A half hour west of Des Moines, on the border of Madison and Dallas Counties, is the community of Earlham. With it's population of around 1400, it's a town with a number of nice community amenities yet also conveniently located to everything available in the sprawling Des Moines metro. Earlham has a lot of great history and a significant piece of that is the Bricker Price Block built in 1900.
It's been recently added to the National Register of Historic Places because of it's unique Romanesque architecture and significance as an operations hub of an early telephone company. As it noted on the building's Wikipedia page, "It was built in 1900 by J.E. Walton. The building was jointly owned by its namestakes Cephas D. Bricker and Walter J. Price. They each owned a separate half of the building. Its unified facade features two mirror images with a central staircase in between."
As is nicely detailed on it's website, there is a lot more to this building. It's served the community in a number of ways over it's more 100 years. However, in 2015, a storm ripped through down and badly damaged the structure. But instead of giving up on the building or letting it fall further into disrepair, a grassroots effort organized a plan to give the building new life.
In 2018, the building re-opened and the website describes it as, "The cornerstone for renewed community life in Earlham and Madison County, extending a welcome to guests from Central Iowa and beyond. On the ground floor, The Hare & the Hound Restaurant is one of the area’s newest destination dining spots. Upstairs, the Hadley Family Social Club with its classic arched windows, tall tin ceilings and refinished wood floors, is a beautiful setting for parties, receptions, weddings, dinners and corporate meetings."
On a Friday night earlier this spring, I made the trek over to Earlham to check out the building, enjoy a meal, and also take in an improvisation show.
The Hare & the Hound Restaurant occupies the first floor and offers ample seating on both sides of the wall. The north side of the building includes an oven and a food preparation space.
The south side of the building includes a bar.
One of their specialties is wood fired pizza but they offer a wider selection of choices, too.
There's also an expansive beverage menu.
I ordered one of their wood fired pizzas. It was quite delicious. I might give something else a try during my next visit, but I wouldn't turn down a pizza.
After my meal, I jumped on the elevator and headed up to the social club/event space.
Upstairs, the expansive space is divided by the shared staircase.
This is where you really get a good appreciation of the unique architecture.
I was there to see Des Moines-based improvisation group Chowdown. They are made up of friends of mine and I try to get to as many of their regularly scheduled monthly shows at the Des Moines Social Club.
However, the space is such that any number of events could be held there. From the ornate ceiling to the hardwood floors, it's wonderful to see it all so lovingly restored.
Next to their culinary kitchen, a small bar was set up for the event.
There are some installations that detail some of the donors that helped make the restoration possible. Additionally, there are a few plaques on the wall that give added detail to the history of the building.
They have a regular calendar of events scheduled if you are looking for the #EarlhamExperience.
They also offer classes, including an improv class. I highly recommend improv classes.
On the way out, I spotted a stairs leading to a patio on the back of the building. I presume that during these warmer events, that space could be quite enjoyable.
I enjoyed a great evening and after reading a number of articles about this building, I'm glad I could finally make it to Earlham to experience it for myself. It's a credit to this community that they worked together to make this a reality. Our state is full of beautiful old buildings like the Bricker Price Block and hopefully its success inspires other towns to bring new life to their historic structures.
As always, I welcome your suggestions of places to visit and profile whether in Madison 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 website.