Preserving Hawarden's history

The Old City Hall has been part of the Hawarden Historical Society's renovation projects.

HAWARDEN—In celebration of 40 years, the Hawarden Historical Society will host an anniversary celebration 1-4 p.m. Aug. 11 at Calliope Village. Refreshments will be served, pop and candy will be for sale at the Calliope Store and the Hawarden Public Library pop-up will be there at 2 p.m. to join in the celebration.

New logo in celebration of 40 years

The Hawarden Historical Society unveiled a new logo in celebration of the society's 40 year anniversary.

How it started

The Hawarden Historical Society began in 1979 when a committee from the Mutual Improvement Club called a meeting for all residents interested in forming a historical society. The society was officially incorporated as the Big Sioux River Valley History Society with the state of Iowa on July 11, 1979. The name was the result of interest in the early settlement of old Calliope, the townships of Buncombe, Logan, parts of Eagle and Washington and Virginia TWP., Union Co., SD, as well as interest in the comparative newcomer, the town of Hawarden. By, October 1979 the society had 236 members.

In April of 2016, to improve their name and location recognition, the society added “Hawarden Historical Society” as their “doing business as” name. A new logo showcasing the new name, location, what the society represents and what they do was introduced in 2019.

The society gives thanks to the visionaries who started the society, which has allowed Hawarden an opportunity to preserve its history. Members of the 1979 board of directors are: Ron Hill, Harry J. Lankhorst, Grace Melvin, Freda L. Rehder, Verl Shoemaker, Mary Janet Wilkens, Betty Berge, Edith Larson, Margaret Leafstedt, Edith Slife, Rex Truesdell, C.J. Wilkens; 1979 Officers: President — Myrna Ver Hoef, vice president — Mary Helgevold, Secretary — Julie Hummel, Treasurer — Don Dowdey.

In 2019 the organization looks very different. The board of directors and officers are one and the same. 

“We all wear several hats,” said Carol Frerichs.

Members of the 2019 board are president Dave Pusey, vice president Dan Cain, treasurer Judy Scott, secretary Carol Frerichs, member at large Marsha Eilers.

Through the years

The biggest project in the early 1980s was the “Development and Growth of Calliope and Hawarden” photographic exhibit. The exhibit was displayed in the City Hall in the fall of 1981. Success of this project was due to the efforts of project chairwoman Myrna Ver Hoef, Helen Gregg and the entire community. Photos from this exhibit are on display at the Historical House and can be accessed from the Hawarden Public Library website — Digital Library — Vipond Collection.

Did You Know? In 1984, the society teamed with L.G. Everest to move a large quartzite rock to Roadside Park — the site where Sioux County was founded in 1860. Roadside Park is three miles south of Hawarden on Highway 12. This site is maintained by the Sioux County park system.

In 1982-83, the society became active in the continuing preservation of the old Stagecoach Depot, which led to the organization of the Calliope Village Project.

Calliope Village, the beginning

This photo was taken around 1975 before work began on restoration of the Old Stagecoach Depot at Calliope Village. The Depot was the only existing building at the time, all other buildings were either moved or built on-site.


Calliope Village was on the radar of Ron Zachary Hill, who as early as 1975 had a vision of a historical village in Hawarden. Ron took on the task of securing funding and resources to restore “Grandma Carr’s” house back to the original old Stagecoach Depot. With the help of Ron’s fellow Boy Scout Troop 209, the city of Hawarden and several other volunteers, the restoration was completed.

The Calliope Village project really began to move in July of 1984. Several buildings were added to the site, each one with a project chair responsible for the renovation. The objective was to have the village open for tours for the 1987 Bicentennial. During the 1990s and 2000s, buildings continued to be added or built on-site and Hawarden became a destination for tourism, especially with the push in the mid to late 2000s to become handicapped accessible. The chief ambassadors for Calliope Village were the late Lois Jean Dawson and late JaNohn Wasser.

“They were our guiding beacons and we miss them,” Frerichs said. “But when in doubt, we always ask — ‘What would Lois Jean and JaNohn do?’” she said.

In December of 1983, the Historical House was purchased by the Slife family and then deeded to the city to be used for the use of the Historical Society. Today it is used to display and store photos from the original 1981 photo exhibit and show the house as it would have looked in the early 1930s.

In 2011, Stuart Flynn donated his World War II Homefront Collection to the Historical Society. This is definitely a coup for the society. Unfortunately, the society is missing Stuart and his expertise on his collection and they are looking to find someone to help with inventory and to display the collection. 

“We have also undertaken the restoration of Old City Hall,” Frerichs said. “This building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2009. Since then we have started work on the building.”

Calliope Village is blooming

Today Calliope Village is a large portion of the history in Hawarden.

Members have demolished several of the interior rooms, returned window openings to the original size, installed new circle top windows, double hung windows and new front doors and have restored several of the original windows. The building was tuck pointed a few years ago and members feel it is looking great from the outside. There is still lots of work to be done on the inside such as new plumbing, wiring, heating and elevators, but members are continuing to move forward with its perseverance.

This has been just a “short” synopsis of the Historical Society, how they started, their history through the last 40 years and what needs to be done going forward. As you can see there is still a lot of work to be done; just maintaining the current collections is quite a job. According to the members, “Preserving Our History” is a journey. 

“Thanks to all of you for your support,” Frerichs said. “We hope to see you Aug. 11 at our 40th anniversary celebration at Calliope Village.”