Did you know Herbert Hoover was the first president born west of the Mississippi? Or that he is the only president from Iowa?
Just 20 miles southeast of Sugar Bottom Campground is the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site. This small town, West Branch, Iowa, is where the 31st president of the United States was born. It is also the site of his Presidential Library and Museum.
So, this was the day for us to learn about the 31st president of the United States, Herbert Hoover.
We started our day at the National Historic Site Visitor’s Center. We had to wear a mask, but hey, at least it was open. Here, we watched a short movie, viewed various exhibits and obtained information for our visit. Our morning consisted was walking around the grounds and viewing the historic buildings.
A short walk from the Visitor Center was The Birthplace Cottage. Herbert Hoover was born in 1874. This was a simple two-room building where Herbert’s parents lived with their three children. This cottage stands in its original spot. It was bought by President Hoover and his wife and restored in the 1930’s.
Herbert’s father, Jesse Hoover, worked as a blacksmith. His shop was across the street from their home. The blacksmith shop was reconstructed. The reconstructed shop was turned ninety degrees and set back, so it would not compete with the birthplace cottage.
The day we visited, we were lucky enough to see a blacksmith working in the shop. The blacksmith was a young woman who was operating the largest billow we’d ever seen, making S-hooks, and relaying stories and information about the site and the times. Seeing a blacksmith in action and talking with her really enhanced our visit.
We also viewed the schoolhouse and the Friends Meetinghouse, as Herbert Hoover’s family were Quakers. All of these historic buildings were situated fairly close together, and we walked from one to the other.
Of course, there were National Park Rangers scattered about. I always enjoy talking with the rangers. Without exception, I have found them to be passionate and knowledgeable, and on this day, we had a couple of questions for the ranger.
Question #1. Recently on Jeopardy, we heard this clue: “Unpopular at the time, the man for whom it is named wasn’t invited to the September 30, 1935, dedication of this landmark.”
Do you know?
The Jeopardy answer was “What is Hoover Dam?”
My question for the ranger was, “Why wasn’t Herbert Hoover invited to the dedication?”
The ranger explained that the dam was dedicated when FDR was president. At that point in time, Hoover had lost the election to FDR and was blamed for the Great Depression. Hoover Dam was even renamed to Boulder Dam. However, in 1947, under President Truman, the original name, Hoover, was restored to the dam. The ranger discussed more politics of the time which reminded us of the politics of today. And that’s as far as I’m going with that.
Our second question was also very important. We wanted to know where we could eat lunch.
The National Historic Site is laid out beautifully. A short, one block walk down an historic side street brings you onto historic Main Street in West Branch. There we found, as per the ranger’s recommendation, The Serving Cafe. This is a locally owned restaurant which had been open only two months.
The decor was farmhouse charming. The food was delicious, and the people were cheerful and friendly. I highly recommended this place for breakfast or lunch. I had the Buttermilk Monte Cristo, and it was so good I might just drive back to Iowa sometime, so I can have it again. By the way, no one is paying me money or buying me lunch for these recommendations. Well, no one besides Dan, that is.
Refreshed and fortified, we walked over the the Presidential Library and Museum where we had tickets for a 1:00 p.m. entry. The museum and the rest of the grounds will be the subject of my next post.