Birthplace Cottage Restoration

Black and white photo of the unrestored Birthplace Cottage: a two story white frame house.

Herbert Hoover’s birthplace as it looked around 1928, when still owned by Jennie Scellars.

Herbert Hoover NHS Collection

Even before Herbert Hoover’s election to the Presidency in 1928, his wife Lou Henry Hoover had tried to purchase the Birthplace Cottage to return ownership to the family. Finally, in 1935, with the help of her sons, Herbert, Jr. and Allan, the property was acquired for the sum of $4,500.00, but there was much work to be done. Although previous owners had altered the two-room cottage, it was never moved off of the property and now sits within one to two feet of its original location.
A small house in a state of incomplete restoration.

Workers demolished the east wing of Jennie Scellars’ house during the restoration of the Birthplace Cottage in 1938.

Herbert Hoover NHS Collection

Restoration began in the summer of 1938, with the removal of a two-story addition built in 1890. Then the Birthplace Cottage was re-positioned 90 degrees to the south, so that its front door would once again face Downey Street. Since most of the original furnishings were unavailable, the family decorated the cottage with period pieces they felt best represented the home in which Hoover and his family lived. Lou Henry Hoover relied on the recollection of various family members, including Herbert’s older brother, Tad, who was then the Dean of Mining Engineering at Stanford University. She turned those stories into a manuscript called “Memories of a Little House.”

In it she wrote, “There was a cellar, of course, where vegetables and other edibles were stored beyond the reach of the frost. In such a tiny house the cellar door was a necessity outside, demanding the throwing of shawl over head and shoulders, as one ran to it from the back door of the kitchen on a freezing day”.

Restoration was still going on when Lou Henry Hoover began a search to hand over the historic property to an association that would be as vigilant of her husband’s legacy as she was. In 1939, the Hoover Birthplace Society was formed; a non-profit membership organization that evolved into the active support group known as the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library Association.


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