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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Grand Meadow Heritage Center undertakes restoration

Monday, August 20, 2007

New home - Upon its arrival at the Grand Meadow Heritage Center, Ben and Deanna Flathers bid farewell to the log cabin built 35 years ago by Ben's father, Mack Flathers. The structure was donated to the Heritage Center by the Flathers family. Photo by Ron Flewelling.
With its Heritage Days celebration just around the corner, the Grand Meadow Heritage Center has been the location of a flurry of activity these past summer months.

Not only has much of this activity centered around some repair and restoration work on one of the Center's existing buildings, but a new addition has been made to the Center as well.

The Heritage Center now boasts another feather in its pioneer cap with the addition of another "log cabin."

This unique structure was built in 1972 by Woodbury County farmer and history buff Mack Flathers, who used old telephone poles as the building blocks for his project.

Originally constructed as a playhouse for his grandkids, the cabin has spent the past 35 years on the Flathers family farm near Rock Branch.

Over the years, the cabin was used for a whole lot of Flathers family gatherings, reunions and picnics.

When the television series "Little House on the Prairie" gained in popularity, there was an increase in interest in those frontier days of yore and soon visitors to the Flathers cabin included area students on field trips who made the journey to savor the pioneer existence.

Interest in the Flathers cabin didn't wane in the winter months either, as area residents and local organizations dropped in to see the pioneer structure lit up with Christmas lights.

As the years passed and the Flathers grandchildren grew up and left the nest, interest in the cabin began to wane and soon the structure was only used for storage.

Mack's son Ben, who helped his father build the cabin, made the decision to donate the structure to the Grand Meadow Heritage Center, a location where it would definitely be appreciated for its insight into early Iowa rural Americana.

The cabin was moved earlier this summer and now resides at its new home on the Heritage Center grounds where it will undoubtedly receive a lot of attention during future Heritage Day celebrations.

Much time has also been spent this summer giving another of the Heritage Center's bragging rights structures a facelift.

Thanks to a grant from the Historic Resource Development Program, support from Cherokee County's rural betterment fund, the Grand Meadow Heritage Center's own fund raising efforts and much volunteer work, there has been a has been a good deal of restoration to the Center's two-room school house/teacherage.

The two-room schoolhouse is a two-story structure, which was built in 1912.

The first floor of the building handled the education for grades first through sixth while the top floor handled the academic matters for grades seventh through 12th.

When the large brick consolidated school building was erected in 1920, this building was remodeled to house teachers and the custodian, a duty it carried out until 1965.

This summer, the teacherage received some much needed attention in the form of new shingles.

A lot of repair work was also performed on its windows and other structural damage.

The attention to the building will not stop with summer's end, either.

Even now, plans are being made to further restore the building by replacing the school bell tower and also restoring one of the teacher's quarters.

It should also be pointed out that according to the architects at the Iowa Cultural and History Center in Des Moines, this is the last building in Iowa to be used as a school and as a teacherage.

All other similar buildings have been demolished or converted to other uses.

The structure is also eligible for the National Registry of Historic Places.

These buildings, as well as all the other historic attractions at the Heritage Center, may be seen and admired first hand by attending the upcoming Annual Grand Meadow Heritage Festival which will take place on Sept. 8th and 9th.

The Grand Meadow Heritage Center is located in southern Cherokee County four miles west of Washta on C-66 and two miles north on L-36.

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