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Museum gave 1900 Farmhouse second lease on life

By Darcy Dougherty Maulsby - Farm News staff writer | Nov 2, 2020

Museum gave 1900 Farmhouse second lease on life

By DARCY DOUGHERTY MAULSBY

yettergirl@yahoo.com

URBANDALE — With its wood-frame construction, white paint and t-style design, the farmhouse at the 1900 Farm at Living History Farms (LHF) reflects a style of home that was once common across rural Iowa and the Midwest.

“The house is part of the 1900 horse-powered farm, which began as an idea from LHF founder, Dr. William Murray,” said Amy Day, director of marketing and communications for LHF.

Murray, a former agricultural economics professor at Iowa State University (ISU), helped create LHF near Des Moines. Since 1970, the museum has invited people explore Iowa’s rich agricultural heritage. LHF continues to connect people of all ages to Midwestern rural life through tours, day camps for students, college internships, historic skills adult-education classes, historic dinners, holiday events and more.

The 1900 farmhouse is one of the areas of LHF where visitors can literally walk through history. An ISU architecture student conducted the first research to add an authentic 1900 farmhouse to LHF.

“Bernard Ruckberg and another student were assigned a project for an architecture class in the spring of 1973 to research the typical farmhouse for a 1900 farm,” Day said. “This research project expanded itself to encompass several facets of the 1900 farm site.”

A road construction project northwest of Des Moines created a unique opportunity to bring an authentic 1900 farmhouse to LHF. According to a 1973 Des Moines Register article by farm reporter Don Muhm, the highway commission in charge of widening highway 141 came by the farmhouse in the Grimes area. The Polk County Farm Bureau paid $2,300 to have the house moved to LHF.

Ruckberg became the construction manager for the relocation of the house, assisted by many others, including architect Bill Wagner, a host of contractors, many volunteers and Chet Randolph, the long-time WHO Radio farm broadcaster and “Market to Market” TV host who also served as LHF’s first executive director.

Prior to the move, a full basement was dug on the 1900 farm site, and in July of 1973, the house was loaded onto a flatbed truck and driven roughly 5 miles to its current site.

Since then, hundreds of thousands of people have toured the home since it became part of LHF. In 2018, LHF welcomed 83,000 visitors from all 50 states and 17 countries. Guests can explore the kitchen, walk-in pantry, dining room (where historical interpreters bake bread and other food in a wood-fired cookstove), parlor and first-floor bedroom to learn more about daily life on an Iowa farm circa 1900.

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