OTTUMWA — For the past 25 years, the train depot at 210 W. Main St. has been the home of the Wapello County Historical Museum. This central location has given the Historical Society the opportunity to preserve, display and share important links to the area's past.
A 25th anniversary celebration of the museum's current location will be held from 5-7 p.m. June 13. The event will include door prizes, popcorn, snow cones and cupcakes, and Dizzy the Clown will be on hand from 5-6 p.m.
The main purpose of the event, organizers say, is to reintroduce the community to what the museum has to offer. The ever-changing exhibits tell the story of those who came before and paved the way for present-day southeast Iowans.
“So many people who live here now have no roots here. They think there's no connection for them,” said society treasurer Phyllis Dean. “But then they come and see, and they enjoy (the museum).”
Ken Venables' father, W. Sinclair, came to the United States from England, bringing with him an emphasis and love of history. After settling in Ottumwa, he began to collect historical pieces from around the county. This led to display areas in the Municipal Building and then a house on Chester Avenue.
“He bought more showcases on his own, and the collection grew. He looked at it as an unpaid job,” Venables said.
In 1987, the Historical Society was able, through donations and the sale of the Chester Avenue property, to purchase the current museum site from the Burlington Route. Within a year, the money was raised to install an elevator, which actually cost more than the building itself.
“It was an opportunity — Ottumwa needed someone to take this building and remodel it,” board member Jim Williams said. “It took a tremendous number of volunteer hours.”