Iowa State University

Inside Iowa State
April 18, 1997

Farmhouse shows age

by Steve Sullivan
The Farm House Museum is suffering from a variety of ills, including a crumbling exterior, rickety roof and very moist basement. That was the report earlier this month from Martin Weaver, a conservation consultant who spent three days examining the campus landmark. A final report on the Farm House's condition and recommendations for its repair will be submitted to the University Museums in about two months.

The Farm House began in 1860 as a small, red brick farm building erected in the middle of an empty prairie that would eventually be home to Iowa State's sprawling campus. Various faculty members, farm managers, deans of agriculture and university presidents lived in the house during the early days of Iowa State. The building was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1965 and was opened to the public as a museum in 1976.

Among the building's most serious problems are:

n Low-quality stucco applied to exterior bricks in the early 1900s has separated from the brick, in many cases, taking the brick face with it.

n The building's main roof is in "an appalling state" and most of the roof overall is "at the end of its useful life," Weaver said.

n The interior of the building, is in "remarkably good shape," Weaver said. However, floors are sinking in many areas and need renewed supports.

n Moisture and uninsulated hot water pipes have created a rain forest-like environment in the basement, promoting extensive fungal growth.

n The southwest and southeast corners are in trouble because of soil erosion beneath the foundations as a result of downspout run-off. Also, water leaking from damaged downspouts has caused cracking and partial collapse of the brickwork in the corners.

Museum officials have estimated the cost for repairs to the building to be $300,000, said Mary Atherly, associate curator of the Farm House Museum and author of Farm House: College Farm to University Museum.

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