Sightseeing review: Iowa Living History Farms – Des Moines, IA

PHOTO_20150629_132932.jpg At Living History Farms near Des Moines, IA we stepped back into the early days of Iowa. From the visitor’s Center we rode a tractor pulled wagon back in time to the 1700s farm which was represented by Kiowa Indian garden and housing. I thought it was interesting that these Native Americans constructed their homes so that they stayed warmer in the winter than did those of the earliest European settlers from the east.

IMG_3689.JPG Our time travels continued as we walked a short distance to the 1850s Pioneer Farm. These farmers had a small barn, a smoke house, and a one room log cabin – kitchen and bedroom all in one. We found the “family” of folks, dressed up in period clothing finishing up their noon meal. The farmer was about to go back to field and the women chatted with us as they scraped the leftovers into a container for the pigs later and prepared to wash dishes. Let me mention that, while the people are dressed up in period clothing they aren’t “in character.” They are interpreters rather than actors.

IMG_3709.JPG From there we walked down a rather steep trail and across a lovely stream to the 1900 farm. This is a more substantial property with a large barn for keeping the animals, a corn crib, a machine shed, a chicken coop, and a period house with several rooms set up for an average family of the day. This farm has horses, mules, and pigs. Here, too, the “residents” were cleaning up from lunch and going back to their farm chores. Chatting with them was a lot of fun and quite educational.

Our journey back to the present concluded with a visit to the Wallace Exhibit Center. One interesting exhibit was a modern day kitchen, but with 1940’s-50’s versions of the same appliances next to the more current ones. Outside the building is a small play area for younger children.

100_4063.JPG Our time travel wasn’t yet complete because we rode the wagon back to the 1875 town of Walnut Hill that we had bypassed earlier. The Flynn home mansion on the hill is the original house on the property. It was built by a wealthy railroad man turned cattleman, turned business man. It has two stories with three kitchens and is filled with beautiful furniture. The wood is all original and it is lovely! We walked through the town enjoying seeing the smithy, drugstore, general store, doctor’s office, implement dealer, newspaper and church. At most of the buildings there’s an interpreter who told us about the building and its contents. The last house we visited as the Tangen Home; a house representative of that which would be owned by a successful family in 1875. In this case the family was Norwegian. They lived in Iowa in the late 1800s. The house is nicely, but not lavishly, furnished.

Our final stop was back at the visitors’ center gift shop where a variety of candy, toys and other gift and souvenir items are for sale. Let me mention that traveling from farm to farm does require a lot of walking and the trails are dirt with some steep areas. If you ask, the staff can suggest ways to limit walking if you want. We think our time traveling visit was well worth the effort and the price of admission.


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