House of the Maples
A lone maple tree grows on the land, where the Hoover family's second home once stood. The one-acre parcel, on the corner of Downey and Cedar streets, had a two-story frame house with two chimneys. Maple trees lined the front yard and a wild crabapple tree grew in back of the spacious four-room home.
Herbert Hoover NHS collection
Life was good for the young couple and their three children. At age thirty-three, Jesse Hoover had become a successful businessman. Ready to take on new challenges, he sold his blacksmith shop and bought a large farm implement store on Main Street. Like any hard-working husband, Jesse wanted to use his improved economic fortunes to provide for the comforts of his family.
In March of 1879, Jesse purchased the House of the Maples at auction for $140. It had, he said, "rooms big enough to swing a cat in." On May 27th of that year, the family moved their belongings out of the tiny cottage Jesse had lovingly built. Their spacious new house had an actual parlor and a modern little oil stove. A four-board whitewashed fence with a swinging picket gate framed the front yard. In the summer, they would catch lightning bugs. In the winter, they'd sled down nearby Cook's hill as Hulda watched with her heart in her mouth. It was this house, and not the cottage that would hold the most memories for the Hoover children… both good and bad.
On December 13, 1880, nineteen months after moving into the House of the Maples, Jesse Hoover died in his upstairs bedroom from rheumatism of the heart. Herbert "Bertie" Hoover was only six years old. His mother, Hulda bravely kept the family together by carefully managing the money from Jesse's business holdings and by taking in sewing and an occasional boarder.
But death would come to visit the House of the Maples once more. On February 24, 1884, at the age of 35, Hulda Hoover died from typhoid fever. Tad had just turned 13, Bertie was 9, and May was 7. The three children, now orphans, were separated and sent to live with relatives. It would be twelve years before they would be together again, this time in California—2,000 miles from their childhood Iowa home.
Did You Know?
The West Branch Schoolhouse was built in 1853 making it the oldest building at Herbert Hoover National Historic Site. The town's Quakers also used the one-room building as their first meetinghouse. More...