Hidden Treasure: Cedar Rock State Park-Walter Estate [Photos]
Recently, we had a little fun and included Quasqueton in our list of the Top 12 Iowa towns with silly sounding names and they live up to their motto "friendliest town by a dam site", referring to the old mill that stood by the Wapsipinicon River. However, they can also boast about having a very cool hidden treasure just outside of town.
Located about 15 minutes southeast of Independence, Cedar Rock State Park is home to the Lowell and Agnes Walter Estate. If you're looking for a fun little "getaway" you won't be disappointed. Tour group sizes are limited and you spend a lot time outside, so just "mask up", practice social distancing and enjoy yourself. Last weekend, my family and I had the pleasure of visiting the park and estate. You start out at the Visitor's center, where you can check out a vintage boat owned by Lowell Walter (see photo below), then browse past the photos on the walls that provide background on how the house came about, then it's time for your tractor-drawn wagon ride down to the estate.
Speaking of background, Lowell Walter is a "Quasky" native that became a wealthy businessman. And as the Friends of Cedar Rock website will tell you: Lowell and his wife Agnes were big patrons of the arts. As the couple prepared for retirement in 1948, they knew a picturesque parcel of land near a limestone bluff overlooking the Wapsipinicon River would be perfect for them. So Lowell contacted the world-renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright and asked him to design a three-season home in his unique style. The Walters moved into the home just two years later in July of 1950 and celebrated by hosting two open houses to share this wonderful creation with fellow Iowans. I would love to flashback in time for some of the parties that were held there around the boat house and huge council-style firepit.
The house itself is a marvel. It was fully-designed by Wright, everything from the windows, the furniture, the draperies, he even picked out the accessories. Our tour guide told us a story, that in a visit to the house, he found that Agnes had moved a decorative bottle to the back of a shelf, and he proceeded to move it to the front of the shelf, saying "that goes here". He had a right to be picky, he had his famous name to uphold. That being said, hardly anything has been altered over the past 70 years, except part of the kitchen countertop that had to be fixed when a new dishwasher was installed. Therefore, the home earned one of his signature red tiles that's embedded into an exterior brick wall. It's one of only 47 to have a signature tile out of 530 Wright structures worldwide. Lowell passed away in 1981, leaving the home to his wife. Mrs. Walter donated their home to the Iowa Conservation Commission in 1982, and sadly, passed away in 1986 at the age of 90.
If you want to see if for yourself, you better hurry, because they close for the winter on Sunday, October 18th. They're open for tours Thursday through Sunday from 10am to 4pm. Reservations are required, by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 319-934-3572. The suggested tour donation is $5 which can be done on-line here or in person in the visitor's center.
Keep scrolling to check out some photos and then go see for yourself in person, you'll be glad you did.