A Marshalltown treasure

Mowry Irvine Mansion tours slated for today and Sunday

The Historical Society of Marshall County has acquired the Mowry Irvine Mansion, located at 503 W. Main St., a gift from Madelyn and Steve Irvine. For the first time, public tours will be available, today from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. HSMC Administrator Michelle Roseburrough (pictured) will help lead the tours. The home was built in the 1870s.

Changes are afoot at the 1870s-era Mowry Irvine Mansion, located at 503 W. Main St. in Marshalltown.

Earlier this year, the residence was donated to the Historical Society of Marshall County (HSMC) by Madelyn and Steve Irvine. For the first time, the house is available for public touring, today from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m.

The striking two-story, five-bedroom, two-bathroom, nearly 3,800-square foot house will soon house the HSMC’s office and the Frances Rhoades Williams Research Library. The HSMC’s current office, located at 202 E. Church St. will still host the History on Third Thursday programs and retain current displays, plus add some interactive features for children.

The Mowry Irvine Mansion houses a treasure trove of artifacts which once belonged to some of the city’s and state’s most prominent families. Construction of the Italianate-style home started in the 1870s at the direction Fred Grumme. It would later serve as the private residence of the Lounsberry and Mowry families, in which Madelyn Mowry Irvine descends.

Madelyn, the daughter of John L. Mowry and Irene Lounsberry, grew up in the home. John L. Mowry (1905-1995), was a prominent lawyer, judge, mayor, legislator and special agent in the FBI. Many of his personal effects are peppered throughout the home. In addition, Haviland china which once belonged to Iowa Governor Robert D. Ray is also on display, intermingled with Mowry heirloom pieces.

Some highlights include pieces that are original to the home, including many of the light fixtures, fireplace mantle, pier mirror, stained glass windows, buffet table and more. A desk that once belonged to Jasper Fisher is also on display.

“The house is a treasure, but what is the real treasure are the personal materials the Irvines also donated, including the various books, letters and scrapbooks that belonged to those families,” said HSMC Administrator Michelle Roseburrough. “Since they were all such public figures, those materials tell the history of the city.”

While the home has been kept in pristine condition, making minor improvements and decorating has been many months in the works.

“Scott Mason made the curtains, he did wiring, he cleaned, and decorated the house. He deserves a lot of the credit,” Roseburrough said.

Upon walking up the home’s grand staircase, one in greeted with the sight of artwork done by local artists.

“We really want the upstairs to be a mix of prominent local artwork and display some pieces the historical society has not had room to display until now,” Roseburrough added.

The upstairs rooms, which are all bedrooms and one bathroom, have been decorated to reflect the personal tastes of the original owners.

The house’s furnishings are a mixture of items that are original to the families, plus items from the HSMC’s collection, and period pieces brought in to supplement the rest.

The HSMC has also acquired the house and garage that sit just behind the mansion.

“We are planning to turn the garage into a general store, bringing our general store items over [from where they are at the museum],” Roseburrough said.

The cost to tour the mansion is $5 for HSMC members and $10 for the general public. For more information, the HSMC may be reached at: 641-752-6664 or marshallhistory@live.com


Contact Sara Jordan-Heintz at 641-753-6611 or sjordan@timesrepublican.com