E.D. Waln Building, 101-103 1st Street Northwest

Hi, my name is Polly Ann, and my mother, Leota Niederhauser, bought this building in the late 1970s. As a mother to nine children, of which I am the youngest, she ran many family businesses in this building that she affectionately referred to as her “farm.” Among them were her real estate office, still owned today by my sister, Molly Jo; one of the best pizza places Mount Vernon has ever known called “J-Bo’s,” which my brother ran; and “Hilltop Antiques” an annex to the antique shop opened down the street in 1991 that I still run today.

Enjoy yourselves while you sit on my mom’s memorial bench out front. Leota truly was one of Mount Vernon’s finest ambassadors.


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This building was constructed by E.D. Waln, in 1881. It is probably the second building on this site, known locally as “the Waln Corner.” The Waln Building is constructed of soft brick, which was made here in Mount Vernon using a wood fired kiln. In this traditional method of brick making, the temperature is never high enough to produce the harder grade of brick that we know today. The builders of later buildings in the downtown utilized hard brick, fired with gas at a higher temperature, and shipped in by railroad.

Although it may appear to be two buildings, this structure was actually built at the same time. Buildings like this were common in Midwestern small towns and were known as “merchant blocks,” which means that they housed two or more stores under one roof, decorated on the upper level as one structure. Note the pressed tin decorations on the façade, such as the hoods over the windows. The Waln Building is a wonderful surviving example of nineteenth century merchandising and building sensibility.

Elijah Dick Waln was a prominent early resident of Mount Vernon. In fact, Waln was one of the men who laid out the village on September 20, 1847 and he also operated the town’s first general store and was the town’s first postmaster. Waln served in the Iowa legislature and was one of the founders of Cornell College, to which he contributed money and his time as the first secretary of the Board of Trustees from 1853 until 1867. Waln also was a farmer, a county assessor, a justice of the peace and the father of 11 children. Waln died in 1896 at the age of eighty-one.



101-103 1st Street Northwest