Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Greene County, Part One

Let's face it, some counties are just too big and have too many places we could spend all day visiting- we can't get it done !! Jefferson proved to be just that. After a quick stop at the Chamber of Commerce office, we were joined by Barb Watson as our official tour guide. 

It truly is all about who you know. The Mahany Bell Tower is normally closed BUT..........Barb has the key so...... it's all about who you know !! The bell tower is located on the Jefferson town square and is  a fourteen-story carillon. 

Don't look down !!

The structure is built of glass and ceramic cement. After taking a ride on a glass elevator to the 120-foot high observation deck, visitors can view the city and its surrounding countryside. 

The windows on each side tell you what towns are in the background. The fourteen cast bells chime the time of day every 15 minutes; concerts are also offered daily at 11:00 a.m., 2:00 p.m., and 5:00 p.m.

After exploring the bell tower we made our way over to RVP~1875. We could have spent all day here. Angie and Robby Pedersen have built a furniture/performance dynasty in their fantastic building. The front is a showroom highlighting most of the pieces built by hand by Robby.

Robby is known for his 1875 lifestyle, dressing in period clothing and using only tools and techniques that were used at that time. No power tools, no glue, only antique tools and construction techniques are used.

In addition to the furniture they build, they also house an artists' colony within the building. Artisans from all over the country, sculptors, tinsmiths, textile artists, and many more have booths in the colony.

Also in their building is a theater, in which the Pedersens and others perform plays, musicals, concerts, and so on. The theater stage is multi-level and the mezzanine floor above is also used in some performances. They plan to add balcony seating as well.

If you're lucky, and you probably will be, you might find Jackson wandering about the workshop. Jackson is the family's cat who loves spending time among the wood shavings doing all sorts of cat things.

Even though it was hard to tear ourselves away, we knew we had other places to visit so we headed to the Deal Apple Orchard. 

They are preparing for their upcoming fall festival and had huge piles of pumpkins and gourds everywhere. 

Scarecrows and metal yard sculptures are scattered about. 

The orchard's shop offers a wide variety of decorating and gift ideas, several types of apples, pies, cider and much much more.

The apples !!!!  They have several varieties in the orchard, it's so hard to make a choice.

Outdoors there are loads of activities for the whole family, games, a jumping pillow, animals and an apple slingshot. Plus the pumpkin patch, and farm cats everywhere. What a great way to spend a fall afternoon !

We got to peek inside the pressing room, and on the day we visited
they were pressing apples to brew up some hard cider

We were unable to visit the vineyard today but we did head over to Country Blessings, a cute little store just off the highway to the north of Jefferson. Antiques and cute fall and holiday decor fills the shop.

We finished off our visit to Jefferson with a stop at Angie's Tea Garden.

This quaint little spot offers lunch and catering and other tempting treats. Today the cheesecake of the day was caramel apple and the cappuccino flavor was pumpkin spice. Sooooooo delicious !!  You should never make a trip to Jefferson without stopping here.

There will definitely be a Greene County, Part Two, as we just didn't get to see all the sights we had planned, so stay tuned !! ~~~ Monica, October 5, 2012

Iowa Summer in Guthrie County

Summer in Iowa can be quite a HOT experience. Hot and humid to be exact. Why Sarah and I decided to start our tourism visits during the hottest part of the year, usually to primitive/historical buildings and sites with no air conditioning we will never know, but we did....... and in spite of our suffering, you get to enjoy our day from the comfort of your home or office.

With so many interesting places to visit in Guthrie County it was hard to fit much into one day, especially when we started out with one of the biggest attractions early in the day. But anyway, we started off the morning with a drive through Nations Bridge Park.

The park had several campers spending the weekend but we went through pretty early- there weren't too many people out and about just yet. But it is a very nice campground with fishing, hiking, a playground and lots of other activities to keep a family busy. They even have wifi in case you can't imagine your life unplugged.

After the campground we moved on to the city of Panora, and our first stop was the Raccoon River Valley Trailhead. The Raccoon River Valley Trail covers over 50 miles of bike and walking trail from Jefferson in Greene County to Clive in Dallas County.

The trailhead in Panora is close to the halfway point. The day we visited, in spite of the heat, there were several riders on the trail, braver than us, that's for sure !

After leaving the trail we stopped at the Historical Village in Panora. It was as if we were transported back in time !

There is a main building where you check in and can walk around and view amazing displays from preserved animals to old Fords to Civil War registries.

Just one of many stunning preserved animals  on display
This Civil War Registry listed Iowa soldiers serving.

Antique "rooms" are set up throughout the building, a canning kitchen, a ladies dressing room, a switchboard where a phone operator once worked, military tributes, an old dental office, and a courthouse display, just to name a few.

What a kitchen might have looked like 100 years ago

Antique canning supplies

Old court docket books line the walls of the courthouse display

Primitive dentistry- scary!

This was like a War Yearbook- very interesting
Can't imagine how this poor operator managed, and what she
would think of today's cellphone world
Stones, broken pottery and gemstones native to and discovered in Iowa are also on display. Antique items of all kinds fill this main building. But it's the village that proves to be a real treat.

Gemstones native to Iowa

Different rocks and pottery pieces

Moths and butterflies native to Iowa are on display

I thought he looked pretty cuddly!

A large building houses a huge variety of antique farm implements, old vehicles, a coal mine display,

and a covered wagon as west-bound settlers would have traveled in.

Next door is the Blacksmith Shop. One look around the perfectly recreated workshop made me glad I never chose that as a profession !

Next door is the village General Store. The store is filled with everything a family would have needed, some basic appliances, foodstuffs, gardening items, a post office counter and equipment for canning and preserving food. Baskets, cookware and all sorts of kitchen tools are also displayed.

The general store had everything needed for the "modern kitchen"

Home canning was a necessity in those days

The old pressure canners were MASSIVE

The village's attorney and abstractor's office is next door, and it looks much like I expected.

Docket books, tract books and registry books line the bookshelves. An impressive wooden desk serves as the work area for the attorney who once owned this practice. Even still, the desk had a small stack of old business cards.

Sarah Gomez, Esq.

The building is an original, as are most of the buildings in the village, and a photo album is there so that you can see how the building was prepared and moved to its current location in the Historical Village. I really enjoyed this building, as an abstractor for many years, it was like visiting an old friend.

Moving around the corner we came to the Newspaper Office. Like all offices of it's time, it is sparse in furniture and had drawers and drawers of printing stamps. Stacks of old newspapers are displayed as well as a plaque describing the history of the building.

The oldest building in Panora is the next building in the village.

It was surprising to see how much function a pioneer family fit into a one room house. Heated by a massive fireplace that also served as a heat source for cooking, the furnishings were again sparse, and multi functional. It was interesting to see that this house had been sided with modern siding at one time, and all that was removed before the house was moved to the village.

The massive stone fireplace provided not only heat but
a place to cook and prepare meals

Across the park from the house is the Train Station.

Actual railroad tracks are placed in the village to allow the display of railroad cars and repair/maintenance equipment. In the freight area of the station, luggage and trunks and crates stand floor to ceiling, waiting to be loaded onto a train.

A large seating area lined with benches and heated by a wood burning stove would have been bustling with passengers decades ago.

Across the tracks from the train station is the village church, and as expected, it is a sparse building built for the purpose of worship and little fanfare. It's currently displayed with a wedding theme, and bride and groom mannequins at the altar.

The old one room school house is the last building in the village. If you've ever seen the movie "A Christmas Story" this room is just like that. There is an outhouse directly outside the door (complete with a bucket of corncobs) and an area for washing up right inside the door. Old school books, toys and chalkboards line the room. Old canning jars full of marbles and jacks sit on shelves filed with old books.

After leaving the Historical Village we traveled to the town of Guthrie Center, which is in the middle of a massive down restoration project. New "period" streetlights and multicolored sidewalks line the main street. Many storefront have been restored with others still in progress. There is a diverse mix of businesses along the street from the bank, to Subway, to an accountant's office, restaurants and many others.

Our final destination for the day was the Guthrie County Fair, and on opening day !

The fair was just as I expected, lots of displays of livestock and animals, a rodeo, musical entertainment, rides and games and the ever-popular fried food stands.

One of the buildings housed a large variety of vendors from travel service to candles. Everything you'd expect to see at a county fair was here, from artworks to crafts to food contests, and of course, both political parties were represented !!

Next year I hope to visit the fair as an entrant !! Might even come home with a blue ribbon winning jar of jam or pickles ! I can hope anyway ~~~ Monica, August 31, 2012