Binford House rebounds after tornado

T-R PHOTO BY SARA JORDAN-HEINTZ The historic Binford House, 110 N. 2nd Ave., sustained some damages in the July 19 tornado. Many windows were shattered, debris was blown into rooms, the carriage house was damaged, the barn was destroyed, and many trees were lost. It remains open for private events and tours.

After the July 19 tornado devastated many homes and businesses, property owners waited anxiously for damages to be evaluated. While no one has lived in the historic Binford House, 110 N. 2nd Ave., for decades, it bustles almost daily with club meetings, presentations and catered events.

The building is owned and operated by the Marshalltown Federation of Women’s Clubs. The night of the tornado, club president David Giese drove to the residence, not knowing what shape in which he’d find the 1874 Italianate-style home. While some homes surrounding the Binford House had walls and roofs torn off, the historic home remained standing.

“If you just looked at the house, you wouldn’t think there was anything wrong with it,” Giese said.

However, several windows were blown out, debris littered the rooms, the carriage house (attached to the home) got misaligned in the storm and the neighboring barn used for storage was found in shambles.

“When we got here Thursday, early evening, Alliant Energy was in our yard and they were tearing down trees, trying to get their lines,” he said.

T-R PHOTO BY SARA JORDAN-HEINTZ - The dining room took the brunt of the tornado’s force, with debris, including insulation from neighboring properties, found inside.

ServiceMaster was called in to help clean the interior, while a group from Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Charles City helped restore the yard to some semblance of normalcy.

“It’s amazing that the beautiful place fared as well as it did, given the state of the neighboring homes,” board member Michelle Roseburrough said.

Giese said the home’s heavy drapes and blinds served as a buffer against larger pieces of flying debris. The dining room took the brunt of the force.

“It was a mess — a lot of insulation from other houses was found in the debris,” he said.

Besides a broken vase in an upstairs bedroom, the home’s artifacts were not damaged.

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - While many windows were destroyed, heavy drapes and blinds served as a buffer against larger pieces of flying debris.

Giese estimates the costs of repairs to be around $10,000 — all covered by insurance, except for the barn.

“We had two (window panes) side by side; half of it is broken and the other is fine. It’s amazing how selective a tornado is,” he said.

Board member Joann Neven echoed a similar sentiment when she noted a display of delicate teacups on a table remained undisturbed.

“Just one was tilted at an angle,” she said.

The residence was without power in the days following the storm, with the fate of scheduled events hanging in the balance.

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - The barn on the property was destroyed in the tornado. It had been used for storage.

“We had a party planned for the Saturday not right after, but the next (July 28), and I told myself we weren’t going to cancel it; we had made a commitment,” Giese said.

The Binford House remains open for tours and private events, and is served by an in-house caterer Leona McDonough.

The home was once the residence of Thaddeus Binford and his family. The wealthy Quaker lawyer hailed from Ohio and for decades he and his wife Angelica were known for their interest in civic affairs. Their daughter Jessie worked and resided at Hull House in Chicago for 60 years, and is regarded as a disciple of Jane Addams. In the late 1920s, the Marshalltown Federation of Women’s Clubs needed a residence to serve as a meeting place for the city’s burgeoning women’s organizations. While the Federation used the residence throughout the ensuing decades, the deed to the property was not turned over to the organization until 1965.

For reservations, Roseburrough may be reached at or 641-753-5450.


Contact Sara Jordan-Heintz at 641-753-6611 or