When you think of Pella, Iowa you think “TULIP TIME”. 2015 marked the 80th annual Tulip Time Celebration which is held in May of each year. We missed the big celebration and never having been to Pella I figured a couple hours would cover the little town’s highlights. WRONG! We spent 5 hours in Pella and if scheduling had not been an issue we could have easily spent another day exploring Pella.
The town was named Pella and Pella has many meanings. In this instance the name was chosen by its founder, Hendrick P. Scholte and is a derivative of a Hebrew word that signifies a city of refuge. Pella, Iowa offered asylum to people of Holland who fled to the United States to escape religious persecution in 1847. Scholte gathered information about America and he considered Texas where it was too hot; Missouri where slavery existed and Iowa. Iowa was the best choice and Hendrick Scholte bought 18,000 acres and called it Pella. I believe the original plat with the original street names reflected the hopes and dreams of the 800 initial immigrants: Entrance, Inquiring, Perseverance, Reformation, Gratitude, Experience, Patience, Confidence, Expectation and Accomplishment. Unfortunately many of the streets have been renamed.
“They came not for wealth, which they might in later years enjoy in the parent country. They came rather seeking a home of refuge, where civil and religious liberty, denied them in the Netherlands, might be enjoyed, and where those noble principles and virtues, dear to them as life, might be established, and expanded and developed. And when they came here they came to become Americans. In choosing this country as their home and the home of their posterity, they chose also the American institutions. The moment their feet pressed the American soil they became American citizens.”
When I visit a new community my first stop is the Historical Society’s Museum! Typically the general day to day operation is run by volunteers — they know “stuff” and they are open to sharing the good and the bad about their history. They also know the best lodging and eating establishments. Pella’s Historical Society’s staff and volunteers did not disappoint.
Pella is home to the Vermeer Mill which is the tallest working windmill in the United States. This is not just any grist mill grinding wheat into flour, this is a symbol of love for the Dutch culture and a community working together to preserve that culture. Harry Vermeer proposed the mill and put up the initial couple million dollars to have the mill built in the Netherlands. Then the community stepped in to help raise funds to bring the mill to Pella where it was rebuilt by skilled Dutch craftsmen. The fundraising continues today to keep the Mill in working order. Completed in 2002 the Mill uses only wind power and volunteers grind the wheat into flour.
The Mill is operated by volunteers.
A look inside:
Product… I bought a bag of flour and I am looking forward to baking with it soon.
The Historical Village, representing a mid-1800s Dutch Village, is probably one of the best restoration projects I have had the opportunity to visit. There are 24 buildings, some of which have been on this site for more than 150 years. They surround a courtyard with beautiful gardens and red brick paths. The buildings and their contents are not only as they were or would have been over a hundred years ago but they are spotless. (I have an aversion to historic sites and museums with objects covered in dust that has been accumulating for months if not years.)
Located on the second floor of the Interpretive Center is a miniature village depicting over a hundred miniature buildings that were designed from actual photos of homes and buildings in Holland. What began as a work-study project in 1938 for students in Pella’s public schools and Central College has grown into a city that comes alive with little Dutch people going about their daily lives in the 1840s. Every detail is REAL from the buildings and their furnishings, to the trees and foliage, to the dolls dresses and beyond. The village is and probably will always be a work in progress as volunteers continue to add to the display.
You can spend literally hours in the miniature village just looking at the fishermen, the chimney sweep, the delivery boys, and a game of checkers in the park. Nothing has been missed when it comes to the Dutch and how they played and worked. Be sure and pick up their brochure: “Welcome to Pella’s Historical Village’s Miniature Dutch Village” before you enter the little city. It contains many items within the village that you will not want to miss.
Homes and buildings in Pella have preserved the Dutch architecture; statues depicting the Dutch culture are prominent on the grounds of Central College, in the Gardens of the Scholte House as well as other locations in Pella.
We saw and learned so much in Pella and we will return at Tulip Time next Spring. We missed seeing the Scholte House and Museum. exploring Molengracht Plaza, a visit to Vermeer Manufacturing and their museum, Central College and Wyatt Earp’s boyhood home. Yes Wyatt Earp grew up in Pella.
Pella has so much to offer for all ages. The 800 original immigrants would be proud of how their culture has been preserved and shared with others.