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BY MIKE AVITT
Thanks to Jeff Klein for this week’s picture of his great-grandfather’s house in Mount Ayr. The house belonged to Everal Sumner Downie and it has an interesting history.
The house is located at 219 Dunning Avenue. This street is named after the Dunning family, Mount Ayr’s first residents, and is located in what was then called the Highland Addition. The Highland Addition was established a few years after Sheldon Heights was developed (1913).
In 1919, E. S. Downie bought lots in Highland Addition from Belle McWilliams. The same year, he bought the old (and vacant) opera house and began dismantling it. The lumber would be used in the construction of his new house on Dunning Avenue. The opera house was located at 104 E. Monroe and had been built about 1875, so the old Downie house has some historical “bones.”
Some other house information I found concerns the house across the street northwest of the Mount Ayr Depot Museum. In 1920, Mrs. J. E. (Comfort) Polen bought the old Methodist parsonage and had it moved to its current location on N. Taylor Street. In 1944, she sold it to Mr. and Mrs. R. E. Vanatta. At some point the house caught fire and this resulted in the second story being removed. But, I believe it is still the same house.
Another thing I found was the Home Development Association selling lots on Monroe Street in 1917 from Lincoln Street east. At this time, East Monroe was Highway 3 (later named Highway 2). Not too many of the original houses survive as most on this street are newer homes.
The northwest part of Mount Ayr, with Oak, Maple, and Walnut Streets, was developed in the 1880s by bankers C. B. Morris and George Allyn. I mowed yards in this part of town in the early 1970s and I remember some very old small houses. A few are still there.
The most historic house in Mount Ayr is the one at 201 W. Jefferson Street which was built in 1872 as the Baptist Church. It operated as the First Baptist Church until 1915 when the congregation moved across the street east into their new brick House of Worship. The old church became a residence until 1920 when Dr. L. H. Ahrens bought the house from C. A. Lent and opened the building as a private hospital in 1921. This was Ringgold County’s first hospital, although other doctors had leased hotels for use as a sanitarium. Dr. Ahrens closed his hospital in 1924 and moved away. Next week I’ll share the history of Shellway Drive.