The Lamb Block is the last surviving building in Clinton built by the great lumber baron, Chancy Lamb. In addition to making a large fortune from the exploitation of the northern pine woods in his extensive sawmills, Chancy Lamb and his fellow lumber barons, W.J. Young, David Joyce, George M. and Charles F. Curtis and others, established the economic basis of Clinton as investors in banks, utilities, boat works, engine factories and other diverse manufacturing and service industries. During the 50-year period from 1856 to 1906 their activities made Clinton, Iowa the lumber capital of the world. Their product supplied the construction industry of Chicago when it was the fastest growing major city in the world and that of the great plains when they were being settled. The sawmills are all gone now following the exhaustion of the forests of Minnesota and Wisconsin. Consequently the Lamb Block represents the development and growth phase in the history of the area. It is one of the few structures of any kind built by the first generation of lumber barons left in the city. Although it is of architectural interest, not only because of its design, but also because it was designed and had its construction superintended by the dominant architect of the day, Josiah L. Rice (who was struck on the head by a falling timber during construction), its primary significance is derived from its association with the leading figures in the history of Clinton for several decades following its construction. The primary period of significance for this building is the 50-year period from 1886 to about 1936 when the Wapsipinicon Club was most active in the building. It was in this club’s facilities that meetings were held which led to significant projects in the development of the city such as the construction of the Lafayette Hotel and the Coliseum (destroyed by fire in 1958). Following the departure of the Masonic Lodge in 1907, the third floor of the building was used by the Knights of Columbus, but their membership was not as influential in the history of Clinton as that of the Masonic Lodge.
Fifth Avenue South in Clinton from 1st Street to 4th Street is a commercial district that contains one building that is a National Historic Landmark (the Van Allen Building 200 5th Avenue South), three buildings that are currently listed on the National Register of Historic Places (The Howes Building, 419 South 2nd Street, The Ankeny Building, 201 5th Avenue South and City National Bank building, 226 5th Avenue South) and various other buildings that have been identified by the Iowa State Historical Society as eligible for the National Register of Historic places. These include 201 5th Avenue South Shoecraft Building, 217 5th Avenue South Wilson Building, 301 5th Avenue South Federal Building (Old Post Office, 300 5th Avenue South Y.M.C.A. Building. Most of the remaining buildings on the street have been determined to be probably eligible with further research and/or sympathetic restoration/rehabilitation. They are 111 5th Avenue South 121 5th Avenue South, T.M. Gobbel Company, 137 5th Avenue South, 220 5th Avenue South and 236 5th Avenue South. The buildings along the street present a pleasant wall of facades with a high level of integrity reflecting its period of greatest significance from the date of construction of the Lamb Block in 1886 to the decline of downtown as the principal shopping area for the community about 100 years later.
The Lamb Block (Jacobsen building) is a large, three-story red brick building with stone “flat-arched” windows. It’s cost of construction was $25,000. It has street façades in relief with fluted piers and string courses. The ground-floor storefronts have been “modernized” and the easterly of the building has been rebuilt and re-clad. Two chimneys on the west side of the building have been capped and are no longer functional. Highly eclectic in design, the building combines elements of the Second Empire Style (such as the mansard roof and cornice treatment); the High Victorian Gothic Style (such as the fluted pilasters with vertical emphasis and window-head treatment). In addition the Chateausque Style influence is evident with the double window grouping and general freedom of organization. The front of the building is 100 feet by 110 feet deep. The third floor was originally occupied by the Masonic Lodge and contained the Knights Templar Asylum which is 65 feet by 38 feet with a twenty-foot ceiling, a 14 foot by 38 foot stage on the west side and a dome running to the roof in the center of the room which was finished in colored glass. It also contained a banquet hall 22 feet by 48 feet, a ladies parlor and kitchen. The Masonic reception room had plate glass windows, 16-foot ceilings, a fireplace and rest room. Adjoining this was the Tyler’s rooms and from that the Blue Lodge hall was entered. It is 54 feet by 30 feet with 16-foot ceilings, five single windows and three double windows. A 9-foot stairway connects the third floor with the second floor. The Wapsipinicon Boat Club, the most luxurious and exclusive club in the city from which both the Boat Club and the Country Club evolved, originally occupied the second floor. The southwest corner of the floor contained a large reading room with fireplace, mantle and double plate glass windows. East of that was the billiard room which was reached through a large double door. To the north was the reception room, which connected to the smoking room, card room, ladies parlor and the rest rooms. The dance hall on this floor was 65 feet by 48 feet with a southern yellow pine floor. Queen Anne arches connected the various rooms. A chromolithograph representing a cour scene during the time of Louis XV of France covered one of the walls. Unfortunately the arches and chromolithograph no longer exist. The ground floor contained the department store Reed & Conger (which then moved to the Howes building in 1900). Later Jacobsen’s Clothing store occupied the ground floor, followed by Woolworth’s after which the building was mainly vacant until a renovation took place ten years ago when a number of new tenants have occupied the floor. An internet café on the corner has been followed by the Corner Deli restaurant. The remainder of the floor was rented first of all to a gift shop followed now by a specialty clothing store. This floor had a double retail space 110 feet by 48 feet and two other rooms each 110 feet by 24 feet. The walls of the rooms in the upper floors have lost their plaster, but the configuration has not changed very much from 1886. The first radio station in the city operated on the second floor of the building, which did result in some changes there, but the third floor still has the rooms it did in 1886.