The Story Behind the Walls
The story of the Ames-Florida-Stork House begins in 1855 when George Ames and his brother-in-law Joel Florida traveled up the Mississippi River from Illinois to settle in what would become Rockford, MN. During their steamboat ride up the river the two met Vermont native Guilford George, a master builder and millwright. The trio formed a townsite company and, upon founding Rockford, began a variety of milling interests that operated through the turn of the century. Products from one such business, the Rockford Woolen Mills, were known across the state. In 1860, George Ames began construction on his retirement home located along the east bank of the Crow River.
Built in the Greek Revival style, Ames wanted his new home to be reminiscent of the gentlemen farmers’ houses from his New England childhood. George Ames retired from his family’s milling operations in 1878. That same year, he sold his home and business interests to his nephew George Florida, Joel Florida’s son. The younger Florida lived in the house with his two sisters Jessie and Carrie, his mother Catherine and his aunt Mrs. George Ames. A third sister, Nellie, and her husband, William Hatch, lived in Illinois but spent summers, holidays and other times at the house. The Floridas lived in the home for close to 60 years. The family was very active in local events, and were well known for their entertaining, their promotion of the arts and their great sense of civic pride.
Hear about the AFS House from its last resident – Meda Stork.
Meda discusses various items of historical interest and familial value. Her insights would be lost to time if not for this recently digitized VHS recording.
In 1937, Clinton and Meda Stork purchased the house from George Florida’s last living relative, his sister Jessie. Avid historians and antique collectors, the Storks recognized the home’s significance and they made it their personal goal to restore and maintain the residence in its original condition. They also chose to share the house with local school children, the Rockford community and all people interested in state and local history. Used as a summer and weekend residence and eventually becoming their retirement home, the Storks owned the house until 1986. That year, Meda Stork’s dream of having her home become a museum was realized when an anonymous donor purchased and donated the house to the City of Rockford.
The Rockford Area Historical Society was formed at the same time to work in partnership with the city to help preserve and manage this beautiful house.
The Story As It Stands Today
Since its creation in 1986, the Rockford Area Historical Society has been funded entirely by donations. The Society’s mission is to “Inspire the Community’s interest in its Past,” relying heavily on volunteer support to do so. Recently many of the journals and photographs found in the collections of the RAHS were digitized and included in the ever-expanding online collection of the Minnesoat Digital Library. This has many benefits, including the digital preservation of rare journals and photos. It is also the first step in making the collections held by the RAHS available across the world to those who would otherwise never get a chance to see all of the wonderful things that the Society has to offer.
Help support projects such as digitizing the RAHS collections, and keep the Society and the Ames-Florida-Stork House running strong with a monetary donation.
To view which artifacts have been made available online so far, click the ‘Minnesota Digital Library’ image below.