The Herbert Hoover Presidential Library is set in the heart of the tall grass
prairie that begins in eastern Iowa where the forests and woodlands begin to
give way to the Great Plains. When his grandparents moved to West Branch near
Iowa City in the mid-nineteenth
century, most of the state and the Midwest were almost completely covered by
these plains and dotted with carpets of colorful native wildflowers. Huge herds
of bison roamed from horizon to horizon, and the settler parents watched their
children closely for fear they would be lost in the six to twelve foot tall
maze of grasses.
The Herbert Hoover Museum Iowa and the National Park Service have restored 81 acres of this tall grass prairie to its natural state. Today there are three hiking trails in this pristine habitat that is one of the attractions of this Presidential Library in Iowa and its associated Museum that honor our 31st President. Also on the site of the Presidential Library in Iowa is the little two-room cottage where he was born in 1874. Visitors can also take tours of the simple Friends Meeting House (the family were Quakers), the one room schoolhouse built in 1853 that the first President born west of the Mississippi attended. There is also a blacksmith shop like one where his father worked. The National Park Service also maintains the grave site of Hoover and his wife, Lou.
Like other presidential museums and libraries, the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library has collected the papers and records that commemorate not only his career and presidency, but also the times in which he lived. And, like the other twelve libraries maintained by the National Archives, it contains some fascinating and surprising archival history of the state. One of the surprise collections contained in the Herbert Hoover Museum Iowa is that containing the Rose Wilder Lane papers. She was the first daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder of "Little House on the Prairie" fame, a journalist and author in her own right, and the first biographer of the 31st President. Her papers chronicle early pioneer life in Laura's childhood home just a few miles south of the Minnesota border in the northeastern corner of Iowa.
The Herbert Hoover Presidential Library was opened in 1962, and has welcomed more than 2.5 million visitors since. It is a major educational center, with research facilities and materials available to educators and historians across the country, and special events designed for schoolchildren. The handsome Quarton Gallery at the Herbert Hoover Museum Iowa was named for the pioneer journalists and philanthropist from Cedar Rapids, and showcases both visiting and permanent exhibitions in nine different galleries.
This Presidential Library in Iowa is a great destination for a day trip from Iowa City, which is only ten miles away. The historic turn-of-the-century downtown area of the little city is also worth some time, with some unique dining venues, antique shops, and charming buildings. If you're coming from the east, the town is only about 30 miles away from Illinois and the city of Davenport on the main U.S. 80 highway.
The Herbert Hoover Presidential Library is open to the public daily, except for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day, for a small admission fee.