Grinnell Chamber

Architectural Treasures Walking Tour


This tour will introduce you to some of the highlights of Grinnell’s architectural heritage. Our walking tour is designed to showcase the wide variety of architectural styles found in Grinnell. We are proud of our architectural heritage and actively pursue ways to repurpose buildings in our community. This tour will give you a good sense of the variety of architectural styles found in Grinnell. 

Distance: 1.9 miles

Estimated Time: 1.5 - 2 hours

> Click here to download a printable PDF of this walking tour. 

1. Merchants National Bank

833 4th Avenue
Completed in 1914, this bank is one of eight  “Jewel Box” banks Louis Sullivan created in the final decade of his life. The building, nearly cubical, suggests security and stability needed in a bank, but the stonework and terra cotta ornamentation modify the austerity of the structure. The center of visual interest is the circular stained glass window over the entrance. The interior decoration continues the themes of the building’s exterior. Additional information is available in the bank, which is now occupied by the Grinnell Visitor Center and Chamber of Commerce.


2. Old Glove Factory

733 Broad Street
Morrison, McIntosh & Company was established shortly after F.W. Morrison arrived in Grinnell and developed a process which produced gloves from goatskin and other leathers. The glove factory was constructed following the destruction of the earlier Morrison plant in the fire of June 1889. The building was three stories high with ceilings of proper height to ensure ventilation and light. Grinnell College owns the building and recent renovations were planned by Herbert Lewis Kruse Blunck Architecture, Des Moines. The design features a core entry courtyard and renovated foyer with offices in the existing buildings on both sides.

3. Rock Island (Union) Station

1014 3rd Avenue
The Rock Island Station was completed in 1893 at a cost of $5,000. The stone and red-brick structure was built in a modified Queen Anne style with a tower 12 feet in diameter at the southeast end. The need for a station became evident in the late 1880s when the Mississippi and Missouri railroads intersected at Grinnell. The 1893 building contained two waiting rooms, a baggage room, lunch counter, and offices. Prior to WWI, a scheduled stop at Grinnell gave passengers an opportunity to dine at the Monroe Hotel north of the station.

Passenger service to Grinnell continued until May 1970, and the building lay empty until it was purchased and restored in 1993. The building opened as a restaurant in 1995, and now houses the Peppertree at the Depot Crossing restaurant.

4. Grinnell House

1011 Park Street
Grinnell House was built in 1917 to replace the Little House, the former college president’s residence, and served as the president’s home until 1961. Designed by Brainerd (Grinnell College class of 1883) and Leeds, Boston, it was patterned after the president’s home at Harvard University. It is designed in Georgian or Federal style with symmetrical or “Palladian” elements on the exterior: the doorway in the middle of the facade with two windows on each side and large bays at each end of the first floor. It is currently used as a Grinnell College guest house.

5. Goodnow Hall

1118 Park Street
Completed in 1885, Goodnow Hall
was designed in Romanesque Revival style (Stephen Earle, Worcester, Mass., architect) with walls of Sioux Falls quartzite and Missouri sandstone trim and window accents. The heavy walled tower at the northwest corner was intended to support and house the college’s telescope. It is the only remaining structure of the first four buildings constructed after the 1882 tornado and was originally intended to serve as the college’s library.

Goodnow was extensively renovated in 1995 to house the Anthropology Department. Efforts were made to retain as much of the west one-third of the building as originally constructed, with woodwork, stained glass, windows, and staircase refinished or replicated.

6. Grinnell Historical Museum

1125 Broad Street
The Grinnell Historical Museum is located in the home built in 1895-96 for local retailer J.H. McMurray and his wife, Flora. The house and the one to the north were both constructed from plans developed by George F. Barber, who marketed similar designs nation-wide. With its elaborate woodwork and amenities such as central heating, electricity and running water, the home justified its original cost of $8,000. The carriage house in the rear (which houses several Spaulding and Laros buggies) was constructed in 1992 from the original plans, and both it and the McMurray home have been painted in the original colors of greens and black.

7. B.J. Ricker House (Private Residence)

1510 Broad Street
An excellent example of the Prairie School of Architecture, Ricker House was designed by Walter Burley Griffin of Chicago, an associate of both Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright and designer of the Clark Fountain, formerly in Central Park. Griffin’s wife, Marion Mahony, created the tile work in the home. It was built in 1911 for Benjamin Ricker and his wife, Mabel; at the time, Ricker was a partner in the Morrison-Ricker Manufacturing Company.

The exterior has a strong horizontal emphasis, accented by vertical detailing on the second story. Interior highlights include oak woodwork, cove lighting, recessed bookcases, and sleeping porches. Marion Mahony Griffin’s terra cotta tilework appears on the fireplaces in the study and living room as well as the exterior of the house. This house is a private residence and does not offer building or ground tours at this time.

8. E.H. Spaulding House (Private Residence)

1103 Main Street
This Prairie-Style house was constructed between 1905 and 1907 at a cost of $15,000 (Hawlett and Rawson, Des Moines, architects). The family owned the Spaulding Manufacturing Company, maker of buggies and later of automobiles. The building materials – limestone and buff- colored bricks – were unique at the time in residential Grinnell. Originally the east side of the house had a semicircular brick tile floor. Subsequently enclosed, it now serves as the home’s main entrance. For a time in the 1930s, the house was the Wayside Inn, operated by the widow of one of the Spaulding Company heirs. The home is currently a private residence. 

9. Strand Theatre

931 Main Street
Constructed in 1916, the Strand Theatre was purpose-built for motion pictures. It included a lobby, foyer, and auditorium seating for 588 patrons. The exterior was two-story, brick with canopy and a mansard-type tiled roof. The original canopy was removed in the ‘30s or ‘40s and the exterior sheathed with metal. In 2003, the sheathing was removed and the building renovated, incorporating a storefront to the south to create a triplex theatre. A small museum of Strand artifacts is located in the northeast corner of the lobby.




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