The Big Brick Building on The Corner

From 1890’s Hardware Store to Present Day Business Hub

Dysart, Iowa 1973

Growing up in 1960’s small town Iowa, “going uptown” to Main Street was something we looked forward to. The city park, school, Community Building, and uptown were the main hubs for community activities. My parents owned a business on Main and so, I think I spent more time there than most of my contemporaries. I was sent off to other businesses for supplies or errands. I was a frequent visitor to the post office which at that time was on Man Street and also the bank where I would bring the pennies from our tavern’s peanut machine to be counted by the magical mechanical coin sorter. I can still hear the sound of that machine vibrating the coins down to the correct position to be rolled in dull colored paper rolls. Fascinating stuff when you are ten.

Most of the time, though I was a wanderer. An aimless kid passing the time by exploring that one block long section of Main Street between Wilson and Clark streets. My favorites haunts were the two hardware stores; Hix’s and Barnes & Brinkmeyer’s and of course, our dime store with its alluring displays of wonderful items and oh so much candy.

Hix Hardware

My parents were friends of the Hix’s. We spent time with their families and so I felt very at home in their store. I could always count on Lindsay for a teasing and welcoming smile. Ed, his brother, always seemed a bit more reserved but my family had lived close to his at one time and so they were also friends. A trip to Hix’s meant tight aisles filled with all kinds of items, some of which I understood and many of which were a complete mystery. In the front of the store they kept the household items and some toys. I spent most of my time up towards the front, but whenever Lindsay and Ed would get busy with a customer, I loved to sneak off and explore the rest of the store. In the back, it was dark with creaking floors and seemed like a big adventure to me. I liked to catch a glimpse of the back room where I was sure the best stuff must be hidden.

I felt less at home at Barnes & Brinkmeyer’s. They were not friends of my parents, did not attend the same church as us, and I had no context for them other than at their store. There was no banter or visiting to be done there. I don’t mean to imply they were not friendly but, as a child you don’t kid around with adults you don’t know. In that situation, invisibility is the goal. In addition, there were a lot more things that a clumsy child could break in their store, so caution was always on my mind. My trips to their store were a quiet affairs but no less loved than the ones I made to Hix’s. The store was very large and whereas the Hix store seemed to have everything crowded altogether, items here were much more separate making them easier to see. The north part of the building contained the hardware. Old wooden bins with nails and screws; all the stuff needed to build or repair just about anything. The floor creaked and squeaked and provided it’s own sense of adventure. The building smelled of old wood and metal.

Frankoma Pottery

The south side of the store was where the real magic happened for me. In this room were the beautiful Frankoma pottery pieces with their lovely glazes in blue, greens, browns and oranges. As I recall this room also had some toys to drool over but for me the draw was always the pottery. They don’t make this pottery anymore and I only own one piece; a small orange and brown pitcher with a chip but it stands on my shelf as a reminder of those days and the place where I think I first noticed the beauty of an object.

Dysart Main Street at Wilson: Hardware Store on the left center of photo Circa 1989-1907

By the time, I was at the height of my childhood in about 1968, the Barnes and Brinkmeyer building had been in continuous use as a hardware store for 77 years. The north portion of the building was built in 1891 by J. C. Walters. It was described in the local paper as being 94 feet deep with a 21 foot frontage and was “the first building in the town furnished with a handsome plate glass front.” It was two stories tall and sported an attached covered staircase on the exterior. It was designed for retail on the lower level and offices upstairs. According to newspaper accounts the upstairs has been used over the years for both business and residential purposes.

Originally from Cedar Falls, J. C. Walters first became a merchant in Dysart when he purchased the hardware business of Harrison and Freise in February of 1889. That business appears to have been housed in a small building at the corner of Wilson and Main, where the current building still stands. For a time, that building was moved to the middle of Wilson Street while the new building was built. It was then moved somewhere in town and served as a residence. At some point, Walters added the selling of implements to his hardware business.

In 1895, a 32 x 42 foot addition was added to the building. His brother-in-law, Mr. Beale, joined the business in 1896 and it was then known as J.C. Walters & Co. Hardware. In 1897, the paper noted that he was building a “big, fine home in town” for which he had red rock from Pipestone, Minnesota, shipped in for the foundation.

In the spring of 1900, the nearby town of Clutier was begun and J.C. built a second store there which was to be managed by his sons G.F. and Benjamin Walters. This building was described as a two story brick building next to the bank. That same summer, there was excitement in the Dysart store described in this article from the Traer Star Clipper:

August 31, 1900

In January of 1901, it was announced that J.C.’s sons, G.F. and Ben suddenly quit the store in Clutier and the stock from that store was sold to either John Parizek or Andy Ryan. The building was sold to John Horstman although a conflicting report shows it being sold to a Mr. Maine.

The Dysart store was expanded again in 1902 when an addition to the store room was added and remodeling of the upstairs was done to add two sleeping rooms and an office space for the Farmer’s Telephone exchange. Mr. Beale left the business in 1904. J.C. got out of the implement business, selling a half interest in this business to A.H. Schuhart of Pipestone, Minn., who along with his family moved to town and bought the Beale’s home. Another addition to the store was announced at that time as well as the addition of a cement sidewalk on the north side of the building.

In the late fall of 1904 it was announced that Mr. Walters had reached a deal to trade his store in Dysart for a farm in Minnesota. At that time, he was noted in the paper as having “done more for the improvement of Dysart than any other business man here. His extensive business interests require the attention of from five to seven clerks and they are always busy.” That deal fell through and then in January of 1905, J.C. sold one-half of the business to Arthur Schuhart.

In the summer of 1905, J.C. Walters sold his business in Dysart to his brothers, George and Harvey and the name was changed from J.C. Walters & Co. to Walters Hardware Company. A new corner entrance was added to the south building as well as a large plate glass window. After the change of ownership, the business started selling furniture in addition to hardware and implements.

J.C. & Mrs. Walters home

J.C. and his wife sold the property they owned in Dysart. The house pictured above was sold to Rudolph Cold. Two residential lots on Main Street near the park were sold to Charles Thiele. In 1907, J.C. purchased a fruit ranch in Covina, California, where they planned to grow walnuts, figs, peaches, pears, plums and oranges. This venture only lasted about two years. The family were regular visitors to Dysart throughout the 1910’s and appear to have divided their time between Covina, California; Pipestone, Minnesota; Cedar Falls, Iowa; and Dysart.

ebay.com

In the fall of 1909, the wheels were set in motion for the Walters brothers to sell their building and business to three young men; Eugene Braden, Ed. Heineman and Walter Schmidt. They took ownership on January 1, 1910. At this time, the store’s name changed again to B.H.S. Hardware Company. According to the Dysart Reporter all three men were well known in the community; Heineman and Schmidt having been reared there and Braden having worked at the Klemme Hardware store (located directly across the street from the Walter’s building where the current Dysart State Bank sits) for many years.

May 1914

This business appears to have been quite prosperous. This article from May of 1914, shows that not only did they sell hardware and furniture, they also served as a Ford dealer.

B.H.S Hardware Company Hosts Events on Saturday

“The free entertainment and smoker (according to Merriam-Webster “an informal gathering for men”) given by B.H.S. Hardware Co. on Saturday, May 23, was a great success. A man from the American Fence Factory gave a very interesting and instructive lecture about fencing and the theater was packed with interested men. That day, the hardware store sold 1,200 fence posts. The Ford exhibition was also very successful. Never before were so many Fords lined up together on Main Street. A little over 30 Fords are shown in the picture above. More than 40 men registered for picture. John Pippert Sr., John Pippert Jr., and George Stewart all purchased Fords that week. So far this year, B.H.S. has sold 23 Ford cars.”

Dyart Reporter May 1914

The three men operated the store together until Mr. Heineman’s death in January 1920. It was known after that as Braden and Smith Hardware.

Ed Heineman was born on December 13, 1886, in Monroe Township, Benton County, Iowa. He was the son of Mr. & Mrs. William Heineman. He received his education in Dysart High School and later the Tilford Academy in Vinton. In 1905, Ed, his mother and sisters moved into Dysart. He worked for Walters Hardware and Klemme Hardware before buying the hardware store with Braden and Schmidt. On May 20, 1919, he married Dorothy Murty in Webster City. The following January, the people of Dysart were shocked to learn that Mr. Heineman had committed suicide by hanging himself from the rafters in the upstairs room of the hardware store. His body was found by Mr. Braden and Ed Wurtzel after his wife requested they go and look for him as he had not arrived home after work. By all accounts he had shown no signs of depression. He was only 32 years old, recently married, had just purchased a home and was co-owner of a 270 acre farm near Mt. Auburn. He was a member of the Dysart Evangelical Church. He is buried in the Dysart Cemetery.

From 1920 to 1940, the store continued operations. In August of 1940, due to Mr. Schmidt’s declining health, Mr. Braden became the sole owner of the business thenceforth known as Braden Hardware.

C. Walter Schmidt was born April 16, 1883, in Waterloo. At some point he moved to Dysart along with his family and was raised there. He was married to Miss Elma Biexrud of Caledonia, Minnesota, on June 15, 1910. They had one son, Christian. C. Walter was an avid hunter and his trips to Minnesota and Canada for hunting trips were frequently documented in the Dysart Reporter. In addition to the hardware business, he was elected as a director of the Dysart National bank. Starting in about 1939, Mr. Schmidt’s decline in health was documented in the local paper including a February 1939 operation to remove his spleen and the amputation of his right arm in June 1940. He died in 1943 at his home after a lingering illness. He was a member of the Zion Lutheran and the Masonic Lodge. H was survived by his son and his brothers Frank H, Ed J. of Dysart and Chris R, of Red Lodge, Montana. He and his wife are buried in the Dysart Cemetery.

Due to poor health, Mr. Braden sold the two buildings to Howard Barnes on December 1, 1944.

Eugene Braden came to Dysart in 1900 and was employed at Klemme Hardware (located at the northwest corner of Main Street where the Dysart State Bank is located). He had been born on 8/16/1881 in Dows, Iowa. He was married to Ellen Redmond on June 19, 1907. The couple had seven children none of whom stayed in the Dysart area. He died in 1945 and at the time of his death he had been in the hardware business for 44 years, first in Dows and then Dysart. Mr. & Mrs. Braden are buried in the St. Joseph’s Cemetery in Dysart.

According to a news article in the Waterloo Courier on July 27, 2009, Howard Barnes was joined in the business by his son, Bill Barnes, after Bill completed his military service and schooling in about 1947. They operated the business together for ten years until Howard’s death in 1957.

Dysart Library

Kermit Brinkmeyer, Bill’s brother-in-law, took over Howard’s portion of the business in 1959. Together, they expanded the business to include appliances and on the advice of their wives, Margaret Brinkmeyer and Joan Barnes, added “things women use in the home” including the Frankoma. They expanded the walkway between the two buildings. Bill and Kermit retired and sold the building in 1994.

Between 1994 and 2006, the building was used by several different businesses and then starting in 2006, it was purchased by Deb Roettger who transformed it into the “Brick-a-Brack Building” which has served as a business incubator for several small businesses over the years. Deb’s Blacksmith Boutique where she welds old and rusty metal into highly sought after sculptures has been the constant through the years.

The old building looks much different now than it did in my childhood both inside and out but it has served the community well for almost 130 years. It is hard to imagine how many people have entered and existed the building in that time or how many friendly conversations have been had within its walls. Here’s wishing the building a long and useful future for the people of Dysart, Iowa.

If you enjoyed this post, please sign up below to receive notice of new posts. It’s all the way at the bottom of this page. Leave your email address and you will get new stories as they are published.

20 thoughts on “The Big Brick Building on The Corner

      1. Very interesting article, thank you, my dad, Arnold Driscol owned the Barnes hardware building for a while and we run a consignment store in it, glad building is still standing and being used by Deb

        Like

  1. Thank you so much for this very interesting article, I absolutely love this building and I am sooooo proud of owning this amazing piece of history and that it is part of my “story”. My favorite part (amongst many) is the threshold going into my studio, the amount of people that have stepped on it in the buildings lifespan is heart warming. This building is so incredible and I am so proud of the positive energy and opportunity it gives to so many. Thank you for sharing this story

    Like

  2. I grew up on Wilson St 2 blocks east of Main Street. I remember walking to school
    past this store. At the bottom of the outside stairs on the north side there was a pump with a Tin cup right next to the street. My Mother (Jane Milne Bottomley) grew up in that same house. She said, as a girl (she was born in 1923) Wilson St was dirt. One time after it had rained and the street was muddy she ran home and her shoe came off in the mud. Her dad made her go back and get her shoe. The reason she ran was because she was afraid of the gypsies who always parked their wagons on Wilson St. somewhere between our house and Main St and she always heard they kidnapped kids.

    Like

  3. I loved reading this article and learning more of the history of the old hardware store. I too loved going into all the stores that Dysart had. Remembering the theater on main street, post office, drugstore, coffee shop, dime store, grocery stores, dry cleaner & much more. Thank you for all your research!

    Like

    1. I am so thankful that you took the time to read it and that you appreciated it. I should have mentioned the drug store as a favorite haunt. I loved the magazine rack in the front!

      Like

  4. In the picture with Bill and Howard Barnes is their dear friend and employee Jerry Dunlevy. Many of us will remember him from his other job as a driver of Dysart area school buses. He truly enjoyed his bus kids.

    Like

  5. Carrie, wonderful history! We always wondered when Grandpa Rudolph Cold bought that house. Our great aunts Maude Filloon and Mary Lincoln lived there across the street from us. But, they were Wilson’s. We haven’t figured out how that came to be.

    Like

  6. I am fascinated by your wonderful posts seeing how I lived thru many of your stories as a child. Dysart is full of interesting history and I look forward to more of your stories.

    Like

  7. Very interesting article. I recall both the Hix and Barnes & Brinkmeyer buildings well. I loved the creaking wood floor when Ed would go in the back and he always seemed to come up with just the right bolt, screw or nut you needed. Kermit Brinkmeyer once gave me an detailed tour of what is now Deb’s building including many sordid stories of activities on the top floor. Dysart is a great town for so many reasons.

    Like

  8. I grew up in Dysart and was not aware of history of my home town. Thanks for sharing all of thunique gue history of Dysart.

    Like

  9. I grew up in Dysart and was not aware of history of my home town. Thanks for sharing all of the unique history of Dysart.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: