Fergus Falls Optometric Center
"Family Eyecare from the Eyecare Family."
Dr. Mark D. Olmsted and Dr. Christine A. Olmsted
117 E. Lincoln Ave.
Fergus Falls, MN 56537
Appointments: 218-736-7555

Continuing a Century of Eyecare Into the Next Millenium - 13 Feb 2005

Continuing a Century of Eyecare Into the Next Millenium
13 Feb 2005

Continuing a Century of Eyecare Into the Next MilleniumJuly 1st, 1999 marked the 10th anniversary of optometric service in Fergus Falls from my wife, Dr. Christine Olmsted, and myself. In honor of the milestone, I decided to research the history of our eyecare practice and the history of different types of businesses that have been at our current address, 117 E. Lincoln Ave.

The roots of our practice were traced back to 1902. Theodore N. Kittleson, M.D. was an eye, ear, nose and throat (EENT) specialist whose practice was in the Iverson Lee Building at 101 1/2 W. Lincoln Ave., upstairs from the current Cranberry Depot. Some people may remember coming across EENTs in their lifetime, but somewhere in the last 30 years or so the "eye" specialty broke away to be become ophthalmology, leaving ear, nose and throat (ENT) to itself. Dr. Kittleson worked until the late 1920's.

Leon C. Combacker, M.D., also an EENT, joined Dr. Kittleson in 1927 and served Fergus Falls until 1956. In the later years of his practice he stopped doing surgery and the eye portion of his practice consisted of routine eye exams and office visits for out-patient eyecare, similar to the current means of optometric practice. He was joined in 1949 by James J. Buckley, O.D., an optometrist, who assumed the clinic in 1956 at it's original location. The eyecare business has been run by optometrists ever since.

In 1961 Dr. Buckley moved the practice to 115 E. Lincoln, where Lasting Impressions hair stylists currently reside. In 1975 Dr. Buckley joined forces with Tom Smith, O.D. and formed Fergus Falls Optometric Center, which is still the office's name. They moved next door to 117 E. Lincoln, our current address.

Dr. Smith went solo again in 1981. Shortly thereafter, Dr. Buckley sold the practice to Midwest Vision Centers, staying on as their optometrist. By the mid-80s he bought back the practice. In the summer of 1989 Mark D. Olmsted, O.D. and Christine A. Olmsted, O.D purchased the practice from Dr. Buckley, who stayed on with us until Jan. 1991.

There have been many different types of businesses that have resided at 117 E. Lincoln Ave.

I was able to trace them back to the beginning of Fergus Falls, with only minor gaps. During the "pioneer days" of the early 1870's, John Lantz ran a blacksmith shop at what later became the kitchen area of the Occidental Hotel, which was built in 1878. At that time, 117 and 119 E. Lincoln was one building, so imagine our current office combined with the neighboring building which is used by Lake and Home and Franklin Insurance. At one time it was the most popular hotel in town. It stopped renting rooms in 1908 and became a bowling alley and billiard hall on the lower level, run by Leslie E. Wade, until the building burned down in 1911.

After the fire the two current buildings at 117 and 119 were put up the same year. Mr. Wade continued his pool hall at our address. That business changed hands a few times. From 1914-1918, the Connelly brothers ran the place. In 1919, Leslie Wade bought it back and ran it until 1930, when it was taken over by Paintner and Ketter for a year. In 1931, those partners moved their billiard room down the street and set up a cigar and tobacco store at 117 E. Lincoln, which lasted until 1934.

The structure was vacant for a year until Grover Moody started his cafe and beer business, Moody's Bar-N in 1935, which stayed until 1945. Anton Bjerkness owned the bar during it's last year.

West Ottertail Service Co., a rural natural gas service, was there from the mid-1940's to the mid 1950's. Don Albertson Television and Appliance is listed in the 1956 directory. I wasn't able to determine if the listing from 1958 to 1961 as Appliance Service Center was the same business or not, but it sure sounds to be in the same vein.

After a year or two of vacancy, Marion Nelson started her department store, Fashion City, in 1963. This store stayed for a decade. After another period of vacancy, Leyquist Sound Ideas Stores, Inc. a hi-fi stereo equipment store took over the space in 1974. A year later Fergus Falls Optometric Center moved in and remains today.

Other businesses have been "roomates" over the last two decades. After Dr. Smith moved out in 1981, Harlan Jacobson, D.C.'s chiropractic clinic was in the back third of the office space. Dr. Jacobson sold his practice around 1991, to Randy Carlson, D.C. who stayed in the space for just under a year, until Dr. Carlson moved next door. After a vacant period of close to a year, Dr. Jacobson moved back in to sell stocks and bonds in his Jacobson Financial Services business, which was open until 1996. Jacobson shared that part of the building with Peg Buckley (Dr. Buckley's wife) in 1995 where she ran an interior decorating business. In 1996 Candi Christopherson, who previously worked for both Dr. Buckley and us, started her Christopherson Insurance Agency in the small cubicle that Peg Buckley vacated. Since mid-1996, the building has been strictly used by us for optometry after we set up another exam room and took over the rest of the building.

The quest for this information was fun and quite addicting. It's very exciting to find a missing piece of the past. Sometimes it seems to just jump out at you from an old newsclip, tax record, or city directory. If anyone in the area is thinking of pursuing historical research, whether it's geneology or something similar to what I've found, I would highly recommend going to the Ottertail Historical Society library in Fergus Falls. Their friendly staff was most helpful and knows tricks about finding things that the average person would never think about.

Dr. Mark D. Olmsted