The lastest installation of Grand Old Homes introduces the home of Jan and Eileen Tjeerdsma located at 714 West Cherry.
The house was built in 1900 by James and Catherine Robertson as a residence for them and their unmarried daughters. James Robertson was born on Sept. 22, 1833, in Perth, Scotland. and was educated in parish schools and a seminary in Perth. He worked on his father's farm until 1856 when he emigrated to Ontario, Canada.
He later moved to Cherokee County in 1869 and worked with James Archer, prominent citizen of early Cherokee, who had interests in the lumber, grain, and coal industries.
He also partnered with T. Patton, one of Cherokee's first citizens, to establish the Robertson & Patton Firm specializing in lumber, grain, sashes, doors, and blinds. The interior wood used in this home bears the firm's stamp.
Roberstson also had a hand in organizing the Washta State Bank in 1889 and served as president for many years. Board of directors of that bank included N.T. Burroughs, owner of Cherokee's famous magnetic spring. Robertson was also a charter member of the Presbyterian Church in Cherokee.
Robertson's wife was Catherine Comrie of Scotland and their children included Margaret, Isabel, Agnes, William, Peter, James, Jr., Sarah, Alexander, and John. Sarah and John died in infancy. Their daugther, Isabel, married A. S. Wilson who managed the Robertson Lumber Company for years. Their daughter, Agnes Robertson Kenyon, was elected Cherokee County superintendent of schools for several terms. Their sons, William and Peter, died tragically while swimming in the Little Sioux River. One boy was pulled under by the swift current while trying to rescue the other.
Their other son James, Jr. was a member of Cherokee's first graduating class of 1884 and he later served on the school board and became the mayor of Washta. Another, son, Alexander Robertson, married Nannie Briggs, granddaughter of Iowa's first governor, Ansel Briggs. Alexander also served on the school board and was the postmaster of Washta.
Members of the Robertson family occupied the home until 1919 when it was then purchased by William Mulvaney.
In 1939 the home was purchased by the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church and housed the Servant of Mary until 1950. A newspaper addressed to the Servants of Mary was found in a wall cavity, and the outline of a cross was clearly visible in the entrance hall as layers of old wallpaper were exposed.
In keeping with Victorian times, the home had a wrap-around porch. A section of the porch was removed at some point in history but the front porch is still intact. A photograph from the archives reveals its original appearance.
The pantry had an icebox positioned on an outside wall. The wall was constructed with a small door to provide access to the back of the icebox. Local deliverymen could then replenish ice without disturbing the household. And unlike many iceboxes with drainage trays that often overflowed, this icebox was fitted with discharge tube leading to the basement.
The roof and ceiling in the servant's quarters were purposely constructed at a lower elevation than the family quarters. This was a subtle reminder of their lower social status.
Built in a transitional period between the high Victorian and Colonial Revival/Neoclassical era, the Robertson home is actually a combination of styles. Victorian traits include a steep, asymmetrical roofline, an expansive one-story porch, bay windows, and ornamental eave brackets. Neoclassical traits include Tuscan columns, dentil cornice moldings, and an arched, Palladian window.
A trip to the city archives is enlightening! Color schemes used by early residents of Cherokee were anything but lifeless and dull. Photographs reveal extensive use of color. Dark, rich, and somewhat "muddy" colors were popular. Three to seven colors were customarily used to emphasize unique architectural features of early homes. In keeping with tradition, the Tjeerdsma residence is painted a variety of colors patterned after an old Victorian inn.
The first "ready mixed" paints were introduced in 1867. In the following years, factories sprang up across the nation providing a limitless supply of paint. Each factory promoted its own line of colors and manufacturers developed elaborate paint schemes describing proper selection and placement of color. Because Victorians took great pride in their homes, they created a great demand for "ready mixed" paint.
The Home's Interior Features (This is an accurate description based on research. The first paragraph describes the formal rooms and is related to the paragraphs above.
Although the exterior is a combination of styles, the interior is mainly Victorian in design. The variety and quality of woods used throughout the home reflect Robertson's appreciation and knowledge fine woods. When guests entered his home, they were greeted in a spacious receiving room designed with a wood-paneled staircase, bay window, and a fireplace; the room was framed in quarter-sawn oak and crowned with winged cherubs. The formal parlor featured a beveled glass window and pocket doors; it was framed in ribbon-cut cherry and crowned with bows and wreaths. The dining room featured a bay window and a built-in hutch; it was framed in quarter-sawn oak and crowned with Grecian urns.
An informal sitting room adjoined the dining room and provided a rear entrance to the home. It was framed in quarter-sawn sycamore and was crowned with fleur-de-lis applique. The original kitchen was strictly utilitarian in nature and was equipped with bare necessities. However, the room was adequately sized so the Tjeerdsmas turned it into a family kitchen. After undergoing an extensive renovation, its current design includes Victorian style cabinetry, modern appliances, and a build-in pantry. The original pantry, an 8' x 9' room, is now a modern bathroom.