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State Historical Society of Iowa Press Release

For immediate release May 26, 2010

Contact: Jeff Morgan, Jeff.Morgan@iowa.gov, (515) 281-3858

Iowa’s eight historic sites open for summer travel season

Travelers and tourists can find unique vacation experiences

(DES MOINES) – Iowans and others seeking a “historical” vacation this summer can learn about Iowa’s past at eight different historic sites across the state.

The State Historical Society of Iowa’s historic sites present authentic stories of Iowa’s history and pre-history, including a frontier cabin, American Gothic House, Native American villages, a blacksmith shop, homes of two former Iowa governors and a visitor’s center in Council Bluffs where settlers converged before continuing on the California, Oregon, Mormon, and Lewis and Clark trails. More information about Iowa’s historic sites is available at www.iowahistory.org.

“Travelers and tourists can visit any or all of Iowa’s eight historical sites for a unique vacation experience,” Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs Director Cyndi Pederson said. “I encourage anybody with an interest in history or those just looking for a fun and family-friendly experience to visit one or more of our historical sites.”

Following is a list of Iowa’s historic sites, locations, descriptions, hours of operation and contact information:

Abbie Gardner Sharp Cabin – Arnolds Park, Iowa

The site where 13-year-old Abbie Gardner was an eyewitness to one of the few violent conflicts between European-American settlers and American Indians in Iowa (what became known as the 1857 Spirit Lake Massacre). The cabin has been restored to resemble its approximate 1856 appearance. A monument to those killed, a one-acre park and a visitor center full of artifacts are nearby.

  • Memorial Day-Labor Day, Noon-4 p.m. daily
  • Labor Day-Sept. 30, Noon-4 p.m. Saturday-Sunday and school groups by appointment
  • 712-332-7248

American Gothic House and Visitor Center – Eldon, Iowa

Strike an American Gothic pose and take a photograph in front of the small white house made famous by Iowan Grant Wood, one of America’s most beloved artists. Although not open to the public, visitors are welcome to view the house from the outside as Grant Wood did in 1930 when he was inspired by its unusual Gothic window. SHSI owns and preserves the American Gothic House, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Built by the City of Eldon and operated by the Wapello County Conservation Board, the Visitor Center opened in June 2007. Visitors can enjoy interpretive exhibits that examine Grant Woods’ role in Midwest Regional Art and take a look at many examples of parodies of the American Gothic painting. Visitors can find the perfect memory of the Gothic House in the gift shop or borrow a costume and pitchfork to make their own American Gothic portrait in front of the original house.

  • May-September, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and 1-4 p.m. Sunday-Monday
  • October-April, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and 1-4 p.m. Saturday-Monday
  • 641-652-3352

Blood Run National Historic Landmark – Lyon County, Iowa

Occupied from 900 A.D. to about 1720 A.D. by the Oneota culture and later the Prairie Sioux, the site was a major intertribal and ceremonial center. Surveys have identified burial mounds and village sites. The Blood Run site is located in the northwestern corner of Iowa along the Big Sioux River and Blood Run Creek.

Public access for self-guided tours is available year-round

  • For guided tours, contact the Lyon County Conservation Board, 311 First Avenue E., Rock Rapids, Iowa, 51246.
  • 712-472-2217

Edel Blacksmith Shop – Haverhill, Marshall County, Iowa

Journey into the past to a uniquely preserved blacksmith shop exactly as German immigrant Matthew Edel left it the day he died. Edel, a skilled blacksmith and inventor, operated the shop until his death in 1940. See his tools and wares and hear stories about blacksmithing during the age before tractors and automobiles. SHSI owns and preserves the Matthew Edel Blacksmith Shop and House, both of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

  • Memorial Day-Labor Day, Noon-4 p.m. daily
  • 641-752-6664

Montauk Historic Site – Clermont, Iowa

Montauk is the home of Iowa’s 12th governor, William Larrabee, and Anna Larrabee, his wife. Visitors enjoy a guided tour to see and hear how the Larrabee family furnished and maintained the 1874 vintage brick and natural limestone mansion for more than 100 years. SHSI owns and preserves Montauk, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is designated as a State Preserve.

  • May 29-Sept. 6, 2010, Noon-4 p.m. daily
  • Sept. 7-Oct. 31, 2010, Noon-4 p.m. Friday-Sunday and school groups by appointment
  • 563-423-7173

Plum Grove Historic Site – Iowa City, Iowa

Visitors enjoy a tour of the home of Iowa’s first Territorial Governor, Robert Lucas, and Friendly Lucas, his wife. The seven-room Greek Revival house is constructed of local brick. The National Society of Colonial Dames of America furnished the home with authentic pieces representative of the 1844-53 period. SHSI owns and preserves the Plum Grove Historic Site, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

  • Memorial Day-Labor Day, 1-5 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday
  • Labor Day-Oct. 31, 1-5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday and school groups by appointment
  • 319-351-5738

Toolesboro Indian Mounds – Toolesboro, Iowa

The Hopewellian mounds at Toolesboro are among the best-preserved and accessible remnants of an ancient culture flourishing from around 200 B.C. to 300 A.D. The five-acre site includes several large surviving mounds, an education center and a prairie demonstration plot. SHSI owns and preserves the Toolesboro Indian Mounds and Museum. The mounds are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and designated as a National Historic Landmark and State Preserve.

  • Memorial Day-Labor Day, 12:30-4:30 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday
  • Labor Day-Oct. 31, 12:30-4:30 p.m. Saturday-Sunday
  • 319-523-8381

Western Historic Trails Center – Council Bluffs, Iowa

Prepare for an adventure along the western historic trails, and receive an orientation for trips north following the Lewis and Clark Trail or for trips west following the routes of early travelers on the Oregon, Mormon and California trails. Enter the Lied Historical Building on the Path of Names to enjoy educational exhibits, maps, films and sculpture. SHSI owns and operates the center, which was designed and built by the National Park Service and local partners.

  • April-October, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily
  • November-March, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday
  • Closed on all official state holidays.
  • 712-366-4900


The State Historical Society of Iowa is a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, and is a trustee of Iowa's historical legacy and an advocate for understanding Iowa's past. It identifies, records, collects, preserves, manages and provides access to Iowa's historical resources. Its dual mission of preservation and education serves Iowans of all ages, conducts and stimulates research, disseminates information, and encourages and supports historical preservation and education efforts of others throughout the state. Visit www.iowahistory.org or call 515-281-5111 for more information.


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