Last week we visited West Branch, Iowa, east of Iowa City. West Branch is home of the Herbert Hoover birthplace and presidential library. Yes, Hoover was the only president from Iowa. There is, of course, the library, and a block or so of restored homes between the birthplace house and the downtown area. But what I really enjoyed was the little 2 room home where Hoover was born. The family of 5 shared the bedroom, including a double bed with a double trundle, and a cradle. In the living area, the stove was removed for the summer, and installed in the “summer kitchen” which opened onto the back porch. I tried to visualize cooking in the living area for the winter, as well as spending most of your time in that small room with 3 small children, and it sure was hard. Imagine no refrigeration, no indoor plumbing , no electricity, no washing machine – no built-in cabinets, no closets, no privacy.
The whole building could fit in our living room, but it was not an unusual size for families in the time period, 1871. The furniture in the living area was not original to the building, according to the guide. Across the street was the blacksmith shop that belonged to Hoover’s father.