Unique Places in Iowa

  • Formations in Crystal Lake Cave
    Formations in Crystal Lake Cave
    by Stephen-KarenConn
  • Kalona, Iowa
    Kalona, Iowa
    by tvdandy
  • Kalona, Iowa
    Kalona, Iowa
    by tvdandy

Most Viewed Off The Beaten Path in Iowa

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    HENRY A. WALLACE MONUMENT - ORIENT

    by mtncorg Updated Apr 4, 2011

    If you visit Independence, then a visit to Truman’s Democratic rival, Henry A. Wallace’s hometown of Orient, Iowa, is giving equal time. Wallace - maybe one of Iowa's most famous politicians - was a scientifically-oriented liberal Democrat who became the Secretary of Agriculture under FDR in 1933 - his father had been also been a Secretary of Agriculture under Harding and Coolidge - serving until 1940 when he was elevated to the Vice Presidency over the protests of southern Democrats. FDR was forced by the same forces to drop Wallace in 1944 but made him his Secretary of Commerce. Wallace lasted until 1946 when differences over relations with the USSR with his VP successor Harry Truman got him fired. He would run against Truman as a Populist in 1948 but only gained minor support. He was very trusting of Stalin and had some of the people he mentioned that he would have elevated to high positions of government if he had been President in 1945 turned out to be Soviet agents. He subsequently recanted his support of the Soviet Union and supported Truman in his Korean conflict.

    Here in his hometown of Orient, Wallace is remembered by this monument at the nearby bass pond, Lake Orient, and his boyhood home was restored as a museum in 1996 and is located about five miles outside of Orient but you need to figure out in advance how to get there as I didn’t see very many obvious signs that pointed the way.

    Monument to Henry A. Wallace at Lake Orient Wallace's life reduced to a plaque
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    ICARIANS REMEMBERED - CORNING

    by mtncorg Updated Apr 4, 2011

    French communalists relocated here after the closing of their community in Nauvoo, Illinois. They had a 46 year run as a commune here a few miles to the east of Corning, Iowa in the latter half of the 19th century. Nothing but a State historical roadside sign remains of their community, though plans are afoot to restore the community and a few artifacts are exhibited in the Adams County House of History in Corning - Corning is also the boyhood home of TV entertainer Johnny Carson and his home is also a museum that is open in the summer.

    Roadside marker commemorates Icarians of Corning
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    MT PISGAH STATE PARK

    by mtncorg Written Apr 26, 2008

    Established in May 1846 as a large semi-permanent camp of between 700 to 2000 people to serve as a second way station for Latter Day Saints migrants who were making their way across Iowa en route from Nauvoo, Illinois to what would eventually be their new home in Utah. It only took four days after it was decided to establish the camp for the pioneers to get over 1000 acres of land started on the way into agricultural production to supply the needed food to pioneering Mormon families. The camp was abandoned in 1852 after the main initial Mormon migrations were at an end.

    Today, you can reach the park via a series of dirt roads of US route 169 a few mile north of its junction with US route 34. The park consists of a couple of picnic tables and a rest room located high above fields along the upper reaches of the Grand River. A monument dating back to 1888 commemorates those 800 people who died while tending the gardens of the way station. There is also a replica of one of the log cabin dug-outs built by local Mormons as well as a memorial to four young LDS missionaries who died in a local car crash.

    19th century monument honors pioneers of Mt Pisgah
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    LAMONI - THE REORGANIZATION COALESCES

    by mtncorg Written Apr 26, 2008

    If you go to Utah or States neighboring around, you will find many communities where the majority of the population is Mormon of the Latter-Day Saints (LDS) version. Lamoni is one of the few communities where the Reorganized Latter-Day Saints (RLDS)/Community of Christ is in preponderance. The idea of ‘gathering’ or coming together from their disparate communities was always strong within the different branches of the Mormon diaspora - there were very strong strains of millenarianism throughout 19th century Mormonism and the RLDS community was affected by these ideas as well. In the 1870’s, several RLDS church businessmen formed a joint stock company naming it the Order of Enoch in honor of earlier Mormon attempts at communal living in Kirtland, Ohio. They purchased over 3200 acres in the area and encouraged the ‘Reorganized Saints’ to migrate here. The town was platted in 1879 with the arrival of the railroad and became the headquarters of the RLDS movement when church leader Joseph Smith III moved his family here from Plano, Illinois in 1881. The town still maintains a strong RLDS/Community of Christ community - the large church on Main Street just west of the right angle US route 69 makes as it turns from east-west on Main Street to north-south as it continues on State Street. Graceland University is the RLDS/Community of Christ equivalent of Brigham Young University or Notre Dame and the school remains an important part of the cultural and economic fabric of Lamoni today.

    Liberty Hall, home of RLDS leader Joseph Smith III Administrative building at Graceland University
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    When you get bored of Iowa....

    by Jawnuta Written Mar 11, 2008

    If you have a car you can drive via scenic route to CHicago. It is a nice drive and you will be passing many qute towns on your way. Great history lesson too.
    Chicago is one of the most beautiful cities in US.

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    Kaleidoscopes, tye-dye and Byron’s bar

    by ljtheraingirl Updated Jan 27, 2008

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    If you think Pomeroy, Iowa is a quiet town in the middle of the prairie with an activity level of- blink an eye and you will miss the town- THINK AGAIN!

    As a reporter and writer for an Iowa newspaper, my editor assigned me to write about the progress of Pomeroy, Iowa in 2007. My expectations were fairly low, and I was dragging my feet as my Mazda tires approached the edge of town. As a practitioner of Buddhism, I have realized that when my expectations are at their lowest, miraculous things tend to occur.

    I wasn’t entering a small town in Iowa; I was entering a colony of tye-dye imagination and art galore.

    There is a Grateful Dead theme in Byron's bar.
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    Amana

    by Toughluck Written Oct 19, 2007

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    Six towns that have retained their rual charm and a proud history. Amana is located north of I-80 and offers a look into 19th Century America. The town of Amana is only a few blocks long, but you'll find museums, great restaurants and wonderful shops of American products.

    The Towns of Amana
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    Silos & Smokestakes Nat'l Heritage Area

    by Toughluck Updated Oct 19, 2007

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    The entire northeast corner of Iowa is the a unique area of agriculture in the U.S. I've been through it hundreds, okay a couple dozen, times. In January, it can be bleak and dark. In August it'll roast your socks off. In spring, it's blustery and damp. Come autumn and it's sunny and cool. Each season, each road, offers a new experience. Here, as a Heritage Area, you can find unique places to stop and visit.

    No other region in the United States shares our rich agricultural legacy. From dairy farms and museums to vineyards and tractor assembly tours, there are practically endless agricultural adventures awaiting individual travelers as well as families.'

    VT's guide to the Heritage Area:
    Waterloo
    Cedar Rapids
    Dubuque
    Amana
    Ames
    Cedar Falls
    Davenport
    Dettendorf
    Decorah

    Town of Amana Town of Amana
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    Pine Creek Grist Mill

    by deecat Updated Jun 2, 2007

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    Click to see the school house and the bridge

    On the way to Muscatine, we went to Wilcat Den State Park to see The Pine Creek Grist Mill and the Melpine Schoolhouse

    After an "interesting" ride on back roads, we finally arrived. It was toward the end of the school year; thus, lots of classes of grade school children were on field trips here. We "tagged" along and listed to the tour guides.

    Note: I will have much more about this whole complex on my up-coming Muscatine pages.

    The mill was built on Pine Creek by Benjamin Nye in 1848 [it was the third mill he had built on this location because he kept outgrowing them]. They have some of the original machinery from the 1848 mill as well as newer machinery from 1927 that was added to increase production. 1927 was also the year that the State of Iowa purchased the mill from the Missel family. At that time, it became part of Wilcat Den State Park.

    In 1996, The Friends of Pine Creek Grist Mill became organized with the mission of restoring the mill to operational format and in preserving the heritage of the mill. With the help of the Dept of Natural Resources, the State Historical Society, and the community, the mill's foundation has been stabilized, the structure and dam have been repaired, and the machinery is now in working order.

    The Melpine one-room rural school is usually open on Sunday afternoons from one to five o'clock beginning in June. Because of the school children and their field trip, we were fortunate to see it inside and out. [I'm doing a tip about it in my Muscatine pages].

    Grist Mill is Open:
    May through October
    Wednesday through Sunday
    1:00 pm to 5:00 pm

    The Pine Creek Grist Mill Melpine Schoolhouse Old Iron Bridge
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    St. Donatus Catholic Church and Cemetery

    by deecat Written Jun 1, 2007

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    St. Donatus Catholic Church began in 1848 in a log church, and the second church was completed in 1851, but the current church was built in 1858. Its interior burned in 1907, but the exterior was not. Thus, restoration was done.

    This church is much as it was over 125 years ago. The Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation is also known as "Our Lady of Luxembourg who is patroness of Luxembourg. In the church, you will find her statue. There is also a St. Donatus Rectory with 14 room. It was first built in 1857 and once used as a church, a rectory, and a school room.

    Behind the church is a cemetery with beautiful and unusual tombstones. It's such a beautiful location for a cemetery. Jill and I roamed around looking at all the tombstones and checking the names and the dates.

    St. Donatus Catholic Church & Cemetery St. Donatus Catholic Church Stained Glass Windows in St. Donatus Church Statues in the St. Donatus Cemetery St. Donatus Catholic Church Cemetery
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    Pieta Chapel

    by deecat Updated Jun 1, 2007

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    At the top of the climb of The Way of the Cross, we were thrilled to find the Pieta Chapel [which is open daily]. It was built in 1885 with funds that were left by Father Flammang and was dedicated in this memory. This particular chapel was modeled after the Chapel du Bildchen in Vianden, Luxembourg.

    Father served this parish starting in 1858. It's called "The Pieta Chapel" because it contains the statue of the Virgin Mary holding her dead son on her lap.

    The Way of the Cross consists of 14 brick shines with 14 pictures [lithographs] that depict the 14 scenes from the day of the crucifixion of Christ.

    This little chapel is just darling, and when you walk inside and see the blue walls, the Pieta, and read these lines, "Pardon the sheep and their not-so-clean habits [which you notice as you carefully walk the path]. They help keep the weeds and brush down", you just have to smile.

    The Pieta Chapel Lithograph on wall of chapel Inside the Pieta Chapel Message inside Pieta Chapel Jill admiring the panoramic view from Pieta ground
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    Outdoor Way of the Cross

    by deecat Updated Jun 1, 2007

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    One of the reasons that I wanted to visit St. Donatus, Iowa, was to visit The Outdoor Way of the Cross".

    This Way of the Cross is actually 14 brick alcoves placed in a meandering uphill fashion within lovely pines of Calvary Hill to Pieta Chapel. I've seen several "Stations of the Cross", but this one is most impressive. It's amazing what excellent condition the lithographs within each of the the brick alcoves are since they have been here since the1861.

    Jill and I wondered what would be at the top of the climb. We hoped that it would be worth the climb. Once you reach the Pieta Chapel, you will see a panoramic view of the picturesque valley and the village of St. Donatus below. It was certainly worth the walk!

    The Way of the Cross was built in 1861; the chapel was completed in 1885, and the St. Donatus Catholic Church was dedicated in 1860. Of course, all three of these structures are on the National Register of Historic Places.

    There is a Parish Museum that is open for tours, but only by appointment.

    St. Donatus Catholic Church One of 14 Stations of the Cross The Pieta Chapel Inside the Pieta Chapel Dee at Top of Outdoor Way of the Cross
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    Luxembourg In America: St. Donatus, Iowa

    by deecat Updated Jun 1, 2007

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    The tiny town called St. Donatus, Iowa is called "Luxembourg in America". It is found nestled in a wooded valley in Jackson County, Iowa. It's about 15 miles south of Dubuque and 12 miles north of Bellevue. For such a small place, it has 20 sites on the National Register of Historic Places!

    St. Donatus is also referred to as an :"Historic French Village" because it originally had a French name that has always been misspelled "Tete Des Morts" (which means "Heads of Death"). This name was given to the village by a French explorer in the 1600's; he did so because at this spot, he found the remains of an Indian massacre.

    The inhabitants of St. Donatus have always been of Luxembourg descent. The first settler was John Noel {1838], and ten years later, there were several more Luxembourg families living here.

    The tourist information says that there are 18 of the original stone structures still standing in the town today (built in the 1850's). The stucco seen on the stone structures is typical of European homes. The stucco was used to seal the mortar between the stones as well as to protect the buildings from bad weather.

    Just as Luxembourg is a small coutry, St. Donatus is a small community. The people who live here are very proud of their Luxembourg heritage and still refer to St. Donatus as "Little Luxembourg in America"!

    Photographs:
    1. Gehlen Barn
    2. Gehlen House
    3. Memorial Garden
    4. St. Donatus Catholic Church
    5. Sign leading to Outdoor Way of the Cross

    Gehlen Barn Gehlen House Garden and Memorial St Donatus Catholic Church Outdoor Way of the Cross
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    Dyersville: Small Town Midwestern Town

    by deecat Written May 31, 2007

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    If you are looking for a small town that is friendly, progressive, & surrounded by beautiful countryside, then Dyersville, Iowa is the place to see. For a town of just 4,000 people, it offers a good deal to see and do.

    1. National Farm Toy Museum with 30,000 farm toys, trucks, and banks. It is a joy for serious collectors and for tourist who enjoy the unique. There is a 45-seat theater to see a 10-minute moved called, "Toys to Treasure". Highways 20 and 136. Open daily from 8 am to 6 pm at 1110 16th Avenue St. S.E., (563)875-2727.

    2. "Field of Dreams" Movie Site: See the individual tip

    3. Basilica of St. Francis Xavier: a 21-month interior restoration was finished in 2001. Open daily from sunup to sundown. Downtown, 104 3rd St. S.W. (563) 875-7325. See my individual tip.

    4. Becker Woodcarving Museum: Located 4 miles northeast of Dyersville, it is open May through October. Call (563) 875-2087 for an appointment.

    5. Dyer-Botsford Historical House & Doll Museum is the home of Dyersville's founder. It is a restored Victorian that houses a collection of over 1,000 dolls. It is open weekdays from 10 am to 4 pm; Saturday & Sunday from 1 pm to 4 pm, May through November. Located at 331 1st Ave E. (563) 875-2414.

    6.Plaza Antique Mall is home to more than 200 antique and collectibles dealers. Open daily 10 am to 5 pm. Located across from the National Farm Toy Museum. (563) 875-8945.

    7. Four toy affiliated places: Evers Toy Store, Toy Collector Club of America, Toy Farmer Country Store, and Farm Toy Outlet Store and Restoration Center.

    There is a Colonial Inn, a Comfort Inn, a Super 8, and an Uptown Bed and Breakfast in Dyersville. The town boasts three parks, two golf courses, a Total Fitness Rec Center, an Aquatic Center. In addition, there are 16 places to eat in Dyersville, several Service Stations, and two grocery stores. Impressive for this size of a town!

    Quaint Streetlights in downtown Dyersville Basilica of St. Francis Xavier
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    St. Francis Xavier Basilica in Dyersville, Iowa

    by deecat Written May 31, 2007

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    Because I had read that the small town of Dyersville, Iowa, was one of only 52 Basilicas in the United States, I knew I wanted to see it. We were going to Dyersville anyway to see the famed "Field of Dreams". It was a Sunday in late May of 2007, and the weather was perfect...sunny and in the 70s.

    I'm so glad that we were able to see, even if it was only on the outside [services were in session].
    It has lovely twin spires and 64 windows. Critics say that it is one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture in the Midwest. I'm no expert, but I believe that they speak the truth!

    In 1856, Catholics were granted their first Mission pastor, and by 1862, the first Catholic church was completed. Seven years later, the church's population had doubled; thus, in 1887 construction of the present Basilica was started. As photograph #3 indicates, in 1889, this church was dedicated. It took much foresight to build such a large structure. They had to use block and tackle of rope and pulleys to hoist materials to heights of 212 feet! The end product is magnificent. It took over two years to complete it.

    I found out that the term "Basilica is a Greek derivation from "Basileus" which means "a royal or kingly building. St Francis Xavier was the 12th church in the U.S. so honored. It is the ONLY church in a rural area so bestowed. This honor took place in 1956.

    Because it is a Basilica, it has its own Coat of Arms [located above the pulpit] has the colors of the United States flag [red, white, & blue] It contains the gothic spires of the Basilica, a sheaf of golden grain, and 3 ears of corn. All of that portion of the shield represents to town and state.
    The bottom portion of the shield represents St. Francis Xavier; it contains a bell, a galleon [he traveled from India to Japan and over the seven seas. It also has the statue of St. Francis himself.

    Can you believe that this church has 5,000 parishioners, and Dyersville's population is only 4,000!

    St. Francis Xavier Basilica, Dyersville, Iowa Sign for St. Francis Xavier Basilica St. Francis Xavier Basilica, 1888 cornerstone
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Iowa Off The Beaten Path

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