The Council Bluffs Public Library operated in this Carnegie-funded building from 1905 to 1998, when operations moved to a modern 65,000-square-foot library building. Constructed at a cost of $70,000, the Council Bluffs building is the largest of the 17 Iowa Carnegie libraries designed by architects Patton and Miller. When the historic facility left empty, the Friends of the Union Pacific Railroad Museum group raised $3.5 million to renovate and repurpose the building for use as the Union Pacific Railroad Museum.
The Union Pacific Railroad Museum features a mix of artifacts dating to the mid-1800s along with interactive exhibits which highlight Union Pacific’s role in the railroad industry and growth of America’s economy. Open Tuesdays through Saturdays year round, a unique public-private arrangement allows the Friends organization to manage museum volunteers, the City of Council Bluffs to lease the building to Union Pacific, and Union Pacific to pay for the museum’s operating expenses.
In 1879, nearly thirty years after Worth County was established, an attempt to move the county seat from Northwood to Kensett was gaining steam. To thwart the effort, residents in Northwood raised over $4,000 to purchase land and construct a new brick courthouse in 1880. After serving as the courthouse for 13 years, the building was later used as a high school and then as the community library. The Northwood Library moved to a new location in 1972, and the Worth County Historical Society was granted use of the building. It has since served as the Worth County Museum, open Sunday afternoons between Memorial and Labor Day or by appointment by calling (641) 324-1180.
The Hancock County town of Britt has been connected with hobos since 1974, when several Britt residents joined with hobos Hood River Blackie, Steamtrain Maury, and Feather River John to establish the non-profit Hobo Foundation. After its launch, a National Hobo Convention event was created to take place annually in Britt, and in 1988, the foundation purchased the former Chief Theatre for use as a Hobo Museum. It opened the following year.
In 2004, concerns about deterioration of the 92-year-old theatre building surfaced and the a fundraising effort began to build a new museum in Britt. After five years, only a third of necessary funds had been raised, so the Hobo Foundation board voted to shift efforts toward the improvement and renovation of the Hobo Museum in its current location. Long-term plans are still being reviewed, with immediate goals to improve the building structurally and upgrade heating and air conditioning systems.
The museum is open June through August, or by appointment; visit the Hobo Museum website for details.
Local residents were disappointed in August 2000 when the former Commercial Federal Bank chain announced it was closing the branch office in downtown Hanlontown in Worth County, Iowa. The office, which featured an impressive vault and marble teller station inside its two-story lobby, was built in 1920 as Citizens State Bank. It changed hands three times between 1981 and 1998 prior to the 2000 closure. The bank also closed its branch in nearby Kensett.
Fortunately, two charitable foundations purchased the building and donated it to the Worth County Historical Society. It is now home to the Citizens Savings Bank Museum, open Sunday afternoons June through August. Visitors can appreciate the historic interior while perusing a growing collection of Hanlontown cultural and economic artifacts.
The Merry Brook School Museum sits near the edge of downtown Woodbine in Harrison County, Iowa. The iconic one-room school house dates to the 1870s, when it was located a mile east of Woodbine near the site of the present municipal airport. When improvements were made to the airport in 1958, the Merry Brook School was forced to relocate. It was moved into the city, placed near the elementary school, and used as a fifth grade classroom.
The school was relocated to its present location in 1991, when it was set upon a basement foundation. The basement is home to the Harrison County Genealogical Society, while the school itself is now a museum; it’s open to the public by appointment. To schedule an appointment, call (712) 647-2593.