Adel Historical Museum
Please Note: The Adel Historical Museum is temporarily closed due to the Main Street project and museum construction.
Adel is very proud of its current museum. It has been beautifully laid out and designed with a great deal of care and love. Visit our new-and-improved museum with the recent addition honoring famed Adel citizen and football player Nile Kinnick, Jr.! Because of the community’s generosity and support, we were able to complete the planned addition to the museum. The Kinnick-Clarke collection pays tribute to Nile Kinnick, Jr. and his grandfather, former Iowa Governor George W. Clarke.
If you wish to continue supporting the Adel Historical Museum, we are still taking donations to update the windows and museum interior. Thank you for helping us honor and display Adel’s rich history!
Museum Visiting Hours
Location: 1129 Main Street, Adel, IA
Visiting Hours: Saturdays 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., May 15th to Sept 15th
Open by appointment other days — please call (515) 993-1032 or Adel City Hall at (515) 993-4525 to make an appointment.
The Story of a Community
1857–1870: School Days
The two-story brick building at 1129 Main Street was the schoolhouse for the Adel community for thirteen years, having replaced a small one-story frame structure.
1872–1898: The Leroy Lambert Home
An early pioneer of Dallas County, Leroy Lambert was one of Adel’s leading citizens, a state legislator, and he was a banker in the community for seventeen years. During his family’s residence at 1129 Main, the home was considered one of the finest in Adel.
1898–1943: The Thornton Residence
Lea Thornton ran a general store on the east side of the town square which featured “everything from open cracker barrel to yard goods to plug tobacco.” In later years of residence at the home, the Thornton family rented out rooms, which explains why some remember the property as Thornton’s Boarding House.
1949–1973: The Bowles Homes
After six years of ownership by E. A. Hiatt, Nonie Bowles bought the house for his family residence. An enclosed front porch was added (but later removed), and a portion of the home was used as apartments.
1973–1998: The Historical Society
Eager for a place to house and preserve Adel’s historic treasures, the Society launched a fund drive to purchase the Bowles property for use as a museum. Through donations or purchase, they acquired a collection which includes such items as the massive gear wheel from the early mill and the office furnishings of Iowa Governor George Clark. In 1998, the Society donated the property to the City of Adel.
The Museum Today
When you walk in the front door, you can tell immediately that in its day, this was a grand home for the small pioneer town of Adel.
The first room is the parlor, with a year-round Christmas tree holding many antique ornaments. In the kitchen area is the impressive desk of Iowa Governor (1913–1917) and Adel native George Washington Clarke, along with the display of his grandson, Adel’s favorite son and 1938 Heisman Trophy winner Nile Kinnick, Jr. Once through the kitchen area, you’ll find the music room, which is filled with pictures and instruments of the Caldwell Family Band, as well as many interesting photos recalling Adel’s past. The first floor includes the 1800s bedroom, which displays some of the oldest artifacts in the museum. Here you will see a fainting couch, a 100-year old rope bed using 190 feet of rope, an 1887 wedding dress, and an 1898 ladies’ walking suit and bonnet.
At the top of the stairs is the uniform room — a tribute to Adel’s sons who served in the military. Just past that is the children’s room, which is filled with period toys, clothes, and country school books and memorabilia. The third room now houses the Orton Family Circus Display, a wooden sign from the third Dallas County Courthouse (built in 1894), and items which reflect Adel’s business heritage. The next room is the 1900s room, containing four wedding dresses worn from 1927 to 1953. There are also many quilts and a treadle sewing machine.