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Framing the Obvious in Siouxland and the Joslyn Museum, Omaha, NE

14 Dec

When out shooting sometimes I don’t really know what to expect until I see an image in front of me. During an outing with my Photo Safari class through the Lifelong Learning program at Western Iowa Tech Community College I was struck by some columns in downtown Sioux City.

in downtown Sioux City, Iowa Saturday Nov. 4, 2017. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga)

I never really noticed City Hall behind it until that night.

And during my trip to Council Bluffs and visiting the historic General Dodge House columns again caught my attention.

Columns line the porch of the Dodge House, former residence of one Gen. Greville M. Dodge, a Civil War Veteran and railroad builder who settled in Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday Oct. 4, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

As did a recent to to the Joslyn Museum in Omaha, NE. The architecture there in the building itself is as much a tribute to art and the art of building as are the works found within it. It was a good day to wander through the museum and enjoy the building and what it offers in and of itself.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Columns in the Joslyn Art Museum frame other building aspects in Omaha, NE Thursday Nov. 2, 2017. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga)

Columns in the Joslyn Art Museum frame other building aspects in Omaha, NE Thursday Nov. 2, 2017. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga)

Columns in the Joslyn Art Museum frame other building aspects in Omaha, NE Thursday Nov. 2, 2017. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga)

Celebrating Christmas in Siouxland, Plymouth County Museum

12 Dec

During the Christmas holiday, it is hard to escape the celebration. In the Midwest, Iowa and Siouxland people celebrate Christmas. Lights are up most places and Christmas music fills the air. Every year at the Plymouth County Museum it hosts a Nativity set display and a number of community members lend their displays for others to view. It is pretty amazing how many different examples of nativity sets there are.

A variety of nativity scenes are on display at the Plymouth County Historical Museum in Le Mars, Iowa Saturday Nov. 25, 2017. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga)

A variety of nativity scenes are on display at the Plymouth County Historical Museum in Le Mars, Iowa Saturday Nov. 25, 2017. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga)

These nativity scenes are made out of a variety of material and hail from a plethora of locations all honoring the birth of Jesus. The craftmanship used to create some of these scenes are pretty amazing.

A variety of nativity scenes are on display at the Plymouth County Historical Museum in Le Mars, Iowa Saturday Nov. 25, 2017. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga)

A variety of nativity scenes are on display at the Plymouth County Historical Museum in Le Mars, Iowa Saturday Nov. 25, 2017. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga)

The display takes up the most of the top floor of the museum, formerly a local high school. So it is a large space. I always find museums are fun places to visit. One can learn about the past, the present and people’s state of mind by viewing exhibits. And it’s a nice place to divert one’s attention on a blustery day reveling in the moment of a momentous holiday to some.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Learning History around Siouxland, the Dodge House, Council Bluffs

10 Dec

On a recent outing I traveled south to the city of Council Bluffs which is probably outside the Siouxland perimeter but still is situated within the Loess Hills defined area. I wanted to visit a historic house, the Dodge House, a residence of the youngest Civil War general, Grenville M. Dodge and later a builder of the railroad network that traversed early America. Like all well maintained historical residences the home contains the essence of the era plus artifacts of the man’s life.

The Dodge House was the residence of one Gen. Grenville M. Dodge, a Civil War Veteran and railroad builder who settled in Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday Oct. 4, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A portrait of Gen. Grenville M. Dodge, a Civil War Veteran and railroad builder who settled in Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday Oct. 4, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The General lived quite an eventful life and at the time settled in Council Bluffs on what then was a frontier of America. On the Council Bluff’s website this bit of history of General Dodge is recorded: “In 1853, Grenville M. Dodge took charge of a crew surveying central Iowa to find a terminus for the Rock Island Railroad on the Missouri River.  Dodge chose Council Bluffs, and later he settled his growing young family there in 1855. Dodge and his brother created a banking house which merged into the Pacific National Bank and ultimately became the longest continuously chartered bank in Iowa’s history.  In 1858 Dodge made the acquaintance of an Illinois railroad lawyer named Abraham Lincoln, who had been hired by railroad financier Thomas Durant to do work in Iowa where Dodge was engaged in surveying.”

The General and his family lived in style as he pursued his military and later engineering career.

Docent Connie Spencer, right, leads a tour through the Dodge House in Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday Oct. 4, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A study for Gen. Grenville M. Dodge, a Civil War Veteran and railroad builder who settled in Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday Oct. 4, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A bedroom in the Dodge House in Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday Oct. 4, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Looking down the stairwell from the top floor of the Dodge House in Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday Oct. 4, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I always enjoy learning a little more history about places I live in and near. For some it might be useless information but knowing how life was previously lived is never a bad thing. Some just lived life a little better than others.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Festival of Trees in Siouxland, Cherokee

2 Dec

Sometimes revisiting places in Siouxland leads one to pleasant little surprises. One such visit to Cherokee recently I dropped by the Sanford Museum and Planetarium and came upon its Festival of Trees.

A house from across the street is reflected in the windows of the Sanford Museum and Planetarium in Cherokee, Iowa Saturday Nov. 25, 2017. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga)

Small Christmas trees decorated by a variety of groups from the area each giving their own tree a special spin and unique look.

Each of the Festival of Trees entries have unique aspects about them during the exhibit at the Sanford Museum and Planetarium in Cherokee, Iowa Saturday Nov. 25, 2017. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga)

Sometimes those decorating exercise their sense of humor as well.

Playing on words for one Festival of Trees entry at the Sanford Museum and Planetarium in Cherokee, Iowa Saturday Nov. 25, 2017. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga)

So it’s fun to visit different communities this time of year to see what is going on, even though the theme of Christmas is the same. Pleasant surprises await the person willing to make the time to visit.

The museum and planetarium provides the community and surrounding area residents a place when there are art shows and history programs. A small display with the history and information about the museums’s benefactor plus a room with some items from a founding community family gives visitors a little background. Just another reason to do a bit of local travel to explore areas in Siouxland.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A decorated tree in the “Sanford” room at the Sanford Museum and Planetarium in Cherokee, Iowa Saturday Nov. 25, 2017. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga)

History about the Sanford family at the Sanford Museum and Planetarium in Cherokee, Iowa Saturday Nov. 25, 2017. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga)

Seeing History in Siouxland, Marcus Historical Center

3 Oct

When I attended a fair earlier this summer at Marcus, Iowa I also stopped in at the Marcus Historical Center.

The Marcus Historical Center sits across from the Marcus Community Fairgrounds in Marcus, Iowa Saturday Aug. 12, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Most small communities have their own museum, or at least a place that is a repository of historical information about the community. It’s a great place when visiting somewhere new to learn more about the history of that place and get a better understanding of the community and area. At the time I was in the museum there were more older people looking and reminiscing about the “good old days”. Which to me always seems to be a matter of perspective and what side of the divide you happened to be on during that earlier period.

But there were some families there with children in tow. Taking a break from the fair and “seeing” some history. And every place has different items and events to tell. Many have yearbook photos from early and later days as well as newspaper clippings depicting certain memorable events that took place.

Visitors of the Marcus Historical Center look over exhibits in Marcus, Iowa Saturday Aug. 12, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The old saying of “If you don’t know where you’ve been so how do you know where you are going?” always comes to mind when I visit these museums. A lot of smaller communities were more robust in their early years when the railroad was first making its way across the nation. Communities sprang up, thrived, and then began to scale back a bit as businesses ceased and residents left and larger communities started attracting younger people who moved for opportunity. And in some cases, the railroad left as well, leaving behind memories but no clear direction of where the community would be headed.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Learning about Siouxland History, Sioux City

24 Aug

Recently I went on a walking tour in Sioux City sponsored by the local public museum and hosted by Tom Munson, an archivist and historian with the Sioux City Public Museum. After a walk through the Peirce Mansion, a historic home in Sioux City, Munson talked about John Peirce and other early settlers and “movers and shakers” of Sioux City history. Siouxland is replete with history throughout its region having been settled in the mid-1800’s by those looking west from the East Coast for another start in life. John Peirce was one those early settlers and land speculator in the early days of Sioux City.

A portrait of John Peirce hangs in a formal sitting room as visitors explore the Peirce Mansion and talk with volunteers about restorations and the history of it in Sioux City, Iowa, Thursday July 13, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Munson took his group of about 150-200 people through a walking tour of Peirce’s built home in which he never actually lived throughout the neighborhood and talks about the interconnecting lives of those early financiers who helped build Sioux City. The 2-3 block walk showed off changing styles of architecture as well as come colorful history of the city’s founder’s and those who helped propel it to success in it’s early days.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Siouxland History in Harrison County, Welcome Center Missouri Valley

12 Aug

A few weeks back as I was getting out exploring some new areas to me in Siouxland, I finally visited the Harrison County Welcome Center outside of Missouri Valley. The Welcome Center and its museum originally started as a personal project of a Preston Niles who moved there and started an orchard and then a store and finally a small museum as it was situated on the Lincoln Highway, Route 30, that travelled across the country from east to west. The Welcome Center and its small village and museum has so many items and pieces of history that it’s easy to spend a couple of hours reading about all the items.

The Welcome Center and Harrison County Historical Museum near Missouri Valley, Iowa Friday, June 16, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Situated outside is a long wooden culvert that was used during the WWII era when metal was in short supply for drainage for communities. Talking with a docent she informed me that when more recent work began around the museum area, the culvert was discovered. And rather than throwing it into the landfill, added it to the other historical items, such as a Bible from the Civil War era, that is from the local area surrounding Missouri Valley.

A Bible from the Civil War era on display at the Welcome Center and Harrison County Historical Museum near Missouri Valley, Iowa Friday, June 16, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Docents at the Welcome Center and Harrison County Historical Museum explained that during WWII with a short supply of metal because of the war, wooden culverts were used for drainage in the area near Missouri Valley, Iowa Friday, June 16, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

During a massive flood of the Missouri River during 2011 the docent told me some structures were lost and items from those individual displays were put together in a newer building that is more flood resistant than the former wooden structures, although not as historic in nature. And on a hot day, as this particular day, visitors can also try out some cider that is made there. Evidently part of the original owner Niles had an orchard and beside selling its fruit, also made non-alcoholic beverages from the fruit.

The Welcome Center and museum area is certainly a nice place to spend half a day acquainting oneself with local history and understanding some more of Iowa’s development in Siouxland.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

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