Family Adventures · Museums and History · West Central Iowa

Poor Farm Turned Elk Sanctuary, Museum & Home to a Two Headed Pig: County of Audubon-Part 4

The nearby farmland is sprawling with green Iowa crops and endless skies. As you get closer to the town of Audubon, a jaw dropping beauty reveals itself atop of  a grassy hill. History on many levels has been made here and preserved.

Audubon, IA: Audubon County

You see that sign for a museum coming up on your road trip? Perhaps it wasn’t on page 1 of your list of museums you’ve heard of. That’s when I know I’m going to love it! I’ve been to huge internationally known museums and had a great time there. I’ve also been to some of them wondering if they worth the time in line and price of admission. I can tell you with absolute genuine honesty that I have never had that thought and have never been disappointed after stopping at any of the rural museums here in Iowa. Nathaniel Hamlin Park & Museum  was one of the biggest highlights of our travels through Western Iowa. Let’s see some of what’s inside of the brick home from above…

I love a good joke and all around goodhearted shenanigans. In this class picture of yesteryear, two local boys took advantage of the photographer’s necessary tactics. They successfully pulled off a stunt to get pictured twice in the same photo due to the old fashion camera being on a timer. Stay still? Not a chance with an opportunity like this!

There will always be different ways to learn about our nation’s conflicts thanks to the careful preservation from the folks that keep museums like this operating. Artifacts from local vets are here at the Hamlin Museum along with important pieces of history such as this newspaper from the Civil War era. Preserved articles from this time period are not rare but this exert is. Both North and South needed paper mills to supply the war effort which meant that some newspaper companies had to resort to unconventional methods. In Audubon you can read the news, from the 1860’s, printed on re-purposed wallpaper. The free press didn’t stop because of a shortage in paper, they just improvised.

The Hamlin museum is also re-purposed. Once a facility for the area’s poor, mentally ill and handicapped, it served as what we we called a County Poor Farm. A place where they could live and work and hence provide for themselves and the community. The home has rooms devoted to what it would of looked like in its early years. The bottom level looks like a typical scene with a large parlor, dining area and kitchen. Upstairs is a different look at it’s history. An institutionalized long hallway awaits you with tiny rooms and hospital like living quarters.


Artists you may not have heard of that have created amazing works that the world would love to see are in full display in museums such as the Hamlin. Andres Nielsen Hansen’s work is something that could be in a huge exhibit of European born artists, but you’ll need to travel to Audubon, Iowa to experience this piece. He landed a full time job for the Vanderbilt family and eventually made his was to the Danish settlements of Western Iowa.


In a bedroom made into a chapel, Hansen’s work is as beautiful as you can imagine. Saved from a local abandoned church it’s permanent home is now in the old home of the poor farm.

There’s niche all over this museum for collectors and enthusiasts of many-many interests. Quilting, pen and pencil collection, rulers, toys and so much more.

Let’s face it. There’s very few people in between loving antiques dolls and being terrified of them. This room is jam packed with some very old and rare dolls that experts would enjoy observing. By the way, I didn’t stay long in this room and let’s just move on please.

Dinosaur bones, deer antlers and two headed piggies. I’d love to see the recipe on this one! In the large building down the hill is a banquet hall with a whole world of its own. And you thought the house on the hill had all the obscurities. Not even close!

If only there was a giant mural depicting the history of the beef industry that wrapped around the whole machine shed. There’s one! Yabba-Dabba-Do to this exhibit!

The one room school houses of Iowa might be a thing of the past, but the folks who attended these institutions are still around and they’re some of the leaders when it comes to preserving them. One of the students of the school house here at the Hamlin is on the bottom right corner holding a class picture of his days here.

Some of the friendliest elk you’ll ever meet are on these grounds and they’re happy to eat from your hand if you’re lucky enough to get close. Overlooking their pasture is a spectacular rural scene here at this historic property.

The view from the front porch. Storms rolling in over a sunny landscape. This was the beauty of Audubon County we experienced and it’s ready for all of you to take it in as well.

Be sure to read Part 1 , Part 2 and Part 3 on our trip to this beautiful Audubon County and the Danish Villages.

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