School House and Post Office
Location: 101 3rd St SE, West Bend IA
Palo Alto County’s first one-room school was restored in 1976 and moved to West Bend. This school – with its authentic furnishings – provides children and adults with a glimpse of education from the past. In 1998, the original town Post Office was restored and placed adjacent to the school. An outhouse has been added to the site.
Location: 201 1st Ave SE, West Bend IA
This replica of a prairie sod house was used as a temporary dwelling for early pioneers. With the passing of the Homestead Act in the 1850’s, Pioneers were given 150 acres of free land if they would live on it for 5 years in a dwelling with a door and a window. With no large trees on the prairie, sod houses were the answer until lumber arrived via the railroad. A family of 6-8 would live in a sod house of this size. A loft would be built for the children to sleep. Meals were cooked outdoors in the summer to keep it cool inside. A windmill has been added to the site.
The West Bend Historical Museum was completed and opened to the public in the summer of 2006. The displays provide a look back at people, places and progress through the history of West Bend and the surrounding area. The collections are arranged in room-like settings and feature a living room, dining room, kitchen, laundry porch, bedroom and children’s room.
Several manikins throughout the building model a variety of clothing of past eras. A large collection of wedding gowns contrasts with several military uniforms which were worn by past residents who spent time in the service.
A barber/beauty shop display reminds one of the perils and pleasures of being well groomed in “the good old days”. The medical display is well-stocked with supplies that early physicians would have used as they made their rounds or greeted patients in their offices.
A separate media room is used to showcase and view the history video about how Country Maid (the manufacturer of Butter Braid® Pastries) started in the basement of a farmhouse in 1991, and today has grown to service customers in over 45 states! Many of the original pieces of production equipment used in the basement are on display, and the history video shows the progression of the business through over the past 20 years, including its transition to employee ownership in 2003.
The newest building on the Historical Society site is the Barn Museum. It was opened in 2016. In it are displayed implements, machinery and animals from the farm of years ago. Hands-on activities are also a part of this building. Old fire equipment and business machines are housed in this museum.