Ames was laid out, owned and named by the Blair Land Company, an affiliate of the Cedar Rapids and Missouri River Railroad. The company's chief engineer, John I. Blair met Oakes Ames, a State Representative from Massachusetts in 1863, when Mr. Ames' interest in the expansion of the railroad brought him to the Midwest. They traveled together choosing sites for stream crossings and possible station stops and became good friends. A year later, the flat lowlands between the Skunk River and Squaw Creek were named "Ames." The town was incorporated in 1869 with a population of about 650, and it is now home to over 50,000 people.
The town's first school, Bloomington School, was built around 1855. The school consisted of grades 1-8. It was situated a half mile west of the present National Animal Disease Center. Bloomington School closed after the end of World War II.
In 1865, before the town was incorporated, a group of eight people met with a young minister by the name of Reverend John White, who had recently come to Ames from Connecticut. Those pioneer folks were eagerly receptive to White's encouragement and leadership and were determined that there must be an established church in town. Thus, the first church built in Ames, the Congregational Church, was built on the northeast corner of Sixth and Kellogg Streets. It was dedicated on October 7, 1866.
Since 1885, the ISU college campus had a small hospital where Dr. David Fairchild, an Ames physician, cared for students and faculty, but there was no formal hospital facilities for Ames' citizens. That all changed when Captain Wallace M. Greeley, an Ames banker, lost his wife to illness and decided to build a hospital in her memory. The hospital, Mary Greeley Medical Center, was dedicated to the community on September 24, 1916.
The state had established a "model farm and agricultural college" that was once described in college literature as "being located on a beautiful farm two miles west of the village of Ames." The Iowa State campus had not originally been in Ames until it was annexed on January 2, 1893. Ames was totally identified with the college. The primary source of water and sewer services in west Ames was provided by facilities on the Iowa State campus. Soon after 1897, when the Marston water tower was built, limited capacity water lines were extended off campus to the south and west. As late as 1923 there were still fraternity and sorority houses located in downtown Ames.
Source: AMES, The Early Years in Word and Pictures by Farwell T. Brown (used with permission)
Ames operates under a Mayor - City Council form of government with a City Manager. In this type of city government, the City Council sets a policy and the City Manager carries it out. The six members of the Council are elected for staggered four-year terms. Ames has four wards and twenty precincts. One City Council member is elected from each of the four wards and two are elected at large. The City Council appoints the City Attorney, City Clerk, and City Manager.