Historical Society of Marshall County focused on preservation
When Madelyn and Steve Irvine donated Madelyn’s childhood home at 503 W. Main Street — the Mowry Irvine Mansion — to the Historical Society of Marshall County in July 2017, the intention was to eventually make the mansion the official headquarters of the HSMC. However, the July 2018 tornado forced the transition to be sped up. Now, roughly a year later, HSMC Administrator Michelle Roseburrough said progress is steady.
“So many factors in the few years prior to the tornado contributed to our ability to not miss a beat when the disaster occurred, and continue to contribute to our health as an organization as we process toward recovery,” Roseburrough said. “The gift of the Mansion is certainly one of the key factors. Running a close second is the fact that the Susie Sower Trust had acquired exceptional industry-appropriate insurance for the Historical Society sites and collections in late spring 2018 — just in the nick of time.”
Six HSMC properties sustained damage in the tornado, with its former headquarters/museum, 202 E. Church Street, closed until further notice.
“I’m still amazed that none of our artifacts or records were damaged or lost, considering the hit taken on every single one of our properties,” she said.
Roseburrough said the Mowry-Irvine Mansion offers opportunities the previous headquarters did not.
“We have visitor traffic at the Mansion that is consistent with what we had prior to the tornado at the (previous headquarters/museum). People come for both tours and research. It was always available for events as well, but we never had the interest there that we have at the Mansion. Having a full kitchen contributes quite a bit to that,” she said.
The Mansion is also where the HSMC Genealogical Interest Group houses its materials. History on Third Thursday programs are held either at the Marshalltown Public Library or at Grimes Farm and Conservation Center.
Donations enrich the exhibits
The HSMC is frequently gifted with mementos and furnishings with local ties. It recently received an antique grandfather clock from the Marshalltown Wells Fargo Corporate Properties Group.
“We decided the grandfather clock that has been upstairs would not be relocated to the new location. We are thrilled to have found a home for this artifact at the Historical Society of Marshall County, as well as some commemorative coins,” said Steve Carlson, Vice President, Wells Fargo Corporate Communications.
The clock was accompanied by a typewritten card enclosed in a Fidelity Savings Bank/Bank Brenton envelope. It reads: “On June 8th, 1976 Neil Chadderdon told me that no history could be found on this grandfather clock. When Mr. Chadderdon came to this bank, he found this grandfather clock rusted and deteriorating in the basement of the bank building on Main Street (today the site of Ocean City Chinese Restaurant). A one-armed plumber named Steinmayer offered to repair the clock. Ralph Williams at Marshalltown Trowel replated the face and weights for free. The clock worked and was sitting in the balcony of the building on Main Street. Mr. Chadderdon contacted Binfords and Arneys and many other people having contact with our bank. No one knew where the clock had come from. The feeling was that it may have come from the Howe residence. Mr. Steinmayer believes the clock was made in Germany or Austria and is more than a hundred years old.”
The note was not signed.
(Fidelity was purchased by Brenton Banks Inc. in 1970. In 2000, Wells Fargo bought Brenton Banks Inc.).
Work still to come
There is still exterior work to be done at the Mansion and at the Glick-Sower House. However both will remain open as repairs are completed in the fall. A rental property, which generates income for the HSMC, has been repaired post-tornado. Work on Taylor #4 country school will be wrapped up in time for the fall reenactments.
“Our most urgent need at this time is local, climate-controlled storage space. Items in our collection are currently in Chicago being cleaned, in a storage unit in Altoona or at 123 East Main, a building owned by the Sower Trust,” Roseburrough said. “The 123 building is slated for facade restoration, contractor schedule pending, but we also plan to restore the interior at that time and will need to remove stored items to do so.”
Roseburrough also serves as a Sower trustee.
“I am personally committed to the historic preservation of not only the collections but our wonderful buildings as well. I’ve also been so proud to see the preservation and restoration efforts downtown, and so excited to be in a position to contribute photos and information for several projects,” she said.
For more information, the HSMC may be reached at 641-752-6664 and firstname.lastname@example.org.