One of the places I had the most fun visiting with Yai this August is the historical home in Parkersburg, Iowa, built in 1895. The home is open Memorial Day through Labor Day on Sundays 1:00-3:00 p.m. and once a year serves as a haunted house for the Rotary Club. Admission for a guided tour is only about $3 per person, if I recall correctly.
Upon entering, we were greeted by a couple very nice ladies, Kate Durbin and Chelsea. Kate, who gave us our tour, was full of interesting information. Her love for history was obvious, and her ebullient personality was contagious.
The first floor and part of the upstairs have been restored to look like a period home. However, part of the upstairs was used as a community center for a time. Walls were taken out to make one big room. Since this would have been difficult to restore, the historical society decided to embrace that era of the home's history as well. The former community center serves as a type of museum within the home.
The restored rooms reminded me of Montauk, Governor Larrabee's 1874 mansion (which I visited last year).
The parlor is home to an organ, a couple dulcimers, and a violin. Kate mentioned they had considered procuring a grand piano, but hadn't been given one yet.
Apparently in days of yore, people entertained themselves by playing musical instruments and reading magazines. In 1902, a year-long subscription to The Cosmopolitan cost $1.00, or you could buy one edition for ten cents. On the organ are Pentecostal Hymns and Bentley's Dollar Method for the Parlor Organ.
This 7,600 square-foot mansion was built by Charles and Mary Wolf. Charles Wolf was a wealthy banker and owned over 4000 acres. Before building the house he built a barn (no longer standing), with nine stalls, a buggy room, and an office, topped with a cupola. There even was an underground tunnel/passageway from the house to the barn!
Unfortunately, by the time Charles Wolf died in 1921, his estate was insolvent due to the post-war economic downturn. By 1926, Mrs. Wolf was forced to auction the home and their belongings to pay creditors.
Pauline Pfeiffer, also a Parkersburg native and niece to Gus and Louise, was Ernest Hemingway's second wife. It is to her Uncle Gus Pfeiffer that Hemingway's book A Farewell to Arms is dedicated.
The Parkersburg historical society has worked on restoring the home since the 1970s, and continues to make improvements. Since most of the original furnishings were sold in the 1926 auction, most items inside the home are donated. There is plenty of beautiful fine china, including the tea cups shown below.
Stained glass windows from a local church that was demolished are on display in a few rooms. Manikins throughout the house flaunt period dress.
The most interesting thing I noted in the kitchen area was the ice box. On one side of the wall, blocks of ice were loaded in by a pulley. On the other side is a door, which one would imagine would lead to a closet. Instead, the shelves inside served as a refrigerator.
Also in the kitchen is a cast iron stove, old laundry-cleaning equipment, and a sad iron. The dining room (above left) has its own fireplace.
The woodwork throughout the house is magnificent. Kate pointed out that the entry-way is especially majestic because it was important to make a good impression when receiving guests.
The stairway is right by the entrance, and depicts the grandeur of this part of the house nicely.
How would you like artwork created from hair of your family members? The flower picture above was created in the 1880s or 90s by Mrs. Anna Poppens from her family members' hair. It is one of two human-hair art pieces displayed in the home.
Upstairs we enjoyed the museum area. Newspaper clippings tell of the home's history, and there are photos of the Wolfs and Pfeiffers. There are also numerous items of historic significance to the community.
A smaller room to the side displays old school trophies, uniforms, and senior photos. The evolution of senior photos over more than a hundred years is amazing. In 1903, everyone appeared to be dressed for a wedding!
The room above left was Mr. Wolf's office. The historical society wasn't sure what to do with the little room on the right. They considered using it as a sewing room, but decided it would more likely have been intended as a nursery--although the Wolfs never had children.
Kate Durbin showed me how the old Singer sewing machine would have been used.
We went up a steep flight of stairs to the third floor. This area was designed to serve as servants' quarters. The Wolfs only had one maid however, and she lived nearby; so she didn't need the accommodations.
I was absolutely delighted when Kate agreed to take me up one more set of stairs to the turret! She told me Mr. Wolf used to go up there to look over his fields to make sure everything was planted and cultivated as he directed.
The Parkersburg Historic Home is fascinating and beautiful, and Kate Durbin is a wonderful docent. Her vivacity helps bring history to life. If you're ever in Parkersburg on a summer Sunday afternoon, be sure to stop by. Tours are also available by appointment. Visit the Parkersburg Historical Society on Facebook for more information.