Historic Sites > Montauk Historic Site

Kids' Tour Guide

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Montauk is:

  • The home of William Larrabee family from 1874-1965
  • Named for Montauk Lighthouse, Long Island, New York
  • Surrounded by flower gardens and statues of Civil War heroes.
  • Where long ago peacocks strutted and turkeys roosted in the trees at night.
  • A house with balustraded (banister) roof deck or 'widow's walk' . similar to those used by wives of sea captains who looked at the sea for signs of returning ships.
  • Built of bricks from local clay that was kilned at Clermont. The Walls are made of brick inside and outside.
  • Built with stone quarried at Williams Quarry of Clermont.
  • Furnished with many personal belongings of the Larrabee Family.

Willian Larrabee 12th Governor of Iowa (1886-1890)

He wrote the book, The Railroad Question, published in 1893 and reprinted 11 times. It was an important and influential book, which was distributed all over the country and used as a college text.

  • What about this house (Montauk) is different from your house?
  • Who was the first Governor of Iowa?
  • What was the Railroad Question (other than a book)?
  • Where did the name 'Montauk' come from?
  • What could you name your house?

Sitting Room

Entertaining guests and serving tea made the sitting room the focus of activity. The center table, with a Mexican onyx marble top, often held items of interest such as scrapbooks. The arrangement of the furniture around the table was typical. The set of matched furniture (parlor suite) was a new fashion at the time it was purchased in 1874.

The piano is an 1875 Steinway upright. Mrs. Larrabee often played in the evening for family entertainment. Over the piano is a copy of a portrait by Mme. Lebrun, a young French painter.

Family pictures are on the piano. The music book is open to a favorite song.

Other Things in the Sitting Room


Revolving bookcase (circa 1876; typical of the 'new Industrial Age' furniture with machine-made parts). Mechanical bird.


  • Clermont boys, including William Larrabee,Jr., who served in the Spanish American War 1898. 
  • Brick City Mill (Larrabee's mill from 185701874).


  • The Wounded Companion _______(check here as you see it)
  • A Boy and his Dog ______by J. G. Brown
  • Afternoon near St. John's Labrador _____by William Bradford.
  • William Larrabee 1874 _______.


Find: Peter Pan ___ Lincoln___ Le Signal ___ Chinese bronze vessel ____.

Notice: A sculpture by the Italian artist Vichi shows a girl making the most of her time by reading and tatting. The wicker chairs were purchased in the 1880s-90s.

If you lived at Montauk in 1874-80, what would you do in the sitting room?

What song would you have Mrs. Larrabee play on the piano?

From the list of Other Things in the Sitting Room - place a check mark next to the furniture - photographs - paintings and figures that you see.

How old are the wicker chairs?

What is tatting?

Music Room

The Larrabees had such a strong interest in art and music that they named some of their Brown Swiss cows after gods, goddesses, and painters.

The musical instruments were played by all members of the family. Singing was also a favorite family pastime.

The sofa is original American Empire style and dates from the 1830s.

Paintings in the room include Under the Midnight Sun by W. Bradford and Patiently Waiting by J. G. Brown. In the music room are copies of the famous masterpieces The Fruit Vendors and The Mona Lisa.

In 1910, William Larrabee purchased several Victrolas. He kept one and gave the rest as Christmas presents to friends and family members.

There are many records in the Montauk collection, reflecting an interest in a wide variety of music, from classical to popular - several original Sousa marches, for example.

French Sevres vases on either side of the fireplace date from the 1780s. The French national ceramic factory, Sevres, was originally established in 1738 as a porcelain factory.

What is a Victorla?

Who painted the original Mona Lisa?

Think about art and music; list three names to use for cows.

What is porcelain?

The table top had a mosaic design.

What are mosaics?  Sketch a mosaic. 

Anna's Room

Anna Lived at Montauk Longer Than Others

Anna lived at Montauk from 1874 until 1965, leaving only for school and travel with other family members.

All Bedrooms Upstairs

Each of the bedrooms has a marble sink and central heat through radiators.

Anna purchased the bedroom suite in about 1912. The bed, in American Empire Revival style, is a sleigh or swan bed. The bed sets in other rooms date from 1870s to 1880s.

Anna's Room - note the style of the bed, the sink, and wicker stool.

Anna Played Organ, Piano and Violin

Anna was an accomplished musician. She played the organ, piano, and violin. She attended the State University of Iowa at Iowa City (now commonly called the University of Iowa) and studied music in Chicago and New York. Knows as "Miss Ann," she taught voice and violin in a small studio in Clermont, and played the organ at the Union Sunday School for more than 60 years. She purchased the Grand piano in the Music Room in 1916.

Things in Anna's Room

The small antique sewing table, with milk glass knobs, dating from 1830s was a gift to Anna from an uncle in Clermont. It was an antique when it was given to her.

What is an antique?

Anna loved music. How can you tell?

Mr. & Mrs. Larrabee's Room

The Master Bedroom

Anna Larrabee liked to be near her children. The connecting doors lead to the childrens' rooms and the bathroom.

Mrs. Larrabee's interests revolved around home and family - she had a particular interest in children. She was superintendent of the Union Sunday School for 30 years, and helped with the planning of the Larrabee School.

Anna kept journals of her travels and wrote articles on home economics and teaching.

The steamer trunk is indicative of family travels.

The bedroom suite dates from about 1874.

The portrait is of Anna Matilda Appelman in 18861, age 19, before her marriage. The black dress on the bed was worn by Mrs. Larrabee on her fiftieth wedding anniversary.

William and Anna from Connecticut

William Larrabee married Anna Matilda Appelman September 12, 1861, in Clermont. She was 13 when her family came to Iowa and married at age 19. Anna died in 1930.

The painting of the Montauk Point lighthouse in New York was a symbol of home to the Appelmans and a beacon to returning seamen in both families.

The Larrabees were married in 1861 and moved to Montauk in 1874. How many years did they live in the town of Clermont before they moved?

List the items you see on the sink.

List the things you see on the dresser.

Children's Room

The house was always a lively place, full of the comings and goings of the Larrabee children and later of the children's children. As young people, the Larrabee kids were encouraged to bring friends home from college. Various newspaper articles mention the many house parties held at Montauk.

Look for the Following:

Shoe polishing kits on the sinks in all the rooms used by the children.

The 'whatnot' shelf in the corner, a typical piece of 19th century furniture.

Most of the clothing and toys now in the room date from the 1920s and belonged to grandchildren who lived at Montauk. Some of the items on the table are even older.

The wall border was painted by Augusta.

The spool bed belonged to the Larrabees before their move to Montauk and was probably made at a Clermont furniture factory before 1860.

Have you ever polished shoes? What items are in the shoe polishing kit?

Look at the size of the bed. Is it the same size as a'double' or full size bed at your house?

What clothing items are in the room? How did people living in Clermont, Iowa, purchase clothing in the 1920s?

What toys do you see?

How would you 'play' in this room?

There was no electricity in the house until 1910. What would provide the light in the rooms at night before 1910?

Augusta's Room

Augusta was born May 21, 1864. She attended art school in New York. Augusta married Victor Dolliver of Fort Dodge in 1896. He was the younger brother of Iowa Congressman J. P. Dolliver. The wedding was held at Montauk. They were married only 7 months when, in 1897 Augusta died from the 'grippe' (complications of influenza). Victor and Augusta Dolliver lived in Minneapolis at the time of her death.

Augusta was an Artist

Several of her artworks are in this room: Shocks of Corn, Rocky Coast of Main, and a portrait of her husband Victor. A copy of Mme. Lebrun's self-portrait, done by Augusta, is also displayed.

Wedding Presents in China Closet

Many of the items in the china closet were Augusta's wedding presents. The little wicker sewing rocker is at least 100 years old.

Augusta Painted Borders of Walls

The borders delicately painted in some of the rooms were done by Augusta Larrabee.

This picture is in Augusta's room. Who is this person?

Who painted this picture?

Augusta was born in 1864 and died in 1897. How old was she when she died?

How is the 'grippe' treated today?

Border painted by Augusta.

Use the space below to sketch a border pattern.


Back Hall

The two rooms were boys' bedrooms - now used as offices and unavailable to the public. William, Jr., the middle son, lived in this area when he first married. In 1912, he built the big yellow house down the hill. He served in the Iowa Legislature as a representative from Fayette County.

The painting Stormy Weather by Pieter Molyn, about 1670, is the oldest painting in the house.

South Hall

This sunny hall area contains a collection of family memorabilia including a portrait of Adam Larrabee, the Governor's father.

The painting depicts U. S. Grant, friend of Larrabee and President of the United States when Montauk was built.

The collection of seashells belonged to Mrs. Larrabee's father, Captain Gustavus A. Appelman, a sea captain.

Over the stairway are portraits of the Larrabee's painted in 1891 by David John Cue, Iowa artist.

The photograph of Augusta on the wall near the children's room was taken at age 30.

The small organ was Mrs. Larrabee's. Anna had it recased later.

The oldest painting in the house is dated 1670. How old is it?

The mirror belonged to the family since 1785. How many years did the family possess the mirror?

Was Augusta married when the picture hanging on the wall was taken?

Larrabee was the 12th governor of Iowa. His friend Grant was the (what number) President of the United States?

Use the space to sketch some seashells.


The library was a private workplace. Children entered by invitation only. Larrabee had an eighth-grade education but was always an avid reader. He taught school as a young man. He was interested in a wide variety of subjects.

The typewriter (about 1878) was one of the earliest to type both upper and lower case letters. Larrabee received many complaints about his handwriting, but he could write well, as shown in his journals.

Larrabee's Policies

Larrabee helped form the Republican Party in Iowa. Larrabee supported the following:

Railroad rate legislation. He promoted railroads as a senator and regulated them as a governor. The Interstate Commerce Commission was formed the year Larrabee became governor.

Prohibition. There was never any alcohol in Larrabee's house.

Women's Suffrage. Larrabee thought women were capable of voting, especially at the local level.

Tax supported secondary education for all. By the term all Larrabee meant the orphaned, the handicapped and equal educational opportunities for all people.

Things to look for in the Library (Check what you see)

Wooten desk - patented in 1874. _______(check when seen)

Letter Press - an early photocopy system. ______(check when seen_)

Language phone - early Edison-style phonograph with a prerecorded set of Spanish lessons. _______(check when seen)

Picture of State Capitol Building - Larrabee was the first governor in the new building in Des Moines. _________(check when seen).

Bust of Lincoln - made during the 1885-1890 period from a life mast taken by Volk in 1860. _______(check when seen).

Campaign table belonged to Adam Larrabee. ______(check when seen)

What year could the first typewriter be purchased?

Larrabee learned Spanish at 70 years old. Do you speak a foreign language?

When was the State Capitol Building in Des Moines first opened?

Dining Room

William Larrabee was an important person. He was a state senator for 17 years and then governor of Iowa. His children were well educated and trained to use good manners and to talk to adults. Both of these skills were used at the table at mealtime. Until the children were old enough to be mannerly and add to the conversation, they ate separately. Meals, including breakfast, were formal. A maid served the meal. Food was passed through a window from the kitchen to the dining room.

Things to Look for in the Dining Room

The table is set with English Coalport China, a family pattern dating from the turn of the century.

Stem goblet (wine style) glasses and Fostoria glasses were used to serve grape juice rather than wine.

In the china cabinet the small plates on the second shelf were painted by Julia. China painting was an activity deemed suitable for young ladies.

Paintings: Dice Players is a copy of Murillo by Baldwin.

At the Stable by J. D. Larpenteur.

New England Seascape and Sailor's Yarn.

In a small group (or by yourself) make up a list of table manners. 

In the china cabinet there is a "Presidential Plate." How do people get those plates?


The kitchen was a functional, rather than a decorative, part of the house and was never used for entertaining. It may seem very plain and small. The equipment ranges from a wood stove (1900) to a toaster (1914) to an electric stove (1930s) to a dishwasher (1950s).

Sunday evening was a night off for the help. Mrs. Larrabee prepared the Sunday night meal, often cooking baked beans or codfish, dishes that maintained a link with the family's New England background.

The Larrabees raised much of their own food. The vegetable garden was as important as the flower gardens. They raised turkeys and Brown Swiss Cows, which provided meat, milk, and butter.

An Earlier Time

The water pipes by the wood range are the original lead plumbing that took soft (cistern) water to the bedrooms and baths. Drinking water came from the well. Hot water flowed from the "water jacket" on the wood range.

The house was originally supplied with ice cut commercially on the Turkey River. The refrigerator is a modern convenience.

Water Supply

What is a cistern?

How did water get into the cistern?

What is soft water?


How was ice commercially cut on the Turkey River?

Where was it stored?

How long would it last before it melted?

Hot Water

How did the family obtain hot running water?

Where was the water heated?


How were the clothes ironed?

Credits: Donna Story - author - Bonnie Smola - photographer Second printing = January 1998

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