West Branch Commercial Historic District
When Herbert Hoover was born in 1874, West Branch was beginning a long period of growth and general prosperity that lasted through the early part of the 20th century.
Just a few blocks from Hoover’s Birthplace Cottage, the West Branch Commercial Historic District, located along Main and Downey streets, features many fine examples of turn-of-the-century buildings that housed the businesses of this thriving farming community: Banks, doctor’s offices, a hotel, a barber shop, a drug store, a millinery shop and a music store among others.
While most of these buildings were not in existence during Hoover’s childhood, together they illustrate the evolution of downtown West Branch - between 1875 and 1916 - from a collection of ramshackle wooden storefronts into a bustling commercial center anchored by blocks of ornate brick buildings. Timothy Walch of the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, shares his thoughts about one block in particular:
“I was always impressed with the opera block; the fact that so many communities in Iowa had opera houses, the aspirations for culture and entertainment, even in a town of a few thousand people, makes one smile, but it also makes one proud that even adults who worked long days in the fields were eager to have a form of entertainment and education, and that's what our little opera block symbolizes.”
We invite you to stroll down Main Street and discover the notable places built by the hands of hardworking craftsmen during the “Golden Era of American Architecture.” Sixteen of these structures were considered worthy of preservation and have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. That designation was the result of a proud community’s recognition of West Branch’s place in history and a tireless effort to preserve their past. See for yourself why these buildings embody the spirit of rural America and the history of a time gone by.
The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of the nation's historic places worthy of preservation. The National Register is administered by the National Park Service.
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...