West Des Moines Historical Society

West Des Moines Historical Society The mission of the Society is to educate, to preserve, and to promote the heritage and history of West Des Moines. The West Des Moines Historical Society owns and maintains two historic properties in West Des Moines, the Jordan House and Bennett School.
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The idea of establishing a historical society for the City of West Des Moines was conceived in 1968 as plans were made for the city’s Diamond Jubilee. Two years later, in 1970, the West Des Moines Historical Society was formed. The mission of the Society is to educate, to preserve, and to promote the heritage and history of West Des Moines. To this end, the Society purchased the Jordan House in 1978. Through the efforts of the Society, the business community and the volunteer organizations of West Des Moines, the dream of transforming Jordan house into a museum became a reality. The major initial restoration was completed in 1993, the centennial year of West Des Moines. Since that time the West Des Moines Historical Society has also acquired and restored the Bennett School, the last one room school houses built and used in West Des Moines. These two facilities together with the growing collections of memoribilia and historical information form the core of the West Des Moines Historical Society’s collection. If you have knowledge of significant events in West Des Moines, pictures from the past, or historical items relating to West Des Moines we would love to hear from you. If you have only time, we are always looking for volunteers and can help you with that too – and you’ll get a lot of enjoyment out of it. In either event please contact us using the information below.

The West Des Moines Historical Society is so grateful to be a recipient of the Emergency Relief Funding through the Nati...
06/03/2020
NEWS: DCA distributes $1.1 million in CARES Act and humanities grants

The West Des Moines Historical Society is so grateful to be a recipient of the Emergency Relief Funding through the National Endowment for the Arts, Iowa Arts Council, Iowa Culture & National Endowment for the Humanities! #iowaarts #iowaculture #iacgrantee https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/IACIO/bulletins/28eb1a1

DES MOINES – The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs announced today that it has awarded more than $1.1 million dollars in 173 grants statewide. This includes $923,372 for emergency relief and another $178,000 in humanities grants to help Iowa cultural organizations rebound from the financial impa...

It's Member Monday! And we'd like to highlight one of our longtime members and volunteers, Kathy Meyer. Here is her take...
06/01/2020

It's Member Monday! And we'd like to highlight one of our longtime members and volunteers, Kathy Meyer. Here is her take on the West Des Moines Historical Society importance in your neighborhood and why YOU should become a member today.

"My husband and I moved to WDM in 1984 from the southside of DM with our young family. I was teaching in the WDM schools and Gene was working for the State Division of Criminal Investigation. Wanting to be involved in our community, Gene ran for a seat on the WDM school board and was elected. As member of the school board and me teaching in WDM, Gene and I met and become friends with the Superintendent of Schools for WDM, Dale Grabinski and his wife, Joyce.

Joyce was serving as President of the WDMHS and couldn’t wait to introduce me to WDM history and the Jordan House. I didn’t know Jordan House existed before my time with Joyce. Joyce couldn’t believe I had never heard about the Jordan House and its history as a stop on the Underground Railroad. In Joyce’s mind, how could I call myself a teacher?

Our first taste of Jordan House hospitality was very special. We were invited to a History Day celebration to honor 8th students and their winning history projects. Volunteers (now dear, lifelong friends) prepared an 1850 meal and served it to 40 of us – students, parents, two junior principals, and a representative school board member and his wife – that being Gene and me. These volunteers, some dressed as pioneers, made the event memorable by feeding us chicken and noodles, a traditional pioneer wedding cake and story after story of the Jordan Family. I had no idea how much work it really was until I volunteered to help cook and serve at another event a few months later.

My first volunteer event evolved into hours, years, decades of volunteer time, energy, and passion. Name a job and I’ve probably done it. From day one of my introduction to the Jordan House, I knew our most treasured WDM artifact needed the forever support of the WDMHS.

It’s been said story is our DNA and history a chain reaction series of stories. History and story are synonymous in describing the essence of living. Our stories feed the soul, connect us with the rest of the herd and ground us in place. When the path detours and our footsteps grow heavy, stories instruct and encourage, give our thoughts shelter. When the journey is lonely, scary, or sad, stories walk with us, hold our hand. When life is good, stories entertain, provide the exclamation mark at the end of the day, and never stop reminding us that living and dying is bittersweet. The WDMHS tells the story of James Cunningham Jordan, the path he traveled, and the land he called home. The WDMHS tells the stories of Valley Junction, WDM, Central Iowa and the area so many of us, just like James Jordan once did, have come to call home.

Today, the visitor to West Des Moines, Iowa can’t venture far without encountering the Jordan name: Jordan Creek, Jordan Creek Mall, Jordan Creek Elementary, Jordan Crossing Church, Jordan House, Jordan Park, Jordan Cemetery . . . The list the Jordan-named landmarks and businesses go on and on. But who was James Jordan? And why is the name Jordan plastered all over town? We know James Jordan because the WDMHS keeps his house, his memory, and his family’s memories alive.

His friends called him “Uncle Jimmie” knowing his reputation for generous hospitality. Cultivating “Iowa nice” has its genesis in people like James Jordan.

The WDMHS is preserving not only yesterday’s history but today’s history, and tomorrow’s history. The stories happening today and tomorrow are going to be equally as important to be remembered, recorded and shared as those of the past.

You should join the WDMHS because story and setting are important. Your support keeps the stories about the setting going. I guess if I haven’t convinced you yet, there’s little hope left, but here are a few of my favorite quotes from a few of my favorite authors to further the cause:

“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.” - Phillip Pullman

“To write history is to make history.” - Allan Wolf

“Each blade of grass has its spot on earth whence it draws its life; its strength, and so is man rooted to the land from which he draws his faith together with his life.” - Joseph Conrad

We need the WDMHS and the WDMHS needs us. Let's be "Iowa nice" - join and support the WDMHS. Join and encourage your friends and neighbors to join."

05/29/2020
Get your shopping list ready for a #throwbackthursday #facebooklive today at 1! #wdmhs #history
05/28/2020

Get your shopping list ready for a #throwbackthursday #facebooklive today at 1! #wdmhs #history

05/27/2020

What is it Wednesday

What Is It Wednesday? Tune in at our FB Live at 1pm to find out!
05/27/2020

What Is It Wednesday?
Tune in at our FB Live at 1pm to find out!

Historical Societies (Like the WDMHS) have an important role to fill during this historic time. Please Share Your Story ...
05/27/2020
Iowa state historical organizations begin to archive COVID-19 pandemic

Historical Societies (Like the WDMHS) have an important role to fill during this historic time. Please Share Your Story about Life During COVID-19 with us to record and share.

State organizations have begun calling on Iowans for the purposes of cataloging COVID-19 for future generations.

As part of our "Share Your Stories" COVID-19 project, Helene Viall share a lot of reflections and family stories about t...
05/26/2020

As part of our "Share Your Stories" COVID-19 project, Helene Viall share a lot of reflections and family stories about the impact of life since the first days of the global pandemic.

Her grandaughters live in Kansas, so on March 17 the Governor ordered all the schools closed. Helene's daughter Aimee implemented a very organized home school schedule that Helene shared with the West Des Moines Historical Society for our records.

Helene said "The Governor of Kansas ordered all the schools in Kansas to be closed for the rest of the school year, the first state in the nation to do so.

My 5th grade granddaughter was really disappointed when she realized that she and her classmates wouldn't get to experience all the fun things that were planned for the 5th graders for their last year at Liberty View Elementary School. It also meant that her mom wouldn't be subbing there. Home schooling, here we come!"

How did home schooling work for you or your family? Share your Story on the WDMHS COVID page, and we'll include your impressions in our permanent records.

https://www.wdmhs.org/covid-19/

05/26/2020
Grab the bull by the horns today for Facebook Live at 1pm! #Jordanhouse #WDMHS
05/26/2020

Grab the bull by the horns today for Facebook Live at 1pm! #Jordanhouse #WDMHS

05/22/2020
05/21/2020
The Dr. Is in today on Facebook Live at 1pm! #jordanhouse #wdmhs
05/21/2020

The Dr. Is in today on Facebook Live at 1pm! #jordanhouse #wdmhs

Can you help? Know anyone with supplies, a sewing machine and some time to volunteer? We could use your help. Please and...
05/20/2020

Can you help? Know anyone with supplies, a sewing machine and some time to volunteer? We could use your help. Please and Thank you! Please email [email protected] to offer your help. Masks with ties, rather than elastic, work best for the wide range of visitors we welcome.

05/20/2020

What is it Wednesday?

What is it Wednesday? Tune in at 1pm to find out.
05/20/2020

What is it Wednesday? Tune in at 1pm to find out.

We have a wonderful submission for our Share Your Stories project, but there was one part that we thought would be sober...
05/19/2020
Rembrandt School - Welcome

We have a wonderful submission for our Share Your Stories project, but there was one part that we thought would be sobering, but important to share. This is from Helene Ducas Viall:
"The following paragraph is an excerpt from the book, Rembrandt Remembers, which includes stories from 158 people who graduated or taught in Rembrandt, Iowa, representing every graduating class from the mid-1920s until the school closed in 1979. I asked people to write down anything they wanted about growing up on a farm or a small town and going to a small school. It can be read in its entirety from the website, www.rembrandtschool.com".

Hilda Hegna Odor – Class of 1927. “The flu was very bad right after World War I. My mother died from the flu in 1918 when I was nine and my youngest sister was only two. It was so contagious and everybody was so sick that I don’t think they even had a funeral. I remember they burned my mother’s mattress afterwards. My cousin and one of my neighbors also died. There were six of us kids left without our mother, which was difficult for Dad. Eventually my aunt, Anna Berger, came out and stayed with us for a number of years until she got married.”

While we miss having visitors, this is the perfect time to get a new roof put on the Bennett School Museum! Thanks to Ci...
05/19/2020

While we miss having visitors, this is the perfect time to get a new roof put on the Bennett School Museum! Thanks to City of West Des Moines - City Manager's Office and our member donors, as well as the crew from Drake Roofing for the snazzy (and not leaking!) new roof!

We're going to introduce you to two amazing founders of Valley Junction today on Facebook Live. Tune in at 1pm to learn ...
05/19/2020

We're going to introduce you to two amazing founders of Valley Junction today on Facebook Live. Tune in at 1pm to learn their story, and how the business they started is still going strong today!

05/18/2020

Take our survey about reopening

As we look to future when we're able to open the Jordan House and Bennett School Museums, we'd like to hear from you abo...
05/16/2020
Can you spare a few moments to take my survey?

As we look to future when we're able to open the Jordan House and Bennett School Museums, we'd like to hear from you about your preference for days and times for visiting. Please consider taking this short survey (only 2 questions and a spot for comments!) and help us plan our (hopefully soon) reopening.

Please take the survey titled "Tour Preference". Your feedback is important!

05/15/2020
05/15/2020
Pretty day at the historic Jordan House! 🌷🌷🌷#wdm #wdmhs #history #springflowers
05/15/2020

Pretty day at the historic Jordan House! 🌷🌷🌷#wdm #wdmhs #history #springflowers

05/15/2020

Did you make the quick and easy ice cream from Thursday's FB Live? 🍦
Good, because you'll want it for what we show you Friday! Your ingredient list:
Flour
Cocoa powder
Sugar
Baking Soda
Salt
White Vinegar
Vanilla
Veg. Oil

See you at 1pm! 🎂

05/14/2020
We asked you to Share Your Story, and you have! Today we hear from Norah Baber, a 6th grade student living in Boone: How...
05/14/2020

We asked you to Share Your Story, and you have! Today we hear from Norah Baber, a 6th grade student living in Boone:

How has COVID-19 affected you and your community?
COVID- 19 has affected me because I can't go to school. In my community, a lot of places are closed, and you have to wear a mask everywhere.

What would you like to share with future generations?
You might think that it would be fun to stay home all day long, but trust me, it is boring. You can't see anyone but whatever family you live with. The only way to talk to your friends is on the phone, over email, or write them a letter. Never take your friends for granted.

We'd love to hear from you! Share Your Story about what life is like for you, friends and family. You can use an easy form on our website: https://www.wdmhs.org/covid-19/

05/13/2020

Our last two Facebook Lives this week will satisfy your sweet tooth, but to participate, you'll need some ingredients.

Thursday you'll need to have half and half, sugar and vanilla . Tune in at 1pm! 🍨🍰😃

05/13/2020
What is it Wednesday? Tune it at 1pm for our Live video to find out!
05/13/2020

What is it Wednesday?
Tune it at 1pm for our Live video to find out!

05/12/2020
05/12/2020

It's Travel Tuesday! Tune in at 1pm and guess where we are!

05/11/2020

Member Monday

Address

2001 Fuller Road
West Des Moines, IA
50265

General information

One Hour, fifteen minute Guided Tours of the historic Jordan House are available multiple times weekly. (February 1-May 26) Fridays and Sunday 11am and 1pm. Summer 2019 Friday, Saturday and Sunday 11am and 1pm Doors open 15 minutes before tour start times. Admission: $5 for adults, $3 for youth

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Comments

We have the joy of meeting and receiving a tour with Gale! She made exploring the house a highlight on our visit to Iowa. We absolutely loved hearing stories, exploring historic culture norms , and truly going back in time! A must see and experience for visitors of all ages!
Can anyone tell me if there is a place/area inside the Jordan House for a wedding ceremony? We would have between 50-60 guests. We would also be open to an outside area, but we are looking at October 19th, 2019 for our date.
Excellent article about James Jordan in the latest Iowa History Journal (Sept./Oct. 2018.) Especially interesting to us as our son Dan Kidney's Eagle Scout project was redoing two upstairs floors there--using old methods and nothing electric (except for a much-needed fan for the young workers). Through the years, he also did projects there in the basement, planted flowers at the back door, and helped with an ice cream social (where we met Mr. E.P. True).
Greetings, I have a 1927 West Des Moines High School year book. Very good condition. Would the society be interested in having the year book donated? I can be contacted at [email protected] or [email protected].