Findley House – 205 South Dodge Street (Davis County Historical Complex)
Probably the most interesting aspect of this brick home in vernacular style architecture is the person who built it. Dr. William Findley, a pioneer physician and early Davis County settler, came west to practice medicine in Iowa, first in Henry County and then on to the tiny Bloomfield settlement in 1843.
Before coming to Iowa, William Findley lived in Kentucky where his father was president of a college. After his father’s death when William was nine years old, he went for a time to live with an uncle at a Wyandotte Indian mission becoming an interpreter. He went on to study medicine in Ohio and Pennsylvania. He briefly practiced medicine in Indiana and Henry County, Iowa before coming to Bloomfield at the age of 27. When he first started practicing medicine here, there were no roads or any bridges across the many streams. He sometimes became lost on the prairie as he tended the medical needs of the first settlers in the area. In one account, written in his own words, he recounts spending a night on the prairie after losing his way and then following a cow with a bell the next morning to a farmstead to gain his bearings. In 1863, at the age of 47, Dr. Findley became a division surgeon with the 4th Iowa Calvary. He served at Vicksburg and was with General Sherman on the entire “March to the Sea”. His Civil War medical instruments are on display in the Davis County Historical Society Museum. Mrs. Findley, like women all across the land, was left to care for the family and survive as best she could.
Dr. Findley wrote a letter to his son during the Civil War promising to build a home for his family when he returned. Thus, the house dates to about 1867. While the house does not conform to any specific architectural style, the wide bracketed cornice, in particular, suggests Italianate influences. It is one of the oldest homes still standing in Bloomfield. Brick was not a common building material for early homes in Bloomfield. The house was constructed with 18-inch thick walls, a stone foundation, and numerous fireplaces. The T-plan Findley home originally had three rooms downstairs and three upstairs with a central hall and open staircase.
The windows are round-arched with 2/2 sashes and hoods with keystones. The central entrance is also round-arched, sheltered by a small wooden porch that repeats the arch shape. Notice the wide, denticular cornice and paired brackets at the roof line. The house originally had tall shutters, shaped to fit the window arches.
Until 1917, there was a small frame summer kitchen with a shed extension located at the rear of the house. The shed likely housed a horse and buggy Dr. Findley used to make house calls. This structure was dismantled in 1917. The home was purchased by the Curl family in 1905 and was converted to a boarding house. During this time, a one-story frame structure was attached to the south side of the house. This room served as a kitchen.
In 1920 the home was purchased by the Pirtle family. They lived there until 1964 when the home sold to the newly formed Davis County Historical Society. The Pirtles removed the two-story porch from the north-facing façade. The home was restored mostly with untold hours of volunteer labor by Davis County residents. The Historical Society rebuilt the porches using a historic photo as a guide.
It is assumed Dr. Findley’s office was in the southwest room where his medical instruments and other historical records relating to his practice and family are now housed. It is known that the east room served as the kitchen during the time the Findley family lived in the home. Dr. Findley had the large rock in the front yard pulled on skids by four mules from Soap Creek. The rock was left on the skids that slowly rotted away. The Findley House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.