If I told you that that the world's foremost historical furniture maker and a one-of-a-kind professional theater are all under the same roof of a more than century old building in Jefferson, Iowa...would you believe me?
I hope so...because it's 100 percent true.
On a Saturday earlier this year (several months ago), two dear friends of mine and I spent about two hours in near complete awe of one Iowa's true hidden gems...and increasingly one of our state's best tourist stops: RVP 1875 and History Boy Theatre.
They are both the labors of love for one man: Robby Pedersen. For years Pedersen was the lead furniture maker at Iowa's Living History Farms before he opted to go out on his own and put down roots in his hometown of Jefferson.
In recent years, Robby has turned the century-old Milligan Lumber, Grain, and Coal building just off the square in Jefferson into an astonishing museum, furniture workshop, and theatre.
History Boy Theatre
A significant part of the building is occupied by the History Boy Theatre.
When my friends and I visited, they were just concluding a nice run of the musical, "Hands on a Hardbody".
Many of these theatre seats were salvaged from a theatre in Texas and the entire place was built by Pedersen.
In many respects, the construction makes it feel like you are watching a show in an entirely different century.
This theatre was launched in 2009, so next year it will be celebrating its 10 year anniversary. It's capacity, according to the very informative website, is approximately 120 persons.
There's a nice area where patrons can find some concessions and refreshments.
There are even a couple of cats roaming around.
I hope to be able to get to a show in the next year. Sometimes they even have dinner theatre events. I would invite you to check out their website and social media pages to learn more and keep an eye on their upcoming events.
Furniture makers, decades ago, often signed their initials and the year the furniture piece was made.
In the case of RVP 1875, it's never "a new year".
Everything Pedersen makes is from the style of 1875 and everything used to make the furniture was around in 1875. He's spent countless hours studying the tactics, tools, and styles of the period and what he creates is as authentic as you will find anywhere in the world.
In fact, even his prices are from 1875...he just adjusts them to inflation. I would encourage you to read more about Robby and the business on his website because there is a lot of interesting detail to be shared.
His massive display of antique tools and over 100 pieces of furniture make his showroom an accredited museum. There's no cost to visit but he does accept free-will donations.
The breadth of what he produces - from beds and tables to caskets and trunks - is remarkable. The craftsmanship is so precise.
If you have the time and Robby is around when you visit and able to give demonstrations, it's well worth it. You will learn a lot.
I would doubt you will find a collection of tools like this anywhere else.
Aside from the tours and demonstrations, Robby will, from time to time, teach classes and he also employs apprentices. All of this is in addition to the theatre.
To get the full experience, I would recommend spending at least 60 to 90 minutes and maybe up to two hours - especially if Robby is around to show you how how things are done and give you the complete picture.
To me, this is an amazing example of the kinds of great places that Iowa has in all 99 counties. It's talented people who are making a difference in their communities that is so inspiring. When I launched this site in 2017, this is exactly the kind of thing I wanted to bring added attention to.
There's a lot of momentum in and around Jefferson these days and I will look forward to stopping back from time to time.
Please take a look at some of my other stops while in town, including: the Greene County Courthouse, Greene Bean Coffee, the Bell Tower, the Gallup House, Deal's Orchard, Sally's Alley, Sensibly Chic, and Eweniquely Yours, among others.