It was such fun for Jill and I to visit the Muscatine History & Industry Center [formerly The Button Museum].
There is a short video that gives an overview of the pearl button industry that features images of factory workers cutting button blanks and sorting finished buttons.
This center exhibits items that relate to the industries that have employed thousands of Muscatine residents from early days to the present. In the late 1800's and early 1900's, it was the button industry that "ruled" here. Muscatine became known as "The Pearl Button Capital of the World" because nearly 40% of the world's buttons were once made here from the mussel shells that were fished from the Mississippi River.
It was a German immigrant named John F. Boepple who came to Muscatine and discovered mussel shells fished from the Mississippi River that were perfect for cutting into button blanks. By 1905, all the button factories in Muscation were producing 1.5 billion buttons!
The button industry exhibits are locted on the first floor. Upstairs are the other industries that play a prominent role in Muscatine's history, including today's industries.
See all the photographs of the Pearl Button exhibits.
Since the Great River Road follows the Mighty Mississippi River, it's an excellent way to soak up the scenic beauty of the area.
The Great River Road is the longest parkway in the world [5,600 mile byway stretching from Kenora, Ontario, Canada to New Orleans, Louisiana]
A Muscatine native named Charles Young spent most of his life to the establishment of this very Great River Road. As director of the first organization that was setup to create a scenic highway (1938, Mr. Young envisioned signs with a green and white pilot wheel, and you can still see them along the Great River Road. [See photo].
On the Great River Road that is south of Muscatine's downtown, you will discover the sandy-soiled "island" of Muscatine. It was once an actual island, but when the Mississippi River changed its course, the area became farmland. This is very rich soil, and Muscatine is renowned for its sweet corn, watermelons, cantaloupe, potatoes, and tomatoes. The Melon Markets on "the island" brag about the Muscatine Melons being sweet and flavorful because of the fertile, sandy soil. So the sweet watermelon and large, juicy cantaloupe are referred to as Muscatine Melons!
Since I love architecture, I always manage to find beautiful Court Houses during our travel adventures. I eagerly awaited seeing Muscatine County Courthouse. Obviously, it is not a tourist attraction but rather a working courthouse that services as the seat for county government.
However, that does not stop a visitor from admiring it. It was built in 1909 and is a Beaux-arts style building. It has a beautiful mural inside as well as a stained glass dome.
This not the first courthouse. Fire destroyed the original one. The present courthouse is built of Bedford limestone and is three stories high. As you can see, it has a dome that is supported by stone pillars.
As can be found on the grounds of many county courthouses, Muscatine County Courthouse has a war memorial. Located on the southwest corner of the courthouse square, you will find A Civil War Veterans Memorial that was dedicated in 1875. It's a figure of a Civil War soldier atop a fluted column. It makes for a great photo if you are able to capture the war memorial, the USA flag, and the Courthouse.
There is also a cannon located on the Southeast lawn of the court house. There are also mortars mounted on cement pedestals on the Southwest lawn. It is interesting that they are pointed South[not by accident]
The court house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
I was so thrilled to see up close the new bronze sculpture of a clammer which commemorates the clamming industry along Muscatine's riverfront [which thrived a century ago]. This trade provided the clamshells for the production of pearl buttons that were sold around the world.
This statue is 28 feet tall [and over twice life-size!] It was commissioned by the city as part of its riverfront revitalization. It is called, "Mississippi Harvest". The plaque that accompanies it reads:
Cast Bronze 2006
"Dedicated to the
Men and Women
who made Muscatine the
'Pearl Button Capital
of the World' "
By 1890 the manufacture of pearl buttons began in Muscatine. Fresh-water clamshells made for strong buttons that resembled fashionable buttons made of expensive imported marine shells. Soon, Muscatine became the world's largest pearl button manufacturer.
It's quite an impressive piece of art; huge in size and impact, especially with the Grand Old Mississippi River as its background.
Jill and I were certainly impressed with the Riverfront Revitalization in Muscatine. Evidently, most of the work was done as part of Project Pearl of the Mississippi I and II.
Improvements include a new boat launch, restored riverfront buildings, an extensive trail system, the Mississippi Harvest Sculpture", and Riverside Park
We especially loved seeing the children interacting with the new water feature as seen in some of the "hidden" photographs.
I also enjoyed seeing the Muscatine Town Clock, the boat launch [at the east end of the park, and, of course, seeing the great old Mississippi River itself.
There's also a basketball court and access to Muscatine's Running River Bike & Pedestrian Trail System that links many of the community's parks.
I was also impressed with the historic lighting and the beautiful flower baskets hanging from them.
I found it refreshing to see a revitalized waterfront without the commercial gaming boats.
We have a newly redone path for walking and biking Lit at night beautiful.. i spend a lot of time there