Now available for the first time in paperback, Farm House tells the story of the first structure built on the Iowa State University campus. Mary Atherly provides a comprehensive history of the Farm House from its founding days to its role as the center of activity for the new college to its second life as a welcoming museum visited by thousands each year.

Construction on the little red brick house on the prairie began in 1860, two years after the state legislature passed a measure providing for the establishment of the State Agricultural College and Model Farm. In the 1860s, as the only finished house on campus, the building was the first home for all new faculty members, farm managers, farm superintendents, the college’s first president, and their families. In the 1870s, after the college officially opened its doors, the Farm House also served meals to as many as thirty people each day, most of whom boarded there.

As the college grew, the house became home to the deans of agriculture; it was expanded in 1886 and renovated in the 1890s. After the last dean of agriculture moved out in 1970, the Farm House was lovingly restored to its nineteenth- and early twentieth-century appearance. Now a National Historic Landmark, it opened to the public as a museum on July 4, 1976.

This second edition includes a discussion of the archaeological dig of 1991, which carefully excavated the area under the Farm House, and thoroughly documents the extensive renovation and reconstruction of the exterior of the house during the 1990s. New photographs add to the first edition’s rich array of images and a foreword by Gregory Geoffroy, ISU’s president since 2001, adds to its historical content. The history of Iowa’s only land-grant university and its impressive cultural and educational impact on the state and the nation as it evolved from model farm to college to modern multipurpose university is inseparable from the history of the Farm House.

“This new edition of Farm House: College Farm to University Museum is a welcome addition to the history of Iowa State University. The Farm House, the first permanent structure on campus and now a museum, played a significant part in ISU’s history, serving as home to many workmen, staff, faculty, administrators, and their families. Mary Atherly has described the lives of Farm House residents in warm, careful detail, placing their lives in the wider context of the school’s development. Atherly’s additional material covers the story of the Farm House’s restoration and repair through the 1980s and 1990s. It is an interesting and compelling account of historical change over time as well as a discussion of the work necessary to maintain a historical structure. As Atherly concludes, the Farm House Museum ‘continues to be a lasting symbol of the humble beginning of Iowa State University.’”—Dorothy Schwieder, author, Iowa: The Middle Land

Foreword by Gregory L. Geoffroy

Director’s Foreword by Lynette L. Pohlman


1. Tour of the Farm House Museum

2. Origin and Construction of the Farm House

3. First Residents of the Farm House

4. First Years of the College, 1869—1879

5. The Knapp Years: Sketches of Nineteenth-Century College Life

6. The Wilson and Curtiss Years

7. The Final Years of Active Use

8. Restoration and Museum

9. Exterior Restoration: One Hundred Forty Years Later, a Facelift


Appendix A

Brief Architectural History of the Farm House by Wesley Shank

Appendix B

Residents of the Farm House, Chronological Listing

Appendix C

Residents of the Farm House, Alphabetical Listing

Appendix D

Chronology of the Farm House



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Publication Details

Publication Date
Pages, art, trim size
264 pages, 139 photos, 11 maps, 7 x 10 inches