I’ve been driving past and occasionally driving through the unincorporated town of Downey for many years which is just a few minutes from the town of West Branch. Once to pick up a couch from a friend. Another time to see fresh tornado damage. And recently to see an old abandon bank. At least what I thought was abandon. The classic brick bank lured me into Downey and upon reaching it’s front door I noticed something. Two folks tending to a beautiful garden in the back. Next thing I know, we’re getting a tour of a National Landmark.
An old railroad town that once had many businesses, its own school, and its own bank. A few commercial buildings still stand and the school has long been shutdown, but the old Downey Savings Bank is proudly operated by two very talented artists that reside here. And not just in the town of Downey. But inside the bank!
I love Iowa for many reasons, and my very favorite thing to love is our small town hospitality and graciousness. Our family popped out of car to take a quick pic of the historic bank and the next thing you know we’re seeing the whole house-bank. Bank-House…their home. Let’s go with that.
Judith and Rich, the owners and artists of the bank building, told the story of the old bank from its closer in the 1930’s up to the time they took over it. Their beautiful art is displayed in every room and all the decor is from their years of hard work. If you’re a rock hound, then you’d love what they have created here in little Downey.
There are treasures everywhere and so much more to discover in Iowa. Off the beaten path is always a good start but sometimes you don’t even need to go that far. A wealth of history and the Herbert Hoover Museum and Library draws thousands of tourists every year to West Branch with many of them not knowing what’s down the road. Iowa’s history doesn’t always need a guide or interpretative center. It just needs an imagination and a keen eye most of the time. Always travel and tour when you can. Don’t forget to gallivant…
Be sure to read about some of the other unbelievable restored landmarks we’ve discovered in the towns of Indianola and Ladora! Another historic bank, in Iowa County, turned into an amazing bistro and a once dilapidated rural corn crib converted to a beautiful Warren County bed and breakfast.