Celebrate Iowa’s history with fun year-round activities

With just one week left in the month, the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs invites residents of all ages to learn more about the state’s past through Iowa History Month. Iowa in March (and why not all year round?).

According to a Department of Cultural Affairs release.

The month features a range of in-person and online programs hosted by the State Historical Society of Iowa, a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs. You can listen to online presentations, participate in activities designed for families with children, discover documents in the new catalog of the Iowa History Collection and take guided tours at the State Historical Museum of Iowa in Des Moines .

Herbert Hoover’s birthplace in West Branch is part of the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum National Historic Site.

This year, Iowans can also see a pop-up exhibit on “Iowa’s People and Places,” which the state museum sent to all 99 counties to mark the state’s 175th anniversary. Iowa in 2021. Across the state, schools, libraries, museums and other organizations are hosting their own historic events to add to the month-long celebration.

Iowans are encouraged to post their own #IowaHistory stories, discoveries and events throughout the month on social media. Here are some ideas to get you started. . .

1. Visit the State Historical Museum of Iowa, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.

2. Sign up for an Iowa History 101 online presentation, offered free at noon each Thursday in March. Or watch one of the previous sessions.

3. Subscribe to the Annals of Iowa, the quarterly journal of the State Historical Society of Iowa.

4. Visit one of Iowa’s 27 National Historic Landmarks, including the legendary Surf Ballroom at Clear Lake, which was designated in 2021.

5. Add your home or business to Produce Iowa’s locations database, where film and media producers find places to set their stories. In 1987, a Girl Scout named Sue Riedel found the place that became the “Field of Dreams” – and changed the course of Dyersville’s history.

6. Enroll a young historian in a workshop or day camp.

7. Check out virtual exhibit experiences at the State Historical Museum of Iowa.

8. Show your support with an Iowa history t-shirt from Raygun.

9. Join Goldie’s Kids Club to enjoy historic activities for children and families.

10. Volunteer at a history museum in your community. The Local History Network has resources to help you.

Some National Monuments of Iowa

Although Davenport is Iowa’s third largest city (with lots of notable history), there are no National Historic Landmarks here. The closest is in Clinton – the Van Allen and Company department store, a historic commercial building located on Fifth Avenue and South Second Street in Clinton.

The 1912-14 Van Allen Apartments building in Clinton is a National Historic Landmark.

The four-story building was designed by Louis Sullivan and commissioned by John Delbert Van Allen. Built from 1912 to 1914 as a department store, it now has apartments on the upper floor with commercial space on the ground floor.

Architect Louis Sullivan (1856-1924), Frank Lloyd Wright’s mentor, also designed another national landmark in Iowa – the magnificent Merchants National Bank in Grinnell.

The Merchants National Bank in Grinnell was built in 1914.

Built in Grinnell in 1914, this simple cubic-plan structure is one of the best examples of the “jewel box” banks Sullivan designed late in his career, according to the state. Today, the restored Merchants National Bank is home to a number of civic organizations.

Hawkeye’s newest national monument (designated last year) is Clear Lake’s famous Surf Ballroom and Museum. Originally built in 1934, tragedy struck the Surf in the early morning hours of April 20, 1947, when a fire destroyed the building.

Plans for its replacement were quickly underway and a new surf room was rebuilt opposite the original location in what was the car park for the original venue. The current Surf Ballroom reopened on July 1, 1948. The Surf got its name (and design) from the original owners’ desire to create a ballroom that resembled an ocean beach club, according to the Surf’s website. the place.

The murals on the back walls have been hand painted to depict crashing waves, swaying palm trees, sailboats, and lighthouses. The furniture was bamboo and rattan and the atmosphere that of a South Seas island. The stage is surrounded by palm trees and the clouds projecting overhead make it look like you’re dancing outside under the stars.

In the 1950s artists like The Everly Brothers, Roy Orbison, Ricky Nelson, Little Richard, Jan and Dean and Conway Twitty all took center stage here. The Surf Ballroom was one of the first ballrooms in the state to feature rock ‘n roll, and the big names in rock featured here have made it a staple on the performance circuit, the site says.

Such was the case on February 2, 1959, when the Surf hosted the famous Winter Dance Party with Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, JP “The Big Bopper” Richardson, Dion & The Belmonts and Frankie Sardo. It was this fateful sight that left the most lasting mark on the Surf Ballroom.

Sally J. Minick