A president and first lady. Stars of the stage and screen. A fearless frontier lawman. Mega musicians. And a famous Starfleet Captain who technically hasn’t even been born yet. Yep, there’s no doubt that Iowa is home to our fair share of famous citizens.
Mamie Doud Eisenhower Birthplace, Boone
If you liked Ike, then you’ll love touring the Mamie Doud Eisenhower Birthplace. Carefully restored to its Victorian elegance, the frame house contains furniture from Mamie’s family, including the bed in which Mamie was born. The lower-level museum and library feature photos of Mamie and Ike, unique memorabilia and a gift shop. The 1949 Chrysler Windsor given by Ike and Mamie to her uncle, along with Mamie’s 1962 Plymouth Valiant, can be found in the carriage house.
Laura Ingalls Wilder Park and Museum, Burr Oak
Ever wondered what prairie life was really like? When you visit this childhood home of Laura Ingalls Wilder, you can get a glimpse. The Ingalls family moved here in 1876 so Laura’s father could manage the Burr Oak Master’s Hotel. This is the only childhood home of hers that remains at its original site. The hotel has been restored to its 1876 appearance and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, along with the 1910 bank building that houses a visitor center. Ingalls Wilder authored the beloved Little House on the Prairie books, which recount her family’s life.
Carrie Lane Chapman Catt Girlhood Home and Museum, Charles City
The story of the women’s suffrage movement just wouldn’t be the same without Carrie Chapman Catt. Tour this National Historic Register home, built in 1866, that tells the story of Carrie Chapman Catt, one of America’s most influential women and founder of the League of Women Voters. Exhibit panels detail how the young Floyd County girl grew into a woman who fought for equal voting rights around the world.
Glenn Miller Birthplace Museum and Home, Clarinda
You can almost hear the band in full swing when you visit the Glenn Miller Birthplace Museum and Home. Clarinda boasts the birthplace of Miller, one of the greatest orchestra leaders who have ever lived. The home of one of the Big Band era’s most innovative leaders has been restored to reflect the time around 1904 when he was born, and the museum tells the story of his life and career through photos and memorabilia. Each June, Clarinda hosts the Glenn Miller Festival to celebrate his life and music.
Johnny Carson Birthplace Home, Corning
Heeeeeere’s Johnny Carson’s Birthplace Home! Legendary late-night entertainer Johnny Carson was born in Corning in 1925 and spent his early years growing up in the home on 13th Street. Recently restored to the era when Johnny lived there, the home features photos and memorabilia from his career.
Donna Reed Center for the Performing Arts, Denison
One of America’s most beloved sweethearts, Donna Reed, was born in Denison in 1921. Learn about her life, awards and honors at this 1914 German opera house that contains the Donna Reed Heritage Museum, Donna Reed Theatre and Reiney’s Soda Fountain. See photos of The Donna Reed Show cast, personal items from her life and movie memorabilia.
Wallace House, Des Moines
Fans of agriculture have to visit the Wallace House. The first Henry Wallace came to Iowa in 1862 and co-founded Wallaces’ Farmer with his sons Henry C. and John in 1895. Through this publication, he became known as “Uncle Henry”; helped establish Iowa State College (now Iowa State University) as a premier agricultural research institution; and promoted the Agricultural Extension Service. This Italianate Victorian home has been restored and includes many period pieces donated by the family. Permanent and rotating exhibits on the Wallace family are displayed.
Meredith Willson Boyhood Home, Mason City
They’ve got no trouble in Mason City. After all, Mason City is home to the Meredith Willson Boyhood Home, where the famous bandleader and composer of The Music Man lived as a child. His boyhood home is filled with family memorabilia, musical treasures and period furnishings. The nearby Music Man Square development re-creates the flavor of River City with a streetscape based on the set designs from the original musical.
Henry A. Wallace Country Life Center, Orient
What couldn’t Henry A. Wallace do? That’s the question you’ll be asking yourself after you visit the birthplace farm of Henry A. Wallace who served as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture from 1933 to 1941, U.S. Vice President from 1941-1945 and U.S. Secretary of Commerce from 1945-1946. Early in his career, he founded seed corn company Pioneer Hi-Bred and was an editor at Wallaces’ Farmer magazine (a publication started by his grandfather, Henry Wallace). The outdoor interpretive site features his philosophies, ideas and achievements through artwork, gardens, orchard, prairie, walking trail and Gathering Barn restaurant.
Wyatt Earp House, Pella
You’ll give the Wyatt Earp House the A-OK after you visit. Earp is best known as the principal survivor of the Gunfight at the OK Corral and the fearless frontier lawman of Wichita and Dodge City, Kansas. Located in Pella’s Historical Village, Earp’s boyhood home was restored in 1966 as a typical 1850s residence and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Buffalo Bill Cody Homestead, Princeton
The Wild West was a little bit wilder thanks to Buffalo Bill Cody. William Cody, born in LeClaire, was a fur trapper, gold miner, Pony Express rider and Army Scout (where he earned his nickname “Buffalo Bill” for his hunting prowess). But he was most famous for his Wild West show. The show used real cowboys and cowgirls – including Annie Oakley – to demonstrate bronco riding, roping and other skills. The 1847 farmhouse made of native limestone with walnut floors and trim was built by Cody’s father and has been restored and furnished with items typical of the mid-19th century. Buffalo graze on the land surrounding the house.
Birthstone of Captain James T. Kirk, Riverside
Are you a Trekkie? Then of course you have to visit the birthstone of Starfleet Captain James T. Kirk, who according to the popular TV show Star Trek, will be born in Riverside on March 22, 2228. See a scale model of the USS Riverside, which resembles the USS Enterprise, docked in the city park.
Andy Williams Birthplace, Wall Lake
You’ll be over the moon (river) for the birthplace home of Andy Williams. The 1960s pop singer and variety show host was born in Wall Lake in 1927 and went onto record 17 gold-certified and three platinum-certified albums. His birthplace home features items donated by Williams and members of his fan club, along with other items of local historical interest.
Herbert Hoover Presidential Library/Museum and National Historic Site, West Branch
U.S. history lovers won’t want to miss the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum. Here, you’ll find displays that tell of the life and careers of Herbert Hoover, as well as a temporary gallery that features changing exhibits relating to American history. On the park grounds, tour birthplace cottage of President Hoover, reconstructed blacksmith shop, one-room schoolhouse, Friends meeting house, restored 76-acre tallgrass prairie and gravesites of President Hoover and Mrs. Lou Henry Hoover.
Birthplace of John Wayne, Winterset
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You have to make your way to John Wayne’s birthplace, Pilgrim. After all, that’s where you can see the modest four-room house where Wayne lived. The collection includes rare photographs of the Duke and memorabilia from his movie career. A new interactive museum is scheduled to open in May 2015 and will include a welcome center, theater, extensive exhibit space and gift shop.