwork.
It’s believed that the home was once a duplex from 1947 to 1973, with two couples owing the home with two separate front doors, and used as post war housing.
10: 215 N. Front Street, built 1914
The property has two wells that have been filled since their use. One about three feet in diameter and 20 to 30 feet deep. The other is a modern well.
11: 230 N. Front Street, built circa 1900
12: 25 E. Cherry Street, built pre-1900
Three generations of the Koser family built, owned, operated and lived at Koser Grocery until the 1990s. Prior to the turn of the 20th Century, Ed Koser started Koser Grocery in North Liberty and also added stores in Coralville and Tiffin. Ed’s brother Clifford ran the North Liberty store for Ed up until Ed’s death in 1949. Clifford then ran the Coralville store and Ed’s son Mort took over the North Liberty store in 1949. Mort operated the store until his son Steve took over in 1970. All three generations of Kosers lived in the house attached to Koser Grocery.
Several types of businesses have operated in portions of the facility including the following: a Hills Bank branch, three ice cream stores, a meat market, a pizza pick-up location, and a gas station. Current owners Troy and Lora Miller own and operate Naomi’s Kitchen on location, and recently sold Isaac’s Creamery which has been combined with JJ’s Cupcakes by new owners Tim and Janee Bradshaw. The Millers lived on site until 2012 and now rent the house to tenants. The Millers purchased the property from three Koser siblings in 2004. Koser siblings Steve and Karen (Freeman) still live in the area, while the third Koser sibling lives in Olympia, Wash.
Koser Park, next door to the historic Koser Grocery, was named such in honor of longtime North Liberty resident and owner of Koser’s Grocery, Mort Koser, the second-generation owner.
Koser Grocery served the entire North Liberty population of 300 for many years. The population stayed that small until growth increased in early 1960s with the addition of Highway 965. The grocery was originally built across the street where the current Sugar Bottom Bikes building stands. Ed Koser moved the building to its current location in the early 1920s, when he added on the house and meat locker.
Farmers would bring livestock to Koser Grocery where Ed, Cliff, or Mort would butcher the animals and store the meat in lockers that rented for $5 a month. The original meat rack with attached scale is still installed, along with one original cooler door.
13: 405 N. Dubuque Street, built 1946
From a honky-tonk roadhouse and bootleggers, to restaurant and prime rib, this building was Rookies is more of a seasoned old veteran than a rookie. It started as Ma Shannon’s, a small bar and bootleg operation in the 1930s, later expanded into the existing building. From the slot machines in the back to the alcohol sold, it was said to be an interesting place.
Later, the owners dropped the “Ma” and it became just Shannon’s for a number of years. It was run by Vic Schimmel and Max McDaniel. When they left to run other clubs and restaurants, it becames Charlie’s Pizza
Around the late 1960s, Dale Danke and his wife bought the building and remodeled it into a supper club called the Red Garter. It was quite fancy and classy, highlighted by the bright red flocked wallpaper. They were the first to offer a salad bar and it became an instant hit. It was copied soon after by other supper clubs in the area. They also had a nice piano bar in the basement where local musicians often played. Dhanke also owned The Lark in Tiffin. Another club a block away was the famous Lighthouse, owned by Bill and Barb Sherlock. Both places were very busy before and after Hawkeye sporting events. Back in the day a good supper club cook was most important and many managers tried to hire them away from each other. There were many other supper clubs in the area as they were quite popular.
Around 1970, this became an after-hours, members-only gambling joint called the Winner’s Circle for a few years. The highlight of this place was the life-sized fiberglass black horse in the entry way, quite startling, as one walked in the front door. The horse carried over to the next owner.
Through the 1980s and into the 1990s, it was remodeled again and was the Hitching Post, a popular sports bar run by Pam Hanrahan and her brothers Mike and Tim. Pam’s mother, Mary, was the cook. More of a bar than restaurant, it became a fun local hangout. There were many ball fields in the area and the Hitching Post was the place to be after games. And they did serve great food.
A few others tried their hand here, including a couple from Cedar Rapids. It was once called the Liberty Lounge.
In 1996, two young men opened Rookies and totally remodeled again, including opening it up and installing the nice big windows and a part room. The owner, Larry, and his partner, Mick, did everything from cutting the steaks, ordering the beer and booze to mowing the lawn and planting the flowers. In 2008, Larry turned it over to his then-manager Ben who wanted to try making it into a simpler place that just sold pizza and pasta. For many reasons EB Taylors closed in the late summer of 2008.
In the fall the building was purchased by the former owners of Sluggers and another fabulous remodel was started and another chapter was added to this grand old building. Reds Alehouse opened for business in February 2009 and been a local and regional favorite focusing on good food and craft beers since.
14: 455 N. Dubuque Street, built 1919
The property was deeded from United States to Francis Bowman on July 12,1843, and sold (which much of North Liberty) to Nicholas Zeller, Sr., on Dec. 22, 1864.
Henry Bealer, a well-known developer, built the house from a Sears and Roebuck pattern around 1920, when the road was originally called Angle Road, and often referred to as John Eagan Road, before it was renamed Dubuque Street.
Rolland and Corrinne Williams owned it in the 1950s and ’60s. Rolland was the University of Iowa men’s basketball coach from 1930 – 1942 and again in 1951. Rolland was was an assistant athletic director for the university, played in the National Football League in 1923, and was inducted into the University of Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame in 1960
When the Colemans bought the house in 1969, everything on the inside of the house was painted green including cabinets, stairs and the fireplace.
15: 80 W. Penn Street, built circa 1900
16: 485 N. Stewart Street, built circa 1905
The land was deeded to Francis Bowman from the US government on July 12, 1843. The interior has original wood trim and doors, original stained glass above the main window in the front of the house the interior light fixtures are from the University of Iowa College of Law, circa 1930.
The basement wall has an illegible signature dated December 1907. The original roof was cedar shingles and remains of this roof are visible in the laundry room addition. Houses built during this period have considerably more wood than houses built today.
The original locks on the front door have two separate locks. Tis set up was to allow entry by the property owner in the event the property was rented. Owners had the master key that opened both locks. Locksmiths also consider this a tenant-lock set up.
17: 515 W. Penn Street, built 1908
The Ranshaw House, named for its original owner, Samuel Ranshaw, was constructed at a cost of $12,000. The house was completely plumbed for hot and cold water, both hard and soft, pumped by a gasoline engine and is also provided throughout with gasoline gas system for lighting. When Ranshaw was 49 years old, he was named as one of the wealthiest and most progressive citizens in Johnson County. The house is an excellent example of Queen Anne architecture and has many of the original features still intact.
The house is listed on the National Historic Register.
18: 305 N. Stewart Street, built circa 1900
In 1904 the North Liberty Savings Bank was established with R.H. Wray, president; J.W. Schoelman, vice president; and S.E. Lehnen, cashier. It also had a capital of $10,000 and a surplus of profits of $2,200, the deposits some time ago being $60,000.
19: 435 W. Cherry Street, built circa 1900
Looking east on Cherry Street. See more historical photos.
20: 180 S. Dubuque Street, built circa 1900
Was the home to the original Chicken Shack. The Chicken Shack was possibly the first farm-to-table restaurant with chickens grown on the farm and prepared fresh daily. The Chicken Shack was converted to a house and later torn down.
21: 2342 Scales Bend Road, built circa 1900
One of the oldest farmhouses and outbuildings in the area. The basement and foundation is all hand-split stone.
22 & 23: 2184 Highway 965 NE, built 1915, dairy barn built 1902
The Young farm house is a landmark on Highway 965, one and a half miles north of North Liberty. It was built in 1915 by William Wray and Cora Moreland Young, and was designed and built by Mr. Freyder, an Iowa City architect and builder. During the depression, W. A. (Alexander) and Sarah Young moved their family in with Willie and Cora, making it a full and busy household.
The American Victorian style home has 18 rooms, features a carriage drive, wrap-around ceramic porch, leaded glass windows, built-in buffet, oak paneled dining room, and beamed ceilings.
For 60 years, the farm included a dairy, selling not only milk but also turkeys, eggs, raspberries, etc. The farmstead also includes an icehouse (visible just to the right of the house in the photo) and the original 1902 dairy barn (see photo). In the icehouse, they used to store blocks of ice cut from the river and covered in sawdust to keep them from melting.
The CRANDIC railroad ran across the highway and transported passengers and produce to Iowa City. The farmhouse was never a quiet place—but a favorite summer vacation spot for cousins and friends. The third generation family farm is owned by Charlotte Young and the late Wilbur Young.
23: 235 W. Chestnut Street, built circa 1900
[Julius Kohl] cotinued on his farm, however, until 1901, when he moved to a farm in sections 27 and 28 of Madison township, which was the birthplace of his wife and known as teh Baldozer farm, and is pleasantly located, along the line of the interurban between Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, being about halfway between the two cities and well sheltered from heavy winds. The Baldozer farm was one of the earliest spots chosen for a home, and when Mrs. Kohl’s mother first came from Pennsylvania it was in a wild country, where the wolves were often plentiful. She has lived to see it transformed in a wonderful manner, until street cars pass the door.