Ankeny building

The Ankeny Building is a two story terra cotta edifice located in the center of Clinton’s commercial district. Designed in the Art Deco style, this commercial building has served as an important commercial and retail center since its 1930 construction date. Exterior features of the Art Deco building include steel framed windows and detailing of the terra cotta façade. While alterations have been made to the first story display windows and store entrances, the upper story continues to posses a high degree of architectural and historical integrity.

The Ankeny Building occupies a prominent corner located in the heart of Downtown Clinton. Gracing the corner of Fifth Avenue and 2nd Street South, the Ankeny Building is positioned directly south of the Van Allen Building, a recently refurbished National Historic Landmark designed by renowned architect, Louis Sullivan in 1914.

The Ankeny building measures 75 feet in length on the East façade (Second Street façade) and 127 feet in length on the North facade (Fifth Avenue façade). The building depth is 75 feet.

The building’s design was fashioned in the Art Deco style which enjoyed popularity in the early 20th Centuries. Chicago architect Harold Holmes, employed several hallmarks of the Art Deco style on the exterior of the Ankeny building through use of terra cotta detail.  It is interesting to contrast the cream colored terra cotta of the Ankeny building with the white terra cotta Chicago style commercial façade of the Wilson building, its neighbor to the west.  The use of terra cotta by Sullivan in the Van Allen building to the north of the Ankeny building and by Rice and Morrell in the Howes building to the north-east of the Ankeny building add further interest to that corner.

The site of the Ankeny Building on the corner of Fifth Avenue and Second Street South was a very important location for commercial and retail business in Clinton at the turn of the century through most of the 20th century.  Therefore, north and east façades of the Ankeny building were constructed with impressive design features.

The street level exterior of the Ankeny Building hosts the most dramatic exterior alterations. Over the years, the street level of the building has undergone several alterations.   The ground floor originally had five retail stores.  Today the North (Fifth Avenue) side of the building has eight stores of which two have entrances both on the North (Fifth Avenue) and East (Second Street) sides of the building.  The polished granite trim at the lower portion of the façade in some places has been retained, while in other places it has been replaced with brick or tile facing.  An original drawn bronze fascia between the terra cotta and the top of the store windows has been retained although at present, it is not uniformly painted and a sign covers it in front of one store.   The building has fluted bronze dividing pilasters between the display windows.  The western end of the North façade has an entrance to the stairs leading to the second floor with the name Ankeny Building in a bronze grill displayed above the opening for this doorway which is recessed from the rest of the façade.  A similar entrance is located at the southern end of the East façade, however the section of the building which includes this entrance is projected out slightly from the rest of the façade with a built in clock over the casement window located in that bay adding visual interest to this side of the building.  The original Ankeny Building bronze grill lettering has been removed from above the entrance to the second story on the east side of the building, but it has been preserved and can be remounted.  The radiator covers and tenant directory cases at the west and south entrances are of bronze.

The second story of the Ankeny Building façade remains predominantly unaltered. The building’s second level retains historical integrity with iron framed windows and terra cotta ornamentation. There are 12 window units on the North (Fifth Avenue) side of the building and 6 on the East (Second Street) with a smaller casement window at the southernmost end of the East side of the building over the eastern side entrance to the building.  Each opening is 80 inches wide and 84 ½ inches high.  Each window unit is composed of a central window 64 inches high and 42 inches wide, flanked by casement windows that are 64 inches high and 15 inches wide.  There is a transom window over the central window that is 42 inches wide and 15 inches high that is flanked by two square windows that are 15 inches by 15 inches.  The nine western windows on the North façade have the large central window divided with a lower window that is 20 inches high and the three southern windows on the east side of the building have a similar division.  

The decorative ornamentation on the Ankeny building follows the commercial style and displays Sullivanesque influence with minimal ornamentation that is secondary to the building’s design. Ornamentation appears simple from the street level, but is really an intricate foliate designs that provides a natural element in contrast to the Building’s stark functional appearance. Ornamentation is made from the same material as the building, small floral patterns are found below windows, larger leaf patterns found at the top of the building.

Consistent with alterations to the exterior of the building, the first story of the Ankeny Building has sustained the majority of interior changes. In fact, the building’s use for retail stores since its construction has resulted in significant building alterations in 1946 and 1955-1956 that leave very few visible signs of the original first floor interiors. In this commercial space, some of the original walls have been removed and others added.

The retail store space consumes all of the first floor, with the exception of the building entry ways located at the northwest and southeast corners. The south entry has an attractive ceramic tile floor and walls, oak chair rail and houses an elevator and staircase which climbs to the second story. The west entry is smaller and less ornate. The west entrance features marble wainscoting, decorative moldings, ornate mosaic tile floors and a second staircase which climbs to the second story.   The first floor and the basement are 10,538 square feet each.

The second story of the Ankeny building is other than a small room in the northwest corner and bathrooms in the southwest corner, now completely open.  Originally it contained fifteen offices.  The partitions have now all been removed so the second floor is one room on the west end of the building.

The interior aesthetic highlights of the second story of the Ankeny Building are the octagonal light fixtures which are the originals and the decorative tile floors.  Similar but larger light fixtures grace the bottom of each of the street entrances to the second floor and the landings have delightful tile floors.  The walls along the western staircase to the second floor have period tile decoration.   The second floor is 10,470 square feet.  A contemplated, but never built third floor would have also had 10,470 square feet.

The Ankeny Building has historical significance because of its contribution to the broad pattern of Clinton’s historical, social and commercial development. Located on the prominent corner of Fifth Avenue and Second Street South in the heart of downtown Clinton, the Ankeny Building was constructed as a commercial hub at the height of Clinton’s growth in population and commerce. For over seventy years, the Ankeny Building has retained its role as a cornerstone of downtown Clinton retail and commerce, housing offices and retail stores that contributed significantly to the economic strength of the community. The Ankeny Building also achieves significant local historical value because it was commissioned by the family of a significant local dignitary Dr. Augustus Ankeny (believed to be the first physician to practice in the county) and his wife,Valeria M. Perrin, a sister of the first non native-American child born in what became Clinton.  It was designed by the Chicago architect Harold Holmes, and built by local builder, Daniel Haring.

 In 1868, the Toll Block was constructed on the southwest corner of 5th Avenue South and 2nd Street South. The Toll block housed Howes Brothers Jewelers, P.S. Towle and Co. dry goods store, attorneys, insurance agents and physicians.  The Toll block was acquired by Dr. Ankeny when he shifted his professional focus to real estate from medicine.  When the P.S. Towle & Co. dry goods store closed and the building lost its principal tenant in 1930, the Toll block was demolished and the Ankeny building constructed by the children of Dr. Augustus Ankeny in spite of the depression that was underway at the time.

Dr. Augustus Lafayette Ankeny was born in Brownsville, Jo Daviess County, Illinois on March 13, 1828. There he spent the early years of his life, his playmates frequently being Indian children.  His early school days were also spent there.  At the age of 14 A.L. Ankeny entered school at Mt. Morris, Illinois, afterwards studying medicine at Elizabethtown, near Galena, and then graduating from Rush Medical College, Chicago, in 1849.  In April, 1850, he located at Lyons (now a part of Clinton). He practiced medicine successfully for some years, afterward engaging in real estate speculations, in which he was very fortunate, his estate being possessed of Clinton property - Toll and Stratton blocks and the property east of the Revere House in 1887.  In Chicago he had valuable real estate, which he procured when he disposed of his fine residence west of the city (Cherry Bank).  He was successful in mining pursuits in the Black Hills, at one time being a heavy stockholder in the Portland Mining Company, and at the time of demise being president of the Buxton Mining Company.  On August 14, 1851 Dr. Ankeny and Miss Valeria M. Perrin, a native of Indiana, whose parents had come to what became Clinton, Iowa in 1837, were married.  To them were born six children; Maud, the wife of Welker Given, of the Chicago Tribune; Harry K. who died in Clinton in 1883 the day preceding Thanksgiving; Maggie, the wife of Mr. Charles Bonney, a prominent lawyer of Chicago; B. Frank, who went to Deadwood, DakotaTerritory; Miss Belle and Miss Mollie, and inmate of Mrs. Grant's Seminary in Chicago.  Dr. Ankeny was ever formost in the advancement of the Clinton area. He was one of the original owners of the south addition to the city.

Dr. Ankeny purchased the residence known as “Cherry Bank” on May 3, 1871 and lived there until his death in 1887.  This property is now listed in the National register of Historic Places.

Valeria M. Ankeny, who died Sunday, January 20, 1924, was in point of years combined with length of residence the most notable person in Clinton, perhaps in the state of Iowa.  Born in Indiana in 1832 she came to Clinton with her parents in March, 1837, and lived in Clinton continuously almost 87 years.  Just one week before her death she enjoyed a gathering in honor of her ninety-second birthday, being then perfectly clear in mind and in fair health.  Mrs. Ankeny left nine grand children and six great-grandchildren.  Her sister, Mrs. Nancy Vosburgh, was brought here at the same time, but was younger and her other surviving sister, Mrs. Mary Miller, was her junior, while her half-brother, Edwin Perin, was born many years later.  There was one cabin on the site of Clinton when Mrs. Ankeny was brought here and her father built the second one a little south of the present Northwestern Bridge and there the Perins lived many years.  Her residence here was continuous through the 87 years and broken only by such temporary absence as two trips to Europe and one to Mexico.  Three of her children survived her, Mrs. Welker Given and Mrs. E.A. Young of Clinton and Mrs. Margaret Bonney of Pasadena.  Mrs. Ankeny survived her husband over 36 years making her home at 433 Sixth Avenue during that time.  An earlier home was on the site of the Clinton opera house and another a mile west of Lyons.  Mrs. Ankeny remembered well Indians passing up and down the river and once when several appeared threateningly at the Perin cabin, her mother put her out the back window to run and call her father and uncle from the field; which she did in good time.  Mrs. Ankeny was for many years a devoted member of St. John's Episcopal church.

The descendents of Dr. And Mrs. Ankeny were responsible for the construction of the Ankeny building which therefore has direct links to the earliest settlers of what is now Clinton, Iowa.

The architect, Harold Holmes 1882-1957, practiced in Chicago and lived in Evanston, Illinois.  He studied architecture at the Lewis Institute of Technology (now Illinois Institute of Technology). 

Mr. Holmes operated out of a Randolph Street office and at 180 North Michigan Avenue at least between 1913 and 1938 and was a licensed architect in Chicago during that time. 

The Ankeny Building was constructed by local builder, Daniel Haring.

The terra cotta for the Ankeny building was provided by the Northwestern Terra Cotta Company of Chicago.

The Ankeny building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on March 2, 2006.

Read more


Latitude: 41.841042 Longitude: -90.188501 Elevation: 589 ft
the best travel advice comes from the people who live here
Mike Kearney

Time Period Represented

1930 to present

Visitor Fees (if any)

Visible from the street

Leave a Comment