The Hoover Houses and Community Structures
Historic Structures Report
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HOOVER COTTAGE (continued)


A. Fence Enclosing the Yard

Fronting Downey and Penn streets was a picket fence. There were three swinging gates giving access to the yard from the east and north, one on the Downey Street side and two on the Penn Street side. The Downey Street gate and the east Penn Street gate were of average width, while the other Penn Street gate was wide enough to permit passage of a wagon.

Bounding Lots 42 and 43 on the west and south was a board fence. The Hoover fencing, both picket and board, was whitewashed. [1]

B. Boardwalk from Cottage to Downey Street

There was a "little boardwalk" leading from the front door of the Cottage to the Downey Street boardwalk. [2]

C. Pump

Near the southwest corner of the back porch was a wooden pump, and dangling from it a gourd dipper. Beneath the pump spout was a wooden tub. On summer evenings, Herbert, Tad, and May would cool their feet in the tub. [3]

D. Drain and Rain Barrel

Mrs. Lou Henry Hoover wrote in "Memories of a Little House," there was a well and pump near the garden, a few feet from the kitchen door. Nearby was the drain into which Huldah Hoover poured her dishwater. Whenever she wished soft water, she dipped it from the rain barrel, positioned to catch the run-off from the roof. [4]

E. Flowers and Shrubs

In addition to the "little brown house," Tad Hoover recalled, "the high windows in front of which one had to stand on a chair to see out; the old fashioned garden in front, with the white-painted fence, the marigolds, snap-dragons, tiger-lilies and the tansy bed." [5]

Huldah Hoover was an ardent gardener and, as Harriette Odell recalled, "soon had lovely flowers all around about the little house. 'Phlox, wild sweet Williams, columbine, petunias, balsam and verbenas . . . and . . . very dark red tulips." The walk was bordered with portulaca, and the flower beds edged with shells. Iris was also recalled, as were lilacs and peonies. Relatives and friends exchanged seeds, roots, bulbs, and plants. Huldah and her sister Agnes Miles, after Laban was named agent to the Osage and Kaw, exchanged such items. [6]

The flowers were beautiful in the spring of 1940. The tulips sent by Mrs. Odell were in bud, in their old fashioned brick bordered bed. "Modern tulips" planted by the Strattons, next to the lodge, were a blaze of bloom, as were the pansies, bleeding hearts, bluebells, and peonies. Aunt Mattie Pemberton's live-forever, iris roots, and columbine were "doing nicely," as were the shubbery, pines, and weeping willows. [7]

F. Vegetable Garden

Tad Hoover in 1911 placed the vegetable garden behind the Cottage. "Perhaps," he wrote, "my earliest memory is of being in the garden with my mother, and somehow with this rather indefinite picture is associated the golden red Siberian crab-apple." [8] Because of the space factor, the garden would be located on Lot 43.

G. Privy

There was a privy, probably a two-holer, near the northwest corner of Lot 42. Such a site would position it on the opposite side of the lot from the well and at the same time it would be convenient to the blacksmith shop. [9]

H. Chicken House

The Hoovers had a chicken house. This structure was located on the rear of Lot 42. [10]

I. Orchard

Tad Hoover remembered that there was a "young orchard" behind the Cottage. He particularly recalled a Siberian crab-apple. [11] Mrs. Odell recalled a few apple trees and some pear trees. [12]

J. Cellar

Lou Henry Hoover, after checking with Aunt Mattie Pemberton, wrote:

There was a cellar, of course, where vegetables and other edibles were stored beyond reach of the frost. In such a tiny house the cellar door was of necessity outside, demanding the throwing of shawl over head and shoulders as one ran to it from the back door of the kitchen on a freezing day. The sloping cellar door still stands at the left as one leaves the kitchen. [13]

K. Outbuildings Purchased or Built by Port Scellers

The Scellers privy, like the Hoovers', was behind the Cottage. Between the privy and the big barn in which Port Scellers parked his separator and traction engine, when they were not in use, was Jennie Scellers' chicken house. The Scellers privy and chicken house may have been built by the Hoovers. [14]

In October 1912 Port Scellers erected a coal and woodhouse behind the northwest corner of the Cottage. [15] Then, in late March 1913, he purchased from Mrs. J C. Stoufer her barn and adjoining lot on south Poplar. Scellers employed A. C. Hunter to put a concrete foundation under his new barn and built a concrete sidewalk in front of his lots fronting on Downey Street. This work was completed in the last week of May. [16] Port Scellers used his new barn, which was west of his old barn, as a stable for horses. Glenn Brown rented space in the northwest corner of this barn for his horse. [17]

13. L. H. Hoover, "Memories of a Little House," not paginated. Mrs. Pemberton had informed Mrs. Hoover that West Branch cellars were dug to keep out the frost during the cold Iowa winters. Items placed in them never froze unless there were no fires in the house for several days, permitting the frost to penetrate through the floors. Mrs. Pemberton to L. H. H., Sept. 30, 1939, HHPL, Post Presidential Subject—Birthplace.

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Last Updated: 28-Jul-2006