Every year I get the opportunity to travel around Iowa and adjoining states as I share the life story of Laura Ingalls Wilder with fans of all ages. Every year I say I’m going to get better at sharing those places with you. Hopefully this will be the year.
Iowa Tourist Sites
It used to be that, in the great tradition of the often mocked the world’s biggest ball of twine (there are several – farmers like to save twine), you’d hear about various places in Iowa on a regular basis. Whether it was the Amana Colonies, Plow in Oak, Albert the Bull, or the Little Brown Church, you heard about these places a lot. Over the course of my lifetime these quirky Iowa spots seem to have fallen out of favor to the point that you don’t hear about them much. So I hope to point more of them out as I tour around the state.
I adore a good spiral staircase. The one in Traer, Iowa is a gorgeous one and unique because it was built to provide the only access to the business on the second floor of the building. It stands free at the curb connected by a catwalk to the entrance to the second floor of the building. It’s such a unique sight that it’s become a symbol of the town which it plays into with the slogan “Winding Up in Traer.”
A man by the name of E.E. Taylor built the stairs to provide access to the offices of The Star-Clipper which were in the second floor of the building he built. The first floor was kept completely separate for rental space. It created a very unique site. Over the years the building changed hands several times and the stairs were in danger of disappearing, but the community always rallied around to keep their town’s unique landmark. The Traer Historical Museum now owns the building. Learn more of the history on the town’s landmark.
Add a Dash of Pepper to Your Visit
I didn’t actually make a stop at the world’s second largest collection of Salt and Pepper Shakers, but I’ll have to try to get back.
Although it seems that it has really gone out of fashion to collect things like souvenir spoons and thimbles from the places you’ve visited or different designs of salt and pepper shakers, collecting salt and pepper shakers used to be a popular hobby. You’d try to get as many as you could in different designs. My great-great-grandmother collected them and we still have a pair from her collection (2 bears cubs each hanging on a branch). Take a look at the brochure I linked to above to get an idea of all the different kinds and if you’re looking for something to collect it’s fun to see all the different types there are. Otherwise consider stopping by the museum just to see them all.
Sarah S. Uthoff is a nationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder authority and has presented at five of the Wilder homesites, many times at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, many conferences and numerous libraries, museums, and events around the Midwest. She is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales fighting to bring the History, Mystery, Magic, and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation. How can you help? Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, look at her photos, and find her on Facebook , Twitter , Google+, LinkedIn , SlideShare, and Academia.edu . Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and former director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.