2017 marks the 55th anniversary of the Cedar Falls Historical Society. Our organization was first formed on June 27, 1962 at a meeting of the Cedar Falls Chamber of Commerce with the goal “to preserve and procure items of historical value to the community.” One year later, the Chamber appointed a “Historical Committee” led by chairman Iver Christoffersen, and the Cedar Falls Historical Society incorporated on March 22, 1964.
The organizers of the Society recognized that they had a unique opportunity to capture stories from those who still remembered the early settlers and citizens of Cedar Falls. So rather than focusing on securing a building or opening a museum, they set about gathering objects and documents and recording the voices of Cedar Falls. As they collected items from local residents, they stored them above the Hieber Drug Store.
In June 1966, the Historical Society purchased its first building from the Dempster family—the Italianate-style home that has become the Victorian Home Museum. A generous gift from Joe and Grace Clay launched the fundraising campaign to purchase the home, and the Historical Society embarked upon extensive renovation and restoration to create its first museum.
As the Historical Society built its membership and increased its collection, it also took on new facilities. In 1979, it partnered with the City of Cedar Falls to save the Ice House from destruction and created a large community museum in the unique round building. Just as the Ice House Museum opened, the Historical Society received the George Wyth House as a gift from Dorothy Wyth, and it began another round of repairs and restoration to create a stunning tribute to the Art Deco style within the Arts & Crafts home.
As a result of partnerships with two local Questers groups, the Historical Society moved the Little Red Schoolhouse and the Behrens-Rapp Station to Sturgis Park in 1987 and 1993, respectively. These historic structures now fill out Cedar Falls’ Historic Museum District.
As in its early years, however, the Cedar Falls Historical Society remains much more than the sum of its museums and buildings. Children experience a one-room schoolhouse education each summer at the Little Red Schoolhouse; individuals research their ties to Cedar Falls in our extensive archive and library; families make a tradition of visiting our house museums for our annual Christmas Walk; school groups learn about early Cedar Falls industry at the Ice House Museum; and members exchange stories about the families, homes, businesses, and community organizations that have made Cedar Falls what it is today.
With the continued support of our volunteers, donors, and members, the Cedar Falls Historical Society looks forward to continuing to keep our heritage alive well beyond our fifty years.