I have always wanted to go to Pella, Iowa! After seeing pictures of the beautiful Vermeer Mill, I was smitten. This June 2021, was my summer for an amazing hosted Pella, Experience! Let me tell you all about Beautiful Pella and what you can do in this Southcentral Iowa town!
The first part of our journey was to Pella. Jill Vandevoort of Visit Pella set out an amazing agenda for Keith and I. The second part of our jaunt Deann De Groot of Oskaloosa Main Street planned our fun time in lovely Oskaloosa and Mahska County!
Lodging at the Cheesemaker’s Inn B&B
Being a farm girl, there is nothing better than the chance to stay in a B&B with farm history. Kim and Rob Bandstra own the beautiful Cheesemaker’s Inn. The Inn was originally set in the heart of a dairy farmstead. Mike Bandstra who grew up milking cows on the farm went on to become a cheesemaker and opened Frisian Farms Cheese House with his wife Jill.
Kim and Rob Bandstra returned to Pella after Rob’s active duty career in the Airforce. They converted the former barn into their house and use the turn-of-the-century, craftsman style house as a bed and breakfast. “The last renovation was done 25 years ago. The house was built in 1918,” Kim said. “The two rooms up front are original as well as the front porch. The whole house is a bed and breakfast now.”
We stayed in Annie’s room which was so comfortable. With an attached bathroom and large walk-in-shower, this was the perfect place to kick back and relax after a long drive. Breakfast in the morning was amazing. Kim and Innkeeper Andrea Vander Ark served up a marvelous Dutch breakfast that started with fruit soup. The meal includes samples of Frisian Cheese Gouda, an amazing egg casserole and bread! Yum.
Thursday Nights in Pella
Downtown comes alive on Thursday Nights in Pella. We enjoyed visiting this beautiful downtown that almost looks like you could be in Amsterdam. First we walked past the beautiful windmill. We stopped at the Liberty Street Grill for dinner. Located inside the Amsterdam Hotel, this restaurant was located in Molengracht Plaza. Part of Pella’s central business district. The square was built to replicate an authentic Dutch square with over 100,000 square feet. We were charmed!
Walking towards the square, we passed the cool Klokkenspel, which goes off every 30 minutes. On Friday we watched the figures perform. Sadly I didn’t realize all the art work on the other side! We also admired the Opera House! Tulip Toren on the square serves as a huge stage during the Tulip Festival and community events. I also admired the beautiful sundial The sundial was a gift from Heritage Lace Inc. installed in May of 1991
The evening we were there, several sprint cars lined the street. Sawyer Phillips who has been driving for seven years, let me take a photo with him and his car! “My family farms south of Pleasantville. We grow corn and soybeans, all row crop. I’m the youngest of six. My grandparents were into logging, and my dad was the first generation to farm.”
Sawyer got into racing in part because of family history. “My parents did dirt bikes, and motocross.”
He followed his brothers into the racing hobby. Today he is a top contender that moved up over the years to 401 racing!
There were vendors, live music, with the beauty of downtown Pella as a backdrop. The Farmer’s Market wrapped up and entertainment went on! Thursdays In Pella are mini-festivals held each Thursday. It goes on in June and July from 6- 9 pm; each week features a different theme.
Vermeer Global Pavilion
After breakfast, we set out for the Vermeer Global Pavilion. Brenda Kelderman, the Corporate Event and Global Pavilion Manager took us on a tour of the museum, that is currently undergoing renovation. The museum covers the story and life of Gary Vermeer and his inventions. This innovative farmer first invented a wagon hoist. His inventions grew from there. Today Vermeer is a global company. They manufacture industrial equipment for a multitude of industries, including biomass, construction, surface mining and organic recycling.
The tour also included the Founder’s House. “The museum is about their business, and the home is about their private lives,” Brenda shared.
The four-bedroom house shows the family’s individual personalities as well as the faith they follow.
Brenda started as a temporary employee home for the summer break from college. Management thought she would be perfect for a fulltime job, and she has never looked back! Her father worked at the company and she grew up with a love for the company that is clearly still there today!
Historical Museum/Vermeer Windmill
The highlight of my visit to Pella was the tour of the Vermeer Windmill and Historic Village. Before touring the windmill, our first stop was hitting the historic village. The village and windmill is a historic story of 800 Dutch immigrants who settled here! Lovena Von Haaften was our tour guide. She shared that Dominie (pastor) Hendrick Scholte shepherded settlers to northwestern Iowa. They named the town settled Pella, which meant City of Refuge. Hendrik Scholte was born in Amsterdam in 1805. His father’s family refined sugar from sugar beets. He also manufactured boxes for the shipment of the sugar. The minister and his flock traveled to escape persecution as dissenters from the state Reformed church.
The Historic Village is a wonderful mix of historic buildings with the Wyatt Earp Experience, at his home a centerpiece! Besides the Wyatt Earp history, we loved the log cabin, sod house, and the Werkplaats where woodmakers make wooden shoes. Keith was impressed by the tools in the blacksmith shop! Flowers adorn the village and there is a lot to see and enjoy!
Lunch at Nana’s Table Cafe & Mercantile
We took a break between the tour of the village and the windmill. For lunch we ate at Nana’s Table Cafe & Mercantile where we used our Pella Bucks for lunch! Formerly Makers on Main Meg McGhee and Michelle Frederick added a tea room to their hand craft vendor business. It was truly yummy great salad and sandwich! Keith loved the bread pudding!
Lovena Von Haaften was our tour guide for the Vermeer Windmill This is the tallest working windmill in the United States. The windmill was designed and built by Lukas Verbij in Hoogmade in the Netherlands. Then the mill was de-assembled, shipped to Iowa, and re-assembled in Pella in 2002. On the website they share, “Named after the Harry and Bernice Vermeer family, whose dream it was to have a mill in Pella, the Vermeer Mill is an 1850s-style “koren mill” or grain mill. Almost every small town in the Netherlands has a mill at its center; this is our nod to Pella’s agricultural past.”
Lovena showed us the first floor is the base of the mill. Here, grain is brought in and hoisted up into the mill through a series of trap doors. This is a working mill! “We make grain for Jarsman Bakery,” Lovena said, adding that they have “been milling for five years.”
We enjoyed the exhibit of the Dutch miniature village that was started in 1938.
My favorite thing besides going out on the windmill was the second floor. Here was a replica of space where the miller and his family would have lived. The “bedstede,” an in-the-wall bed that saved space. The sleepers sat upright. They kept warm with doors that shut.
We saw models of windmills on the third floor. On the fifth top floor we viewed the sails of the windmill in all of their glory. Best though, was the amazing view!
Scholte House Museum
Before leaving town and heading to Oskaloosa and Mahaska County I had one more stop. After hearing the history of Dominie Hendrick Scholte’s journey I wanted to see his house. Really, that should be rephrased, it was his wife Maria’s house. He promised his wife that she would have a beautiful house like the one she left in the Netherlands. It was a wonderful tour with guide Ashley Uitermarkt. She shared family stories talked about Maria and her life.
She was the second wife. The first wife passed away and a movie could easily be made about the family, journey and history. The house is lovely and was built in 1848. Maria was musical and there are several pianos and instruments in the house. There is also an amazing Abraham Lincoln connection. “Dominie wrote Lincoln,” Ashley shared about his agreement with Lincoln’s stance on slavery.
The two corresponded and Dominie Scholte even attended Lincoln’s inauguration! There are many things that make this a fascinating tour from the chest where everyone’s gold was kept on board ship, to the family stories! This house helps bring Pella history together.
Parks filled with tulips and flowers. Statues, shopping options and history make Pella an amazingly memorable stop. The town is stunningly beautiful and so clean! Walk through Dutch history in the heart of Iowa. Visit Pella soon I can guarantee you will be glad you did!
If you enjoyed this story, you will also love Elkhorn and their windmill as well!