CURRENT HOURS: Tuesday–Saturday, 9 a.m.–4p.m.

About Us

Mission Statement

Living History Farms is an interactive outdoor history museum, which educates and connects all peoples to the many stories of Midwestern rural heritage.

Vision Statement

Cultivating our future by experiencing our past.

Goals

• Cultivate a community of life-long learning with robust programming.
• Create a richer, more diverse and dynamic visitor experience.
• Build meaningful connections with the community as a cultural heritage destination.
• Preserve the legacy and financial stability of Living History Farms.

1870
1967
1970
1979
1985
1997
2012
2015
2020

1870

Martin Flynn, an Irish immigrant, made a small fortune in earth-moving work for railroad companies. Flynn purchased land in Walnut Township and the surrounding area, ending up with a 1500 acre farming operation. In 1870, Flynn constructed a 15 room mansion on the land, along with a large barn for grain, hay, and cattle. Martin and his wife Ellen raised 10 children at their Walnut Hill Farm.
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1967

Dr. William G. Murray dreamed of a working agricultural museum. He described it as “not just a dusty place where you see yesterday’s utensils and machinery under glass. You see things being used, a recreation of things in action, stretching from the past through the present and into the future.” Living History Farms was that vision. In 1967, Living History Farms Foundation was formed as a nonprofit institution.
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1970

The Living History Farms Foundation hired Darwin Thede as the first employee in 1970. Thede began construction of an 1840 farm including a pioneer log house and barn using trees from the Living History Farms property. That same year, a Grain Harvest Festival and then Corn Picking Contest were held—Living History Farms’ first public events. Over 5,000 people attended the Grain Harvest that year.
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1979

On October 4, 1979, Saint John Paul II visited Iowa and conducted an outdoor mass at Living History Farms. An estimated 340,000 pilgrims gathered on the grounds to hear the Saint’s homily on land stewardship and the farmers’ vocation. Exits from the state highways and Interstate 35/80 were closed and pilgrims walked miles just for the chance to gather and celebrate mass with Saint John Paul II.
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1985

Living History Farms began Historic Dinner programs at the 1900-era farm house, starting in 1985. By 1995, these family-style meals were offered 9 times a week from November through mid-April. Today, we offer historic dinners at the 1900 Farm, 1876 Tangen Home, and Flynn Mansion.
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1997

The current Living History Farms' Visitor Center was built in 1997. Prior to this, guests entered through gravel roads, parking lots, and farm sheds.
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2012

An estimated 10,000 people turned out to see President Barack Obama at a campaign rally at Living History Farms on Saturday, September 1, 2012.
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2015

The 1700 Ioway Farm was newly created in a different location in 2015, featuring a new orientation shelter, three types of Ioway homes, gardens, and native prairie grass. For the first time, all three of the museum’s working farm sites became completely accessible to all visitors.
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2020

The American Alliance of Museums (AAM) awarded museum accreditation to Living History Farms. Through a rigorous process of self-assessment and review by their peers, Living History Farms demonstrated it meets museum standards and best practices. AAM’s review also affirmed Living History Farms as an educational entity that is also an appropriate steward of the collections and resources we hold in the public trust. Of the nation’s estimated 33,000 museums, only...
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