The Ireton Area Historical Society (IAHS) was organized in May, 1978. Its first major tasks were gathering photos for display, interesting the community in the town's history and publishing Ireton, A Proud Heritage: 1882-1982. Once those challenges had been completed and Ireton's centennial celebration was past, Society members turned their attentions to acquiring a suitable house or building in which to display their growing collection of antiques, photographs and Ireton memorabilia. In the Spring of 1986, the Society was able to acquire a home on the southeast corner of 3rd and Ash Streets, just east of the public school.
The home was constructed in 1903 for farm implement dealer J. Phillip Riter and his family. Although legend has it that it was built as a wedding present for Mrs. Riter (the former Minnie Oloff) by her parents, the Riters had been married in 1893. They lived near Struble before moving to Ireton in 1902. According to newspaper accounts, in 1903 they constructed a new "9-room residence" on a 1/2 block (4 lots) that J.P. Riter purchased east of the public school. Perhaps Mrs. Riter's parents (Mr. & Mrs. Louis Oloff) gave them the home (or some of the home's cost) as a 10th anniversary present. Mr. and Mrs. Riter raised their family, Orin, Lester, Pearl, Lola and Inez, in the home. After Minnie (Oloff) Riter passed away in 1931, J. P. moved to Hawarden. He passed away in 1948. When it was constructed the home was one of the largest and grandest in Ireton.
In October 1936, Ed Van Engen purchased the property. Ed and his wife, the former Trina Van Schepen, raised a family of eight in the home: Gert, Louise, Geneva, Glen, Jean, Joyce, Marlene and Carol. Another daughter died in infancy. Glen was killed in Greenland in 1948 while serving in the U.S. Army. Ed passed away in 1974. Trina sold the house to the IAHS in 1987 but continued living in Ireton until 1994. She passed away on January 9, 1997 at the age of 96.
Although the house was in fair shape for its age, IAHS members spent many hours repairing and decorating the home. From 1986 to 1989, the IAHS undertook a myriad of repairs including repairing walls, removing wallpaper, painting, papering, filling a cistern, fixing windows and pouring new sidewalks. Finally, in December 1989, the house was open to the public for the first time during the Society's "Tour of Homes". It was later open for Memorial Day and decorated with American flags as shown at left.
Work continued in 1990 and 1991 including tuckpointing the chimney in the kitchen, shingling the entire house and additional interior renovations, furniture acquisitions and refurbishment.
In 1992, Russ Marshall and Lynn Juffer undertook reconstruction of the front porch. As you can see in the photo above left, when the IAHS purchased the house, the lower half of the sides of the porch were clad in horizontal siding. Russ and Lynn tore off the entire porch, rebuilt the floor, added new posts and a railing with spindles to create a more open look. The rebuilt porch has become a favorite spot for Historical Society events through the years.
A "little schoolhouse" (now Kemper School) was moved onto the lot on the south side of the Historical House in the fall of 1992. Originally the attic over the kitchen of the Historical House was converted to a schoolroom and an upstairs room was dedicated to military memorabilia. The addition of Kemper School and later addition of the Ireton Museum provided new homes for the school and military items. The Historical Society now uses the second floor of the Historical House only for storage -- thus avoiding the "steep stairs" that were so common in yesteryear.
Additional refurbishment and maintenance has been done on the house since 1992. The exterior has been painted twice, a cave on the property's east side was filled, the porch was reshingled and downstairs rooms have been refurbished from time to time. The IAHS is grateful for the support it has received in maintaining all of its properties. Special thanks go to the Ireton Booster Club and Ireton Community Fund for numerous grants for property upkeep and to the City of Ireton for regularly mowing at the Historical House, Kemper School and the Ireton Museum.
The main floor of the house is open to the public and filled with items appropriate to the early 1900's and meaningful to Ireton residents and former residents. A few of the items are pictured below but there are many more discoveries to be made in a visit to the "Historical House."
In addition to being open to the public at various times each year, the Historical House is available for private gatherings.
Click a photo to begin slideshow.
Civil War and other Military memorabilia near the entrance.Additional military memorabilia as you enter.A tribute to veteransMexican Border Service & World War I displayMexican Border Service & World War I displayCollection of military uniforms -- youth are invited to "try them on".Old methods of doing laundry make us grateful for automatic washers and dryers!Cooking was a lot of work. Plus one of our collection of WW2 Service Flags.A collection of games, toys and sports equipment.Football gear has changed a lot since the early 1900's.A collection of uniforms & the community WW1 service flag. Each star stands for one serviceman.Lots of items that make us appreciate how much easier life is today.Jack Bushby shows off a horse collar for "Hands On History" students - using Ardis Eilts as the 'horse'!Some pioneer replica items made by schoolchildren plus a cobblers repair kit and other items. Equipment and signage from the old "City Bakery".A display of postal and business itemsAnother of the church World War 2 service flags.A wedding gown from the late 1800's. A hemstitching machine and quilt.Civil War and other Military memorabilia near the entrance.<>18 - 20