SHSI anticipates increased tourism at historic sites

For immediate release June 1, 2006



Contact: Jeff Morgan,, (515) 281-3858

(DES MOINES) – Higher fuel prices and growing interest in Iowa’s rich history has the State Historical Society of Iowa anticipating increased tourism activity at its historic sites this summer.

“Most of the information we’re receiving is telling us Iowans are looking for more things to do closer to home as they plan their summer vacations this year,” said Anita Walker, director of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, which oversees SHSI. “With higher fuel prices expected to continue, we are anticipating more Iowans will visit the state’s historic sites as part of their vacation plans this year.”

SHSI’s historic sites preserve Iowa’s past and offer entertaining and educational experiences for people of all ages. The sites are open seasonally except for Western Historic Trails Center in Council Bluffs, which is open year-round and serves as an Iowa Welcome Center. Admission to SHSI’s historic sites is free and open to the public. Visit for more information about events and tourism guidebooks. Following is a list of SHSI’s historic sites:

American Gothic House
301 American Gothic Street
Eldon, Iowa

“American Gothic,” a painting by Iowan Grant Wood, brought fame to this 1880s house as the backdrop of a stereotypical image of a farmer and his daughter. Hundreds of parodies have made “American Gothic” a cultural icon as one of the most recognized images in the world. The house was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974 and donated in 1991 to SHSI by Carl E. Smith. In 1992, SHSI renovated the house, maintaining its 1930 appearance. Although it is not open to the public, visitors are encouraged to pose for a photograph in front of the house. Visitors can also celebrate American Gothic Days in Eldon June 9-11, visit gift shops and eat home-cooked meals at Jones Cafe on Main Street. Eldon is located in the Des Moines River Valley where outdoor enthusiasts can find hiking, fishing and hunting opportunities. Visit for more information.

Blood Run National Historic Landmark
Located on the Big Sioux River in western Lyon County
Rock Rapids, Iowa

Occupied from 900 to 1720 A.D. by the Oneota and later the Prairie Sioux, Blood Run was a major inter-tribal and ceremonial center. Surveys have identified burial mounds and village sites. The main portion of the site, which shows evidence of continuous occupation, extends at least 650 acres. Evidence of occupation can be found immediately south of Gitchie Manitou State Park to approximately one-quarter mile south of county blacktop A18. The site is located in the northwestern corner of Iowa along the Big Sioux River and Blood Run Creek, and can be reached on the east from county blacktop K10. Contact Craig Van Otterloo of the Lyon County Conservation Board in Rock Rapids, Iowa at 712-472-2217 or for more information.

Abbie Gardner Cabin
Located on Monument Drive one block west of Arnold's Park Amusement Park
Arnold’s Park, Iowa

A log cabin dating to 1856 is the site where 13-year-old Abbie Gardner was an eyewitness to one of the few violent conflicts between European-American settlers and Native Americans in Iowa (what became known as the 1857 Spirit Lake Massacre). The cabin has been restored to resemble its 1856 appearance and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A monument to those killed, a one-acre park and a visitor center full of artifacts are nearby. On July 15-16, SHSI and local partners will commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Abbie Gardner Cabin with activities that include storytelling by members of Native American tribes, several presentations about the lives of pioneers, a barn raising, lodge encampment, tours and more. Open Monday-Friday noon to 4 p.m., and Saturday-Sunday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. through September. School groups by appointment. For more information or to schedule a group tour, contact Mike Koppert at 712-332-7248 or email Visit for more information.

Located one mile northeast of Clermont, Iowa on U.S Highway 18
Clermont, Iowa

Visitors to Montauk can journey into the past at the home of Iowa’s 12th governor, William Larrabee, and his wife, Anna Larrabee. Guided tours offer visitors an opportunity to see and hear how the Larrabee family furnished and maintained the 1874 vintage brick and natural limestone mansion for more than 100 years. All of the furnishings are original to the house, which was built on a hill overlooking the Turkey River Valley. Montauk was named by Anna Larrabee for the lighthouse at the eastern end of Long Island that guided her sea-captain father home from his whaling voyages. A widow’s walk like those used by the wives of sea captains to watch for ships crowns the roof and gives a dramatic view of the Turkey Valley. Surrounded by more than 100,000 pine trees planted by Larrabee, the 14-room mansion is built of brick molded from native clay and kiln at Clermont. Flower gardens and statues of Civil War heroes dot the 46-acre grounds where peacocks strutted and turkeys roosted in the trees at night. Staff members maintain a vegetable garden and contribute produce to a local food bank. Montauk, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is designated as a State Preserve. Hours are noon to 4 p.m. daily through October 31. For a calendar of summer events or to schedule a group tour, contact Nadine West at 563-423-7173 or email Visit for more information.

Plum Grove
1030 Carroll Street
Iowa City, Iowa

The home of Iowa's first territorial governor, Robert Lucas, Plum Grove is a small, two-story, red-brick Greek Revival situated on four quiet, wooded acres. Lucas and his wife, Friendly, lived in the house from 1844 to 1853. Plum Grove has seven main rooms; four downstairs and three upstairs, plus an attached one-story kitchen. The home, with its modest furnishings, has been restored to resemble the mid-1800s. The National Society of Colonial Dames of America furnished the home with authentic period pieces, representative of the1844-53 time frame. SHSI owns and preserves the Plum Grove Historic Site, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Hours are 1 to 5 p.m., Wednesday to Sunday through October 31. For event information or to schedule a group tour, contact the Johnson County Historical Society at 319-351-5738. Visit for more information.

Toolesboro Indian Mounds National Historic Landmark
Located on Iowa Highway 99 in 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. The State Historical Society of Iowa 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. Hours are noon to 4 p.m. daily through Labor Day. For event information or to schedule group tours, call the Louisa County Conservation Board at 319-523-8381. Visit for more information.

Western Historic Trails Center
3434 Richard Downing Avenue
Council Bluffs, IA 51501

Anticipate adventure along Iowa's historic trails! Follow in the steps of Lewis and Clark or along the routes of early travelers on the Oregon, Mormon, and California trails. Visit the Lied Historical Building on the Path of Names to enjoy educational exhibits, maps, films, and sculpture. WHTC will host an Old-Fashioned Independence Day Celebration 6:30 p.m., July 3 and the Lewis and Clark White Catfish Camp Living History Weekend July 22-23. In addition, local musicians gather from 1 to 4 p.m. every Thursday for “Jam and Bread,” featuring homemade bread, jam and old-time country, bluegrass and blues music. Visitors can enjoy the Trails West Gift Shop, offering a wide variety of souvenirs and gift ideas. Visit or call 712-366-4900 for information.

The State Historical Society of Iowa 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. More information about SHSI is available at


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