Skip to Content

11 Historical Landmarks in Iowa You’ll Want to Know

11 Historical Landmarks in Iowa You’ll Want to Know

Iowa is full of fascinating historical landmarks. We have compiled a list of 11 historical landmarks in Iowa that are worth visiting if you love history.

Yup, Iowa sure is full of historical landmarks that’ll enhance any visit to the Hawkeye State, but it can be hard to know where to start, aside from booking your trip there.

We’ve compiled a list of several famous historical landmarks in Iowa that are worth visiting if you’re a history buff.

Herbert Hoover National Historic Site

Herbert Hoover National Historic Site

The Herbert Hoover National Historic Site is the only presidential library and museum in Iowa. It tells the story of Herbert Hoover’s life, work, and legacy as one of America’s most influential if controversial presidents.

Hoover was born on August 10th, 1874 in West Branch Iowa to Jesse Clark Hoover, a blacksmith and schoolteacher from Ohio who migrated west two years before his son was born.

The family lived on a small farmstead until they moved into town when he was six years old.

His mother taught him about world geography by drawing maps for him with crayons or making clay models of countries that he could name in order to teach him how different cultures interact with each other. He also had a keen interest in science.

Hoover was eventually elected to the Presidency in 1928 by a landslide, running as a progressive Republican who was hell-bent on lifting all Americans up. Sadly, this streak would all but vanish towards the end and after his presidency, in part due to ineptitude.

He is best known for organizing relief for occupied Belgium and France during WWI, heading up the US Food Administration, and struggling to helm the US during the “The Great Depression.”

His presidency ended after one term when he lost his re-election bid in 1932, due largely to America’s economic depression, and the allure of FDR’s New Deal.

In 1933 Hoover donated his historical papers and memorabilia to Iowa Wesleyan College in Mount Pleasant, Iowa where he began his college career in 1891.

The Hoover War Collection has been a part of the university since 1934; it is now the world’s largest private historical collection devoted solely to World War II, its aftermath, and the relief to war-torn nations Hoover organized after that conflict too.

In 1945, Iowa Wesleyan College renamed itself in Hoover’s honor.

Throughout his lifetime, Hoover continued to organize historical documentation of American history and donated it to the college with a will stipulation that it remain open for public access after his death.

Hoover died on October 20th, 1964 at age 94. The Herbert Hoover National Historical Site was dedicated on August 10th, 1975.

Hoover’s son, Herbert Hoover Jr. donated the family farmstead to the historical site in 1978 as well as a number of artifacts from his father’s life including his first suit, leather shoes, and teddy bear.

His wife Lou Henry Hoover loaned her wedding dress for display along with the gowns worn by their daughters Margaret Hoover and Alice Hooversmith at their weddings.

Over the years, the Herbert Hoover historical site has been visited by a number of politicians, dignitaries, even royalty.

This includes Presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama, as well as Edward, Prince of Wales (later to become the short reigning King Edward VIII) and former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, David Cameron.

Although the historical site is technically located in West Branch, Iowa, it will forever be remembered as Hoover’s home and a cornerstone of his presidency.

The historical site is open from 9 AM to 5 PM every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. The historical site also hosts the annual Herbert Hoover Alumni Celebration every year on August 10th.

Herbert Hoover historical site, located at 31 Institutions Campus Drive, West Branch Iowa.

The historical library is open to the public Monday-Friday from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM and Saturday 9 AM to 5 PM; closed Sunday and holidays. Free admission.

See Related: Best Make-Up Travel Kit

Iowa Old Capitol Museum

The Iowa Old Capitol Building in Iowa City was built in 1842 and served as the capitol building for the state until the capital was relocated to Des Moines and it was replaced by the building we now know as the State Capitol in 1857.

The reason for this relocation was that much of the Old Capitol Building was destroyed in a fire.

It’s been preserved to tell its story and has been named a National Historic Landmark.

The building features historical artifacts from Iowa’s past that showcase how people lived before electricity or automobiles were invented.

The museum also provides educational programs for students of all ages who are interested in learning more about Iowa history.

The Old Capitol Museum is open every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day, and Independence Day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m..

Tickets can be purchased for $5 on the first floor of the State Capitol Building in Room 123 or the Iowa State Historical Museum Office in room 124.

See Related: Vacation with Minimal Walking

Fort Des Moines

Fort Des Moines is a historical landmark in Iowa and one of the best places to visit in Iowa. It was originally built to be the first military training camp for African Americans, prior to World War I, as black and white troops still served in segregated units. During World War II, it would be a training camp for the new Women’s Army Corps.

The fort served as an important military, historical and cultural site for nearly 50 years before it closed in 1946.

It reopened again as a historical landmark in 1960 and now serves as a museum that showcases the history of Fort Des Moines and its role in American History, from black troops serving in World War I to the Civil Rights Movement.

Fort Des Moines has been recognized by both state and national historical societies with awards.

This includes Iowa’s Most Endangered Properties List (2011), National Register of Historic Places (1992), Iowa Historical Society Award for Restoration Planning (2001) among others.

In 2016, Fort Des Moines was designated a National Historic Landmark.

See Related: Group Vacation Ideas

Iowa State Capitol

Iowa State Capitol Interior

The Iowa State Capitol is located in Des Moines, Iowa. The building was completed in 1869 and has been the seat of government for the state of Iowa since. The building cost $1 million dollars to build, or about $13 million in today’s money.

It was designed by New York architect A.H. Upjohn after winning a contest sponsored by the General Assembly following an embarrassing fire that destroyed most of the previous capitol building on January 12th, 1857.

The legislature first met in the uncompleted structure on December 2nd, 1868, where Governor Samuel Jeptha Bushnell presided over his last session before he left office on December 9th, 1868, due to term limits set forth by the new state constitution adopted just two years prior.

The second governor to hold office in the new capitol building was Samuel Merrill.

The Iowa State Capitol is on the National Register of Historic Places and contains many historical artifacts from around the state of Iowa. It is such a fascinating place to visit for any history, architecture, or politics buff

See Related: Best Travel Backpacks

Amana Colonies

Outside Amana Colonies

Amana Colonies is a historical landmark in Iowa. The Amanas are the largest and last religious communal society founded in North America. They were also one of the most successful, with over 10,000 members at their peak.

For much of its existence, Amana was an isolated community that practiced traditional crafts such as weaving and shoemaking to sustain itself economically while maintaining a strict self-reliance ethic.

The group’s leadership had been concerned about the encroachment of modernism since 1881 but did not adopt formal written rules against it until 1924.

However, they maintained a conservative form of dress (no neckties or short sleeves for men) well into the 1940s.

From 1941 on, there was some interaction between Amish communities and the outside world, which was becoming more connected through increased automobile use.

See Related: Ultimate Guide to Machu Picchu

Julien Dubuque Monument

You may not know it, but Iowa is home to nine major historical landmarks. Some are well-known and some are less known; however, all of them have a story behind them. One such historical landmark is Julien Dubuque Monument in Iowa City, IA.

A monument honors Julien Dubuque, a trader who arrived from France in 1788 and became an American citizen.

The memorial is situated at the corner of College Street and College Ave on what was once an Indian mound. He established Mine La Motte, IA, a mining operation that still operates today.

Unfortunately, in 1810 at age 53, Julien was killed by an Osage Indian while trying to recover some stolen horses. Historians believe that the grave of this early champion of American industry is buried beneath their fossilized footprints.

See Related: Best Travel Credits

The Field of Dreams

KC-135 And F-16 Over The Field Of Dreams

The Field of Dreams is a baseball diamond in Dyersville, Iowa, this field is arguably most famous for being the subject of the 1989 namesake film “Field of Dreams” and its 1993 sequel “Field of Dreams II: Angels in the Outfield”.

The films were based on W. P. Kinsella’s novel “Shoeless Joe”. In 2009, it became a historic site as it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Field of Dreams is located just outside Dyersville, (about two hours southeast from Des Moines and three hours northeast from Chicago, Illinois) in an area known as Indian Ridge Farm near Tama County Road.

There are historical markers at both entrances to the property from this road that commemorates James B. Raynor, the historical figure after whom Murtaugh’s character is modeled in Shoeless Joe.

While in Dyersville, travelers should also visit Lyman’s Dairy Store, which was featured in the movie and is located just blocks from the Field of Dreams site (it has become a very popular tourist destination).

“Field of Dreams” is partially set during the early 20th-century, in a post-war period marked by optimism regarding science and technology, which lead to major advances in transportation, communication, manufacturing, and medicine in the US.

See Related: Best Minimalist Travel Accessories

Terrace Hill Historic Site

Terrace Hill, the Iowa Governor's Mansion

The Terrace Hill Historic Site in Iowa is a historical landmark that was once the home of Iowa’s seventh governor, Samuel Merrill. It’s also known as the Hubbell Mansion or Allen House and still serves as the official residence of the incumbent Iowa Governor.

The house is located at 2300 Grand Avenue in Des Moines. The design of this home is the Second Empire style (or Napoleon III style), and it is 18,000 square feet.

It sits on a hill overlooking downtown Des Moines and has a 90-foot tower with a commanding view of the city. The building’s steeply pitched mansard roof has overhanging eaves and ornate turreted towers.

The building sits on 164 acres of land and over the years has been restored to its original 1859 appearance.

The site offers tours and historical reenactments depicting life during this time period and includes a children’s museum with hands-on exhibits.

This historical landmark is open year-round for visitors to explore!

See Related: Reasons Why Traveling is Important

Sergeant Floyd Monument

Sunset At Sergeant Floyd Monument

The Sergeant Floyd Monument commemorates Sergeant Charles Floyd, Jr., the only member of the Corps of Discovery to die on the journey. A quartermaster for the legendary expedition, Floyd would become famous after his death for the journals he had written about the journey.

Perhaps the most poignant entry in his journal (certainly in relation to this monument) was written on July 31st, where Sergeant Floyd noted: “I am verry sick and has ben for Sometime but have Recovered my helth again.”

Less than a month later on August 20, 1804, Floyd died due to a suspected inflammation or rupture of his appendix. Even with today’s advanced medical knowledge it would’ve been nigh impossible to cure this ailment by the time Floyd had noticed somethign was wrong

Floyd’s gravesite suffered from weather erosion and was moved several times. The last time happened in 1895 when the Sergent Floyd Monument was built to honor him. That statue is located along US-75 in Sioux City, Iowa.

The 100-foot obelisk, made of heavy Kettle River sandstone, stands at today’s Park Cemetery as a memorial for Sergeant Charles Floyd Jr.

See Related: Where to Stay in Des Moines: 4 Best Areas & Fun Neighborhoods

Dodge House-Historic Museum

Built in 1869, The Grenville M. Dodge House is a historic house museum in Council Bluffs, IA. General Grenville Dodge was involved in the development of the railroads across the American West as well as being a Union Army General. He lived in this historic house for 22 years until his death.

In the fall of 1961, General Grenville M. Dodge’s home was designated a National Historic Landmark in recognition of his significant contributions to society. The General’s home is the only National Historic Landmark in Council Bluffs. The home is known to be the second National Historic Landmark in the state of Iowa.

The home is one of the most painstakingly preserved historic homes in the United States and features a wide variety of fine antiques owned by General Dodge and his family.

The museum hours of operation are Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, with the last tour taken at 4:00 pm. 

Tours are done on demand, so your tour will start when you arrive, there are not pre-scheduled tour times. Please allow 1 to 1 1/2 hours for the full tour.

See Related: Best Site for Booking Tours

Effigy Mounds National Monument

Effigy Mounds National Monument is the only place in North America where you can see both prehistoric and historical Native American earthworks in one place. This is a site that was designated as a national monument in 1949, with an area of over 1,200 acres.

The historical significance of this location has been recognized by being placed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1966.

The Effigy Mounds are shaped like animals and birds to represent spiritual beings or totems for different tribes.

These animal shapes were built by ancient people who lived here from roughly 600 – 700 AD until European settlers arrived in Iowa after 1800 AD, forcing the natives away from their lands with bullets and bayonets.

The best-known effigies are located at Eagle Point and makeup what’s called the Great Serpent Mound.

There are also smaller effigy mounds representing birds, reptiles, and more abstract designs.

The historical significance of the great serpent mound is that it’s believed to represent a giant snake constricting a thunderbird, which represents an important Native American cultural story from ancient times about the struggle between good and evil.

See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in Spirit Lake, Iowa


Iowa is a historical landmark that’s full of opportunities for you to learn about the state’s rich history.

We’ve provided a brief overview of several historical landmarks in Iowa, but there are plenty more sites and attractions worth visiting!

Whether you’re interested in seeing how early settlers lived or want to explore Native American culture with effigy mounds, we hope this article has given you some ideas on what historical destinations will interest you most!

• There is a historical landmark in Iowa for everyone

• Become immersed in historical artifacts and sites of important events

• Learn about the rich history of Iowa or Native American culture

You’ll never regret taking the time to learn about the rich history of Iowa!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What Famous Landmarks Are There in Iowa?

Iowans love historical landmarks and historical monuments.

To find historical landmarks in Iowa, head to the Effigy Mounds near the Western part of the state!

For Native American history enthusiasts, explore the beautiful wildlife with artifacts from past civilizations.

There is plenty to see and learn about at this national monument that will leave you intrigued even after your first visit! In fact, there are so many historical places in Iowa that it’s hard to pick favorites – but never fear!

What Are the Landmarks of Iowa locations?

There are several historical landmarks in Iowa, which were popular with some of the country’s most historical figures. Here’s where you’ll find them;

– The Loess Hills rise 330 feet above the Missouri River Valley and consist of 100 foot high cliffs that feature unique geological features created by windblown soil sculpted over millions of years. The valley served as a refugee for Pawnee Native Americans in 1876 after they lost their lands to settling Americans in Nebraska and Kansas.
– Boone county contains three historical sites listed on the National Register: Persimmon Hill, William McSwain Farmstead, and Gilead Methodist Church Ruins. Locals say that Boones Creek rises during floods because Boone Tavern owner Colonel Benjamin Boone funneled water into the creek from nearby springs.
– Des Moines is Iowa’s largest city, and it was established in 1843 as Fort Des Moines by the U.S. Army, who originally built a fort to protect settlers from attacks by native Indians. Later this fort would be replaced by a permanent structure in 1901. Some other historical landmarks of Iowa include the State Capitol Building, Old City Hall, a historic district that was once the military garrison for the fort, and the State Historical Museum.

Related Resources