History of the House
Leander and Charlotte Olmsted were married in 1866 in Auburn, N.Y. The following spring they came to the area that is now Urbandale, purchased eighty acres of land and built a house: later they bought additional property. They raised two sons, Millard and Clarence. Leander built a new home in 1904 (now the Olmsted-Urban House) about the time their son, Millard, was married. Millard and his wife, Olive, farmed with his father and raised their five daughters and one son in the house. It was a typical farmhouse where the hired hands sat down to dinner with the family. Millard and Clarence Olmsted were both instrumental in the formation and incorporation of the town of Urbandale in 1917. Clarence served on Urbandale’s first town council and Millard served on the first Urbandale School Board.
When ten acres of the Olmsted farm were platted into building lots in 1937, Harold and Ruth Gutfreund bought the house. They did some extensive interior remodeling. Harold served on the Urbandale School Board.
In 1947, Karl and Matie Urban purchased the house. Matie loved antiques and kept things basically unchanged for many years. Karl was instrumental in establishing the Urbandale Library.
The Urbandale Historical Society bought the house from the Urban estate in 1987. Quite a few of the furnishings were left with the house.
Purpose and Use of the House
The Olmsted-Urban House is typical of many rural ‘four square’ houses from the early years of the 20th Century. It had been restored to depict the era of the 1920s and early 1930s and calls back memories of the unpretentious warm, homey feeling of ‘Grandma’s house’. Young visitors can get an understanding of what life was like before the Age of Automation. They especially enjoy things like the old pump organ, the wind-up Victrola, the Philco radio and the wall telephone. It serves as the headquarters for the Urbandale Historical Society and houses our collection of Urbandale memorabilia, historical information and old school class pictures and year books. We also have a collection of books and magazine articles describing all aspects of everyday life in the early 1920s and 1930s.
The Society has worked to put the house and its spacious grounds to full use for community affairs. It is open to the public for a variety of special events as well as tours. Local civic organizations may hold meetings, and school and youth groups schedule tours. Many local organizations, businesses and individuals have volunteered time, materials, and money in the process of repairing and restoring the house to its present beauty. Our ten-year mortgage contract has been paid with Hotel-Motel tax funds allocated by the City of Urbandale. It is ‘Urbandale’s Home’ and we are proud of it.
In August, 2019 the Olmsted House was named to the National Register of Historic Places by the Department of the Interior.
A barn, designed by an architect who specializes in restoration, was built on the site to serve as a reminder of how Urbandale began as a farming community. The original barn which had also housed livestock burned in 1920. This barn, built by hand, features authentic wooden beams and pegs and a hayloft. It houses a variety of rural mementos, most of which have been donated. Special displays feature hand implements and tools related to dairying, raising chickens, gardening and other family activities on the farm. A 1926 Maytag washing machine, and other equipment that was often placed in a summer kitchen, is located in one section. The barn is open for tours as part of Open House events or by special appointment.
POLICY ON GROUPS MEETING AT THE OLMSTED-URBAN HOUSE
Because of all the historical memorabilia in the House we have certain limits on groups other than the Historical Society using the House:
We do not allow private parties or commercial events.
The maximum number of people at one time is 49; fewer, if all are to be seated.
No alcoholic beverages, no candles, and no red or orange punch are allowed.
Priority in scheduling is given to Urbandale related groups, groups who are interested in learning more about Urbandale and Olmsted-Urban House as their meeting program, or scheduled tours.
Scheduled visits are limited to one per year.
We require a $25.00 refundable damage deposit, although groups often donate the deposit.
For more information and to schedule a date for your visit, call the Olmstead-Urban House at (515) 270-2917. Leave a message on the answering machine and we will get back to you.