House of the Maples Site

A vacant lot has a maple tree and a sign on its lawn.
Nothing remains of the House of the Maples but an old maple tree (rear) in the lot where it stood.

NPS Photo/Adam Prato

Quick Facts
West Branch, Iowa
Site of Childhood Home of Herbert Hoover, 31st President of the United States

Audio Description, Historical/Interpretive Information/Exhibits

"Mr. J.C. Hoover moved into his new house Tuesday morning, and is now 'as snug as a bug in a rug.'"

West Branch Local Record, 1879

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.

The Upwardly Mobile Hoovers

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 farm implement store on Main Street. Like any hard-working husband, Jesse used his improved fortunes to provide for the comforts of his family.

"Rooms Big Enough to Swing A Cat In"

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 into their new home. 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, the Hoover children 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.

Making Ends Meet After Tragedy

On December 13, 1880, Jesse Hoover died in his upstairs bedroom from rheumatism of the heart. Herbert "Bertie" Hoover was only six years old. His mother, Hulda kept the family together by carefully managing the money from Jesse's business holdings and by taking in sewing and an occasional boarder.

Orphaned Children

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 live together again, this time in California-2,000 miles from their childhood Iowa home.

Herbert Hoover National Historic Site

Last updated: February 5, 2021