Other Historic Homes

A white two-story house with a porch and picket fence.

L.J. Leech House

By 1920, the well-liked country doctor and Iowa legislator L.J. Leech had a new home built for himself.

You might be surprised to learn that Herbert Hoover didn’t live in one of the larger, fancier-looking homes at the historic site, even though they were built during the same time period. By comparison, his single story birthplace cottage measured only 14 feet by 20 feet in size. Although you can go inside the house where America’s 31st President was born, the homes on Downey and Poplar streets are not open to the public and are used as offices or residences.
Trees in autumn foliage line a gravel street and obscure 1800s houses.
Historic homes and tree line the trace of Downey Street

NPS Photo by John Tobiason

West Branch Grows

West Branch was barely a settlement in 1852 when Baltimore native Aaron Baker came here to claim the free land he'd received from the United States government for his service in the Mexican War. He promptly sold all 160 acres of it for about a dollar apiece.

By the time John Wetherell purchased five acres in 1869, the price of land had risen considerably. The new real estate developer set about subdividing his property into town lots, and also decided to name a nearby street after himself. The four historic homes on Poplar Street today, the Hayhurst, Wright, Staples, and Mackey houses are the same that stood there when Herbert Hoover was a child.

West Branch boomed between 1869 and 1873. New buildings constructed in the neighborhood near the Hoovers’ small cottage on Downey Street included the Laban Miles House, the Garvin House, and the Methodist Church, which is no longer standing. When the Burlington, Cedar Rapids & Northern Railroad arrived in West Branch on December 20, 1870, two hundred of the town’s residents celebrated with a picnic dinner.

Farther up Downey Street to the south were the P.T. Smith and Varney houses. Those homes, and others, were neighbors to the Hoovers in their second home, "House of the Maples," which no longer stands.

Later additions to the neighborhood included the Leech and C.E. Smith houses, both part of the historic site today.


Last updated: February 11, 2017

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Mailing Address:

P.O. Box 607
West Branch, IA 52358


(319) 643-2541

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