The restoration of one of Clive’s most historic landmarks has a strong personal connection for a local resident.
Laurie Hermary is president of the Morton Historical Multi-Culture Center, which will ultimately be housed in the Morton Block Building located at 5008 – 50th St. in Clive.
It was built in 1908 by her great-grandfather – and has been in the family for five generations and utilized by seven generations.
It’s also something of a survivor, still standing after major fires hit the community over the decades.
Through the years, a wide spectrum of businesses and organizations have been run out of Morton Block, and it has also served as a private residence for Hermary’s family members as well – including Hermary herself.
“The north side was always a general store and it had a doctor’s office. There was also a little residence in the back, and later on my grandmother – Florence McLeod – used it as a kitchen,” she said.
“On the south side, after the fires, people would use that space to build up their businesses again. They would ‘rotate’ through there and then come back to the community,” she explained.
The building also housed some schoolkids for a time, plus Hermary’s father – Paul Hermary – ran his major honey-producing operation out of the Morton Block building as well.
“He also manufactured his equipment here,” she said, adding that there are plans to set up a bee museum on the site as well.
Other additions will include an ice cream parlor/tea room on the south side and a veteran’s museum as well. There will also be a trading post to feature the works of local artisans.
As to the veteran’s museum, Hermary noted that the building has a lot of history in connection with times of war.
Where the general store was, her grandfather had a map on the wall where he would track – with a red tack – the locations of various troops.
“Everyone in the community would come here to find that information,” she said.
Also, some war brides lived in the building for a while, too.
The upper level has 17 rooms in total – and this is also where the local Orangemen met for a time.
“The schoolmaster for the Brick School also used to stay upstairs and watch over the out-of-town students – and then they would go home on the weekends,” she said.
So it’s with all of this heritage in mind that now is the time to restore the structure and make it accessible to everyone, she said.
For starters, in the back of the building, there will be rooms for teaching traditional crafts.
An Indigenous sweat lodge is also planned for the spacious yard behind the building, with the help of Pablo Russell (Path of the Buffalo).
“We are honored to have them onboard,” she said, adding that other local elders are also helping with the project. “We have a big history with, and a big respect for the Indigenous people,” she said.
“We will also have a multi-culture center that will be multi-purpose to bring people from diverse cultures together – to help us all understand each other,” she said.
In the meantime, fundraising efforts to help with restoration work are underway.
Besides donations of cash, items have been dropped off for ongoing fundraising garage sales as well, she said, adding that she is also planning to hold an auction.
Hermary said she is appreciative of the support that has been shown for the project.
“I’ve always known that I’m supposed to do something with it,” she said, looking up at the structure. “I knew that I wasn’t to let it go.
“Now it’s time to get people together, and to bring people together to build it.”
For donation and volunteer information, send an email to MHMCC2@outlook.com.