At one time, our state had thousands of one-room schoolhouses dotting the landscape. As populations grew and shifted and school districts consolidated, it made more sense to build larger schools that could accommodate the demographic changes and educational requirements of the day. Sadly, many of the one-room buildings were ultimately torn down or fell into disrepair.
Of course, some survived and were re-purposed for other uses.
In 2018, I profiled the Prairie Arts Council Park in Sheldon that has five different types of one-room schoolhouses. It is one of the only places in the United States to have such a preserved and museum-worthy collection of schools that has been moved to a singular location.
Another such survivor is in Moorhead in southern Monona County. This particular building is now home to the Loess Hills Hospitality Association and serves as a Loess Hills visitor center and gift shop and welcomes guests from all over the world who are taking in this rare but beautiful geologic phenomenon.
Moorhead, which is located on the Loess Hills National Scenic Byway, has a population of about 225 people so it's not too hard to find this particular building near the downtown buildings.
The grounds around the building are almost a park-like with benches and beautiful flowers to enjoy.
There were different architectural models of one-room schools and this particular building, as noted by the plaque on the door, is an "Iowa Standard School". It is not open every day but, but have hours on five days a week (at least they did pre-COVID 19).
Inside the door, you'll find yourself in the foyer which is lined with brochures, maps, and information about other stops in the area. Of course, Iowa Adventurer is always a great resource for finding things to do but I'd also recommend grabbing these fliers to build your day or weekend of exploring.
The main part of the building is chock full of gifts, souvenirs, and other local memorabilia. Many of the items for sale are produced by local vendors and artists.
From cards, bibs, and jewelry, and painted rocks to artwork, wine, and t-shirts, there's no shortage of possible Loess Hills branded treasures to purchase.
This particular eagle painting really caught my eye.
Like any good schoolhouse from the period, there are antique pictures of the presidents (up until a certain point) hanging from the ceiling trim.
Of course, it would not be a welcome / visitor center and gift shop without the availability of public restrooms.
The very nice woman working the afternoon that my two friends and I visited gave us all kinds of information and provided the very good recommendation of visiting the nearby picturesque Ingemann Danish Lutheran Church.
She also gave us each a small bag of loess (wind blown) soil. These bags were made up a year or two ago when RAGBRAI came through the area and these were passed out to bicyclists and they still had some leftover. I will display it proudly with the geode (our state rock) that I had cracked open from Hound Dog Rock Shop in Clarence.
I know they have had some disruption in their hours because of COVID-19, so you may wish to reach out via phone or their Facebook page first. However, if you are in the area in the future to enjoy the natural beauty of our Loess Hills and they are open, be sure to stop in to see the fine people at the Loess Hills Hospitality Association and their beautifully preserved one-room schoolhouse.
As always, I welcome your suggestions of places to visit and profile whether in Monona County or any of the other 98 counties in Iowa. If you have a good idea or would like to host the Iowa Adventurer, please drop me a note through this site.