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|Herbert Hoover's Birthplace
In 1871, Jesse and Hulda Hoover built a two-room, 14-by-20-foot cottage at the corner of Penn and Downey Streets in West Branch, Iowa, and it was in that cottage that Herbert Clark Hoover was born, on August 10, 1874. By 1879 Jesse Hoover's blacksmith shop was doing well enough to allow him to move the family (which included two sons and a daughter) to a larger home about a block to the south.
In 1889 the cottage was sold to R. Portland and Jennie Scellers, who moved it to the rear of the property and turned it so that it faced south (it originally faced east). They also built a two-story house and connected it to the cottage. The cottage became a tourist attraction after Hoover was nominated for the presidency in 1928, and the widowed Scellers entertained over 17,000 visitors, at ten cents apiece, in a year. Herbert and Lou Henry Hoover tried to buy the property back, but Mrs. Scellers refused to give up her "cash cow." Hoover's son Allan was finally able to buy the property after she died in 1934.
Work to restore the cottage began as soon as it was re-acquired by the Hoover family, beginning with demolition of the two-story house and re-orientation back to the east. The Hoovers also began working to develop the surrounding property as a "memorial" to Herbert Hoover's humble beginnings. The Herbert Hoover Birthplace Park was officially dedicated on June 30, 1952. In 1957, the Hoover family decided to recreate the Jesse Hoover blacksmith shop, which was rebuilt using wood reclaimed from an 1870 barn. A 1905 house was moved to the Park in 1964, and an original Quaker Meetinghouse was added in 1965.
Herbert Hoover died in New York City, New York, on October 20, 1964, and, as per his request, he was buried on the grounds, alongside Lou Henry, who had preceeded him in death by 20 years (her remains were moved from their original resting place in Palo Alto, California).
The Herbert Hoover Birthplace was declared a National Historic Landmark on June 23, 1965, and a National Historic Site on August 12, 1965. In addition to the "original" structures, the current Historic Site includes several West Branch buildings that existed during Hoover's childhood. Its official website is www.nps.gov/heho/index.htm.
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This page was last updated on December 08, 2018.