Ames Florida Stork House
George Ames traveled to eastern Minnesota in 1855 hoping to make his fortune and settled in what would later become the village of Rockford. He and his business partners—Guilford D. George and Joel Florida, who was also his brother-in-law—built a lumber mill and later, woolen and grist (grain) mills.
Ames built the house between 1860 and 1861 as a “retirement” home for himself and his wife, Sarah Woodard Ames. He settled on the Greek Revival style popular in his native Vermont and used wood milled from the property and its immediate vicinity to build the house. He chose to build the two-story, cedar-shingled structure into a hillside—a rare design element for a fashionable, mid-nineteenth-century American home.
As originally used by the Ames family, the house included a kitchen/dining room; a main-floor parlor; a second-floor “sky” parlor; a master bedroom; three additional bedrooms; and a back staircase that led to a maid’s room and boarders’ area. It also had both an attic and a root cellar with an escape tunnel—thought to have been built in case of attack by Native Americans.
When Ames became gravely ill in 1878, he sold the house to George Florida, Joel Florida’s son (and Ames’s nephew). The Florida family added a new kitchen and dining room to the house in 1912; the carriage house on the property dates to this era as well. As the years progressed, the original kitchen/dining room was converted into a music room. After its tunnel was filled in for safety reasons, the root cellar came to be used as a tool room.
The house remained in the Florida family until 1937, when it was bought by Clinton and Meda Stork of St. Paul. The couple used it as a summer home until Clinton’s retirement, after which it became their year-round home.
When they purchased the property, the Storks made a conscious decision to maintain the historic integrity of the house. This required preserving the previous owners’ personal possessions and, as much as possible, keeping the aesthetics of the house true to ca. 1880. In 1986, just two days before her death, Meda Stork (by then a widow) sold the Ames-Florida-Stork House to the City of Rockford using an anonymous donation.
In 1986, the Rockford Area Historical Society began to operate the Ames-Florida-Stork House as a museum and administrative headquarters. The museum provides both an intimate look into the lives of the house’s owners and a direct view into the lives of settler-colonists in eastern Minnesota. It preserves almost 10,000 artifacts that originally belonged to the Ames, Florida, and Stork families, including clothing, household items, tools, and numerous journals, diaries, letters, and other written materials. Most were created in the 1860s and after; a few date to the 1850s. In the attic, visitors can view the roof’s original cedar shingles and log frame.
The Ames-Florida-Stork House and its collections are open to the public, primarily by appointment