Iowa is home to many historic homes that once housed individuals who significantly influenced the course of history — for both our state and nation. People such as John Wayne, Herbert Hoover, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Buffalo Bill all called these places home, and the following 15 houses are worth the day trip to tour and temporarily travel back in time.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life. While we continue to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, please take proper precautions or add them to your bucket list to see at a later date. If you know of a local business that could use some extra support during these times, please nominate them here:
1. John Wayne's Birthplace, Winterset
Located in Winterset is the little house where John Wayne was born as Marion Robert Morrison in 1907. The home is now a museum where visitors can see the place where the Hollywood film star got his start.
2. Herbert Hoover's Birthplace, West Branch
Herbert Hoover, the 31st president of the United States, was born here on August 10, 1874. The little cottage was built by his father in 1871. Visitors can now tour the entire Herbert Hoover National Historic Site in West Branch.
3. The American Gothic House, Eldon
This gothic revival house in Eldon was immortalized in Grant Wood's epic "American Gothic" painting in 1930. Visitors come from far and wide to take their own American Gothic photo in front of the house.
4. Laura Ingalls Wilder House, Burr Oak
In 1876, the Ingalls family, including Laura, moved to Burr Oak to manage this, the Masters Hotel. The hotel is now a museum open to the public.
5. General Dodge House, Council Bluffs
This house was constructed in 1869 by General Grenville M. Dodge, a civil war veteran and one of the greatest railroad builders of all time. The house is now a museum, open for tours.
6. Buffalo Bill Cody Homestead, Princeton
The Buffalo Bill Cody farmhouse was built in 1847 by Isaac Cody, Buffalo Bill's father, and served as Buffalo Bill's boyhood home. The house is now a museum, and tours are available daily.
7. Mathias Ham House, Dubuque
The house was built for local businessman and lead miner Mathias Ham in 1856. The house has since been turned into a museum showcasing the Antebellum era.
8. Egge-Koren House, Decorah
Constructed in 1852 by Erik Egge, the Norwegian farm home is now part of the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum in Decorah.
9. The Old Stone House, near Hampton
Also known as the Leander Reeve House, this home was built in 1853, and was the first permanent structure in Franklin County.
10. The Claim House, Davenport
The Claim House was constructed by George Davenport, son of Colonel George Davenport, in 1832. The home is believed to be the oldest structure in the city, and was Davenport's way of laying claim on the city.
11. Jordan House, West Des Moines
The Jordan House was built in 1870 by abolitionist James C. Jordan and was a station on the Underground Railroad in Iowa.
12. Farm House Museum, Ames
Built in 1860, the house was the first building on the Iowa State campus. The house was home to the first two presidents of Iowa State, and is now open as a museum.
13. Ellsworth-Porter House, Decorah
Built in 1867 for local merchant Dighton Ellsworth, the home is now a museum, which showcases some of the personal belongings of the families that lived there.
14. Salisbury House and Gardens, Des Moines
Salisbury House was built by Carl Weeks and his wife, Edith, between 1923 and 1928. The house was modeled after the King's House in Salisbury, England, and contains 42 rooms and measures just over 22,000 square feet. The house is now open to the public for tours, public events, and private rentals.
15. Reverend George B. Hitchcock House, Lewis
Minister George Hitchcock built the house around 1855 and lived in it from 1856 to 1865. The house was a stop on the Underground Railroad, and is now a museum.
Sometimes, you can find history right down your street! What are some more historic houses in Iowa you would add to the list?