Ocheyedan historical site adds more space
OCHEYEDAN, Iowa — The Tracy House Museum now has plenty of room to grow.
Long comprised of three structures — an agricultural building, resource room and the actual Tracy House that dates back to 1894 — space for display and storage of materials was starting to be at a premium. But then, property across the street from the museum site became available, and its purchase was arranged.
“We finalized it in October or November of last year,” said Lois Marco, a member of the Tracy House Museum Board of Directors, of the purchase. “If we hadn’t had the backing of the town, we probably wouldn’t have been able to do it. They helped us a lot with that and pretty much purchased it for us. I think we’ve got 30 years to pay it off.”
Marco said the city had a specialty fund it needed to spend anyway, and she’s glad it chose to help the museum.
“It was meant to be, I think, and I’m glad that they had the same foresight to keep the history of Ocheyedan alive,” she said.
“We had been talking about building another building across the street that would include facilities and running water. We had talked about the price, and for the amount of money it cost to buy this, it would probably cost double to build the same amount of square footage and have all the utilities and bathroom facilities.”
The newly purchased Turner Street property includes a trailer home with two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a three-stall attached garage, as well as a separate three-stall unattached garage that most recently housed antiques.
The resource items — such as bound volumes of old local newspapers, county property records and phone books, yearbooks, school records and much more — have already been moved into the former home.
Marco said the air wasn’t circulating well in the old resource room, and some books were starting to have mildew buildup on the outside. The ability to have a climate-controlled room for these items was of critical importance, she added.
Some notable contributions made in recent months are now displayed in the newly acquired building. The children of a local woman who was “notorious” for cutting out every obituary from her newspapers gave the museum her file, as well as a detailed history of early scouting troops in the community.
Marco listed multiple other items of note: wedding dresses from three women who were married in Ocheyedan; photographs from Gus Osterman and his construction company that built the Alaskan Highway; and multiple slides spanning Ocheyedan’s history. The Osceola County community celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2016.
The new resource room promises to be an ideal place for community members to gather.
“There’s really no place to have a coffee gathering,” Marco said. “Some people used to go down to the elevator, but I don’t think that's too common anymore. ... We could do coffee maybe twice a month, depending on how well it’s attended.
“One main goal is to get people in the door with the coffee and talk sessions and some of the older folks here tell their stories,” she added. “That’s the thing that’s getting lost — those stories.”
Meanwhile, as the new resource room becomes a place for people to get together, visit and learn — not to mention do historical research — the old resource room was freed up for a military museum of sorts.
“We have been getting a lot of donated military uniforms and a lot of military memorabilia,” Marco said.
It’s anticipated the agricultural building, which has a wide variety of non-farming items, will eventually become solely focused on agriculture as many materials are transferred to the new property. The four-room Tracy House, meanwhile, will continue to showcase the type of pioneer living emblematic of its era.
Normally, the Tracy House Museum organizes a fundraiser and membership drive in conjunction with Ocheyedan’s annual Days of Olde celebration. This year, however, COVID-19 put a damper on those plans.
In the meantime, the museum gets money from grants that helps make improvements like a new roof on the former resource room building and a paved sidewalk on the museum’s older property. Of course, the museum always accepts contributions, and more information can be found via its Facebook page.
The site is currently open by appointment, and is also now capable of special events such as class reunions. Phone numbers to call about the museum include: (712) 330-0587; (712) 461-1625; (712) 560-5611; (712) 758-3130 and (712) 758-3264.