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Ames-Florida-Stork House

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Rockford Area Historical Society
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Ames-Florida-Stork House

The Ames-Florida-Stork House, 2013. From the photograph collection of the Rockford Area Historical Society. Used with the permission of the Rockford Area Historical Society.

The Ames-Florida-Stork House was completed in 1861 on the banks of the Crow River in Rockford, Minnesota, and was listed on the National Historic Register in 1979. In 1986 the house was sold to the City of Rockford, and the Rockford Area Historical Society was organized to manage the house as a museum. The historical society also runs historical programs, hosts on-site events, and preserves related archives.

George Ames traveled to eastern Minnesota in 1855 hoping to make his fortune and settled in what would later become the village of Rockford. He and his business partners—Guilford D. George and Joel Florida, who was also his brother-in-law—built a lumber mill and later, woolen and grist (grain) mills.

Ames built the house between 1860 and 1861 as a “retirement” home for himself and his wife, Sarah Woodard Ames. He settled on the Greek Revival style popular in his native Vermont and used wood milled from the property and its immediate vicinity to build the house. He chose to build the two-story, cedar-shingled structure into a hillside—a rare design element for a fashionable, mid-nineteenth-century American home.

As originally used by the Ames family, the house included a kitchen/dining room; a main-floor parlor; a second-floor “sky” parlor; a master bedroom; three additional bedrooms; and a back staircase that led to a maid’s room and boarders’ area. It also had both an attic and a root cellar with an escape tunnel—thought to have been built in case of attack by Native Americans.

When Ames became gravely ill in 1878, he sold the house to George Florida, Joel Florida’s son (and Ames’s nephew). The Florida family added a new kitchen and dining room to the house in 1912; the carriage house on the property dates to this era as well. As the years progressed, the original kitchen/dining room was converted into a music room. After its tunnel was filled in for safety reasons, the root cellar came to be used as a tool room.

The house remained in the Florida family until 1937, when it was bought by Clinton and Meda Stork of St. Paul. The couple used it as a summer home until Clinton’s retirement, after which it became their year-round home.

When they purchased the property, the Storks made a conscious decision to maintain the historic integrity of the house. This required preserving the previous owners’ personal possessions and, as much as possible, keeping the aesthetics of the house true to ca. 1880. In 1986, just two days before her death, Meda Stork (by then a widow) sold the Ames-Florida-Stork House to the City of Rockford using an anonymous donation.

In 1986, the Rockford Area Historical Society began to operate the Ames-Florida-Stork House as a museum and administrative headquarters. The museum provides both an intimate look into the lives of the house’s owners and a direct view into the lives of settler-colonists in eastern Minnesota. It preserves almost 10,000 artifacts that originally belonged to the Ames, Florida, and Stork families, including clothing, household items, tools, and numerous journals, diaries, letters, and other written materials. Most were created in the 1860s and after; a few date to the 1850s. In the attic, visitors can view the roof’s original cedar shingles and log frame.

The Ames-Florida-Stork House and its collections are open to the public, primarily by appointment.

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  • Related Resources

Curtiss-Wedge, Franklyn. History of Wright County, Minnesota. Chicago: H. C. Cooper Jr., 1915.

Hubler, Mouraine Baker. Rockford: The Way it Really Was. Rockford: Elmwood Cemetery Association, 1985.

Related Images

Ames-Florida-Stork House
Ames-Florida-Stork House
Boarder's room in the Ames-Florida_Stork House
Boarder's room in the Ames-Florida_Stork House
Music room in the Ames-Florida-Stork House
Music room in the Ames-Florida-Stork House
Master bedroom in the Ames-Florida-Stork House
Master bedroom in the Ames-Florida-Stork House
Tool room in the Ames-Florida-Stork House
Tool room in the Ames-Florida-Stork House
Flour sack from Rockford Roller Mills
Flour sack from Rockford Roller Mills

Turning Point

In 1937, Clinton and Meda Stork of St. Paul buy the Ames-Florida house from Jessie Florida and commit themselves to maintaining its historic integrity.

Chronology

1855

George Ames and his brother-in-law, George Florida, along with their business partner, Guilford D. George, choose a site on the Crow River—the future village of Rockford—for their milling business.

1855

Guilford George winters in Rockford, holding land for himself, Ames, and Florida.

1856

Ames and Florida move to Rockford from Illinois with their extended families.

1857

Ames, Florida, and George build a dam at Rockford on the Crow River to increase milling production.

1858

Minnesota becomes a state.

1861

Ames builds a “retirement” home, later to be known as the Ames-Florida-Stork House, overlooking the mills.

1878

Ames retires in ill health and sells his house and business interests to his nephew, George Florida.

1881

The village of Rockford, Minnesota, is incorporated.

1910

The Florida family builds a garage on the south side of the house.

1912

The Florida family adds a new kitchen and dining room to the house, giving it an L shape.

1937

Clinton and Meda Stork of St. Paul buy the Ames-Florida House from Jessie Florida, one of George Florida’s sisters and his last living relative.

1986

An anonymous donation allows the City of Rockford to purchase the house from Meda Stork.