People’s Choice Voting

Congratulations Mathias Ham Historic Site. Winner of the 2019 People’s Choice Site of the Year! Scroll down to learn more about each site nominated for this year’s award.











Brucemore’s bucolic landscape, with its rolling yards, soaring trees, timber-lined pond, and stunning gardens, is more than a beautiful setting. The Brucemore landscape is a time capsule, preserving evidence of decades past. Each of the families who lived on the estate left their mark. You can still experience the sweeping front lawn from Caroline Sinclair’s era that showcases the Mansion; the naturalistic designs of the Douglas era that create charming outdoor rooms; and the subtle, modern additions of the Halls.

The garden maintains the shape from the Douglas years and has evolved to a more exuberant, undulating, and colorful place. Vintage and heirloom plants reflect the history of the garden and enhance the ambiance. Along with the servant’s village and greenhouse, the landscape interprets a time when self-sustainability was of national importance. Landscape hikes and school tours still tell the story of gardeners and residential agriculture to thousands each year.

The landscape is one of the few remaining intact designs by renowned landscape architect O.C. Simonds. The grounds represent a time of phenomenal growth in the country’s history when westward expansion forever changed the shape and texture of the Midwest. The grounds illustrate enduring long-term benefits of a plan conceived around beauty and respect of the land. Situated on 26 acres, Brucemore has long considered its park-like, natural surrounding one of its greatest gifts to the community.











Carrie Lane Chapman Catt Girlhood Home

The centennial of the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment granting women the vote will be celebrated in 2020. Carrie Lane Chapman Catt Girlhood Home honors the Iowan who led the fight for women’s suffrage after being hand-picked by Susan B. Anthony to succeed her as president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association.

The home where Carrie grew up in northeast Iowa was built on the prairie in 1866-1867 by her father. Today, the site includes 19 apple trees as a reminder of the nursery stock planted by Lucius Lane. Activities centered on the orchard include Family Apple Picking Day, when visitors pick apples to take home and make homemade apple cider with a hand operated cider press.

Prairie Day Camp for children provides an opportunity to learn what life was like growing up on a farm during the Civil War. A walk through an acre of natural prairie led by a naturalist teaches the participants about the native plants and their uses. Dressing up in pioneer clothing and playing games like Carrie would have offers a look into a former era. The children eat food like corn on the cob, fried chicken, applesauce, and lemonade just like farm children of Carrie’s day.

Visitors learn about Carrie’s work for women’s right to vote by touring her girlhood home and viewing the museum display panels, in addition to an electronic touch table and iPod audio tour which detail Carrie’s education, personal life, suffrage work, and work for world peace.










The Fossil & Prairie Park Reserve

As one of the original designated Silos & Smokestacks National Heritage Area sites, the Fossil & Prairie Park Preserve has been sharing their agricultural connection since 2001. The connection is as the historical site of the Rockford Brick & Tile Company. This company was well known in northeastern Iowa as the chosen source of drainage tile and bricks until the mid-1970’s. Since opening the Fossil & Prairie Center, the area welcomes 5,000 visitors annually. Staff and volunteers have worked to maintain the beehive kilns used in the production of the tiles, as well as share the stories of the employees through interpretative signage and displays. Trained Center Docents welcome visitors and share their knowledge throughout the visitor season. Although the Fossil & Prairie Park Preserve may be best known for the Devonian fossils that can be collected there, it is the Rockford Brick & Tile Co. that can be credited for the accidental discovery. Spring and Fall are popular times for visitors and school groups to visit the Park to collect fossils and discover some of the local history of Park. Schools continue to make the Park a designation field trip coming from central Iowa to extreme eastern Iowa to visit.










The Grout Museum District

The Grout Museum District consists of four buildings: The Grout Museum of History and Science, the Bluedorn Science Imaginarium, the Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum, and the Rensselaer Russell House.

The Grout Museum of History and Science tells the story of agriculture and industry in the Cedar Valley. In 2018, over 50,000 visitors learned how important agriculture and industry have been throughout Iowa’s history through the “Engine of the Heartland” exhibit.

The Grout Museum continues to innovate in the way these stories are told. Through a partnership with Silos & Smokestacks, in 2018 the Grout Museum District opened the “Voices of Iowa: Farm Stories Kiosk.” The stories of Iowa farmers are told through recordings of personal interviews. The Grout Museum District continues to add interviews to the kiosk.

The Bluedorn Science Imaginarium provides hands on science education. This kind of science education is critical for the future of agriculture around the word.

The Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum tells the story of how Iowa farmers and industry rallied to provide food during times of war.

During the 2017-2018 school year, more than 1,500 third graders learned the role of agriculture in the Cedar Valley through the Museum School program.

The Grout Museum District is uniquely equipped to tell the story of agriculture in Iowa, and is a logical choice to be named People’s Choice “Site of the Year.”









Heartland Museum

Heartland Museum continues to increase in number of visitors each year, achieving over 2,000 in 2018. These visitors come from all over the USA and foreign countries. For the past three years, Heartland has hosted events such as “Mystery at the Musuem”, “Iowa’s Hat Lady”, “Voices from the Past”, “Six on Six Girls Basketball” and others of historical nature. These events are increasingly well-attended. In addition, Heartland has teamed with the local newspaper to provide weekly historical articles. Our Facebook page has over 800 followers (double the number from two years ago). We host other events to draw the local population out and remind them we are here! In the words of one of our guests, “This is a hidden gem of a museum!”










Indian Creek Nature Center

Drip, drip, drip. Sap from over 200 trees provides the sweet goodness of maple syrup to thousands of people each year. The annual Maple Syrup Festival is a sticky celebration of each year’s syrup harvest and is one of hundreds of events that Indian Creek Nature Center holds annually. Unique events like this are one of many ways ICNC creates champions of nature. Over 81,000 people from throughout Iowa and the Midwest are educated and inspired each year. Visitors experience the beauty of the prairie, woodlands, wetlands, and natural waterways on 473 acres. Over five miles of trails meander through the property providing a unique outdoor experience for all ages. Thousands of school kids get to experience the magic of holding a snake or learn to identify animal tracks in the dirt. Inspirational activities continue by showcasing the beauty of the summer prairie at the Practice in the Prairie weekly yoga series and outdoor music concerts for adults. Summer is a great time for education as kids splash in a creek or get their hands dirty at Creek Camp. Unique farm to table dinners connect people directly with farmers and local chefs getting a direct experience with local food. All of these provide visitors an opportunity to visit one of Iowa’s only net-zero energy buildings, Amazing Space. They also learn more about innovative regenerative, organic practices being pioneered at Etzel Sugar Grove Farm. Thousands of people leave ICNC having grown to become a champion of nature!











Mathias Ham House Historic Site-WINNER

Dedicated to sharing the rich history of Mathias Ham, the city of Dubuque, life on the Mississippi River, and life during the Victorian era, Mathias Ham Historic Site in Dubuque, Iowa not only brings history to life through costumed interpretation, exhibits, educational programs, and events but also is a space dedicated to enriching Dubuque’s future and its community.

Opened as a museum in 1964, the Ham House was completed in 1857 by Mathias Ham and is on the National Register of Historic Places. One of Dubuque’s earliest entrepreneurs, Ham built his estate with money earned from his successful lead mining endeavors.

Inside the home, elegant American and European furnishings exemplify the opulent Victorian lifestyle of a booming river town. John F. Rague designed this distinctive example of the Italian Villa style of architecture. As the architect for the Old State Capitols of Illinois and Iowa, Rague’s buildings were known for their monumental scale and elegance.

Visitors can step into pioneer life as it took shape in Dubuque and explore campus landmarks. The site is home to the Settler’s Cabin, Iowa’s oldest standing building, believed to have been built in the late 1820s by a French fur trader and later occupied by lead miners. A replica lead, and the last one-room school used in Dubuque County, the Humke School, built in 1883, and used as a school until it closed in 1966.









Motor Mill Historic Site

In 2018, the Motor Mill Foundation welcomed more visitors and presented more programs and special events than ever before with an impressive amount of volunteer time. In 2019, the organization prepares for the sesquicentennial celebration of 2020.











The Sawmill Museum

In 2018, The Sawmill Museum installed two new exhibits: a water table depicting steamboat log rafts and a floating log raft simulator. This was part of a $1.3 million expansion and exhibit campaign/project begun in 2017. We also finished Clinton’s first ever comprehensive exhibit on the lumber history through 60 informational panels, blueprints, and reinterpreted artifacts. Through the fruits of those efforts, we saw 13,568 visitors to the museum. In 2018, we saw the publication of our first book, a mixture of history articles that the museum writes for the local paper and recipes taken from 19th century Clinton newspapers. In 2018, we hosted “How Clinton Built and Fed the World Ag Talk Series” for its second year. In 2018, the museum began planning for the cultural development of the rest of its property, as the museum sits on six acres of riverfront property. 2018 was a big year for the museum, and, as a result, 2019 is off to the races as we have seen an explosion in interest to give lectures/presentations and field trips.










Wagaman Mill and Museum

The Wagaman Mill is located in Lynnville, Iowa on the South bank of the North Skunk River. A low head dam provides water to a vertical steel turbine. It was built in 1846 by John R. Sparks. It was first used as a sawmill. The turbine provides 29.8 horse power and powers an electrical generator and a grinding wheel using flat belts. The mill ground wheat to make flour. People came 25 miles for the flour, as it was the closest mill. The mill also supplied electricity for the residents of the city in the early years. The mill ground livestock feed for the area farmers. The mill is also on the National Historic Registry as of 1975.

The mill was in full operation until 1997, which happened to be the same year that the Lynnville Historical Society organized. Wanting a museum, we contacted the owners and asked them to consider us for their building. We were very grateful when the owners gave us the building to have for a museum. We cleaned the building with the help of volunteers, and then we were blessed with many historic exhibits being donated to us. We opened in June 1999 and have been operating for 20 years. We made it handicap accessible, including an elevator to the second floor, and added on a room in 2007.

We are open on Sunday 1:00-4:00 p.m. June to Sept. or by appointment. We are 8 miles south of I-80 on T-38 and 50 miles east of Des Moines.


Wapsipinicon Mill Museum

The Wapsipinicon Mill was one of the first sites recognized by Silos & Smokestacks National Heritage Area. Through the years, the mill became an affiliate site and then a Partner Site. The mill is open for visitors from mid-May through mid-September each year. Last year, there were over 5,000 visitors. Grade school teachers enjoy bringing their students to learn about the early ways of farming and grain preparation for both animals and human consumption. The mill tells how pioneer settlers captured the power of the river for commercial development. This mill is one of the largest grist mills remaining in the State of Iowa. Unique photo exhibits, interactive displays and interpretive exhibits plus numerous pioneer agricultural artifacts are ready for the visitor to step back in time. People are able to view original 1870 buhr stones, belt & bucket elevators, grain storage bins, milling machines and various milling equipment. The six story mill was the heart of what became a flourishing community. Silos & Smokestacks grant program enabled the telling of the milling story for visitors to enjoy. The Independence Farmers Market also enjoys this venue to use for their Saturday morning (during the summer months) market that attracts many locals. The basement is open to visitors on special occasions and for promotion of the “Underground Independence” project, which includes many other downtown businesses on the 3rd Saturday of August each year. Please vote for the mill!