Ice House Museum-Cedar Falls

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I was caught in a perplexing position..Do I write about an” ice house museum” in the heat of summer or the dead of winter? When you read this ,you will know what I decided.

It is minus 13 degrees  in West Branch this morning as I strive to keep the blood moving to all of my extremities beside the tips of my typing fingers.What better way than to warmly reminisce about my trip to Cedar Falls last summer and my exploration of the Ice House Museum!

The museum is located in downtown Cedar Falls near the Cedar River Bridge and is a noticeable round clay tile structure. This replaced an old wood structure that burned down in 1921 . Now how an ice house gets so hot that it burns down I don’t know.. maybe they were using “dry ice” that was too dry!! Nevertheless the new building was state of the art and had the capacity to store 6 to 8 thousand tons of ice blocks stacked like cold bales of hay.IMG_1859 - Copy

I realize that both concepts of storage might puzzle my readers and I myself had very little knowledge of the process of “ice harvesting”. It is hard to remember a time when there wasn’t electric refrigerators and freezers.What a luxury not  to have to haul 80-100 pound blocks to the home “ice box” all for the purpose of preserving food etc. I would strongly suggest a trip Cedar Falls to learn thEARCORN(4)e history of the ice industry and to see how the ice got from to the river to the home. It’s really COOL!!IMG_1868 - Copy


Rhodes Mill-Fertile

IMG_0683How many of you have been to Fertile Iowa?Not the state but the Worth County town in north central Iowa.I made my first trip last week and found an interesting little town.The 2010 census lists the current population at 370 men women and children,so you can see that town’s name wasn’t derived from its birth rate!!My Iowa town name source Tom Savage and his book” A Dictionary of  Iowa Place-Names” indicate  that “the location was once known as Rhodes Mill for the original settler…………a land speculator created a fictional town called Fontanelle….local population called his paper town “Putsey”.  Fertile  was named for the quality of the soil in the valley where the town was located…..incorporated April 10, 1908.”IMG_0676

   Now that we have the formalities out-of-the-way,the reason for my visit was to see The Rhodes Mill located on the Winnebago River.Of course ,high water has been a common feature in Iowa travel this summer and the Winnebago was doing its part blocking  all traffic to the dam and island park  except for a pedestrian bridge.Interestingly, the mill owner has made the mill into a vacation rental and what a picturesque setting,though I am not sure of the condition of the basement(see photo).So if you want to see  an old-time mill in action a trip to Fertile would not  be futile,though you might want to take along a sump pump!!EARCORN(3)

Rock Island Arsenal and Museum

IMG_0504 - Copy     The Rock Island Arsenal and Museum….Yes I know it has an Illinois street address and this is a travelogue about Iowa attractions, but it doesn’t take mass quantities of rationalization to claim an island in the Mississippi as part of my tour. After all I toured the island town of Sabula and not a peep from any of you, so permit me this slight aberration as I describe my interesting trip to the Rock.IMG_0510 - Copy

Visiting the arsenal does not start as if you are going for a garden stroll.No… You must state the purpose of your visit and present identification if you wish to explore this attraction.Apparently they have things there that affect national security..I’m just guessing!!So I told the guard I wished to visit the museum and he directed me in the right direction. Little did I realize that the whole island is a museum with bits and pieces of historical significance sprinkled throughout.The one exception is the presence of a fine 18 hole golf course(I want to go back!!) that occupies most of the space  not utilized by the military.

The museum itself is a showcase of the Arsenal’s production capabilities dating all the way back to the Civil War.As you enter the display are the enormity and diversity of weaponry on display is overwhelming! In addition to  the production of artillery etc,the factories here turned out many essential pieces of field gear that could not be produced by private enterprise and many unique items are on display.

IMG_0475 - CopyAnother lesser known fact is that Rock Island served as a Union Army’s prison camp for Confederate soldiers almost 12,000 troops by the war’s end.Though the camp was destroyed , a poignant reminder of this is the presence of a Confederate cemetery with almost 600 graves a lesser mortality rate than the South’s Andersonville, but still!! T he Arsenal is also the home to a large National Cemetery which presents  a very solemn and impressive sight.

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I am glad that I allowed myself a slight deviation in my single-minded purpose as I crossed over the Mississippi bridge to visit this unique Quad City attraction. Hopefully I have armed  you with enough information to want to visit.EARCORN(4)

Brucemore National Historic Site-Cedar Rapids

2160 Linden Drive SE is the address of  a house that would not typically be found in the newspaper realty ads! Of course I am referring to the Brucemore Mansion in Cedar Rapids. Sitting on 33 acres,this historic structure in the heart of the present day city was designed to give the feeling of a country estate and has been maintained to present the early 20th century aristocratic flavor to visitors.This elite “feel” stems from the heritage of 2 prominent families ,Sinclair and Douglas,the former the founder of an early meat packing company and the latter,a partner of Quaker Oats and founder of what has become Penford Products.

 For mansion preservation purposes, no cameras are allowed so the NPS provided a B/W presentation of the Great Hall (at left).The “hall today serves as a popular venue for musical presentations as do the surrounding grounds. Apparently cultural and estate architecture go together,You may have heard of the Bluesmore and Brucemorchestra musical events.

  Of course there is much more to see on the grounds and a leisurely stroll revealed a horticulturally correct garden,with accompanying greenhouse.Landscaping added many other features  including an early picturesque pond,  swimming pool, a timber presentation of many native species and a carriage house to name a few!!

The Brucemore organization has done a wonderful job of promoting this location as a year round attraction relying heavily on local volunteers and Cedar Rapids should be proud of this venture and its heritage.For those of you who have a love of old Victorian Style architecture , drive out to the country in urban Cedar Rapids for a view of Bruce’s Moor!!(authentic family nickname).

Pammel State Park – Winterset

Madison County Iowa is known world-wide for its covered bridges and they truly are a worthwhile sight to see. Last week I discovered a lesser known attraction in the county that would help fill out the rest of your day if you travelling in the area.I am speaking of the 2nd oldest state park in Iowa,Pammel State Park.Originally known as Devil’s Backbone Park and perhaps confused with Backbone State Park near Manchester, the name was changed in the early twenties to honor one of the early founders of Iowa’s state park system, ISU prof Dr Louis Pammel.Of course the park has a limestone ridge running through it and a road cuts through it, known as Harmon’s Tunnel(Iowa’s only highway tunnel!!

Another unique feature of the park is a shallow water river crossing. So I decided to ford my Ford across the Middle River and I took a picture to commemorate the event.

 Why did I do it ? Because it was there and more importantly a posted sign said only impassable during high water! Now there hasn’t been much high water in the summer of 2012 in Iowa so splish-splash I made a successful crossing and lived to tell about it! pretty exciting life I lead. Right?

Naturally, the park also has ample hiking, camping, canoeing and picnic facilities and provides a perfect respite for anyone who has spent hard day covering the “Covered Bridges of Madison County.