A limited-access by-pass for Highway 34 was planned for the south side of Fairfield. One of the properties purchased for the right-of-way was Mary Leather's farmstead.
When some citizens realized that this historic farm (which had deteriorated over time) would be destroyed, they engaged the Iowa DOT in negotiations and saved the part of the farmstead that contained the historic barns.
The owner gifted the historic part of the farmstead to the Jefferson County Board of Supervisors. In February of 2005 the Maasdam Barns Preservation Committee was formed to oversee restoration and development of the farmstead.
The Maasdam Barns Development Project was begun to develop a tourist, recreation and education center on the farmstead property. The project would showcase pre-industrial-revolution agriculture and highlight the achievements of the Louden and Turney companies, the largest local manufacturers during that era, and national contributors to pre-industrial and industrial agriculture.
Both of the 1910 barns apparently used Louden barn designs, and were built by J. G. Maasdam. The earlier 1906 barn was built for Ellsworth Turney, before he sold the farmstead to J. G. Maasdam.
The Maasdam Barn Project is funded by grants and donations, and much of the restoration work was and will be performed by volunteers.
Restoration work on the Stallion Barn began in 2005.
Scroll down to view the Timeline for the Maasdam Barns Property
In May 2007 an application was made by the Maasdam Barns Preservation Committee for the 7.62-acre historic section of the farmstead to be entered onto The National Register of Historic Places. Notification of acceptance was received in the summer of 2008.
A Museum & Visitor Center was needed, but since none of the original farmhouses still existed, another building was sought. A suitable building became available when Doris Strait was required to remove her house from downtown Fairfield, so she agreed to donate it to us. Arrangements were made to move it to the Maasdam Barns complex, where it was converted into the Museum & Visitor Center.
By the time of our Open House in October, 2011, volunteers had renovated the museum, and displays and exhibits had been professionally designed and installed.
Volunteers, with some help from contractors, had also completed the Mare and Show Barn's exterior and interior work, and placed displays and exhibits within. Construction of the infrastructure, such as the parking lot, had been contracted out and completed.
Many smaller projects are still underway.
A section of the Fairfield Loop Trail, the 16-mile recreational trail that encircles Fairfield, was planned to run through the farmstead. But when a new Health Center was built on the site just to the north of the farmstead, the trail was moved to the borderline area between the two properties.
An Historic Study, prepared for the Iowa DOT in 2002, can be seen at this This link to a DOT Report (PDF). This report contains history, photos and diagrams of the barns and the old farmhouses.
1852 - Although not the first owner, John C. Rickey was the first to inhabit the property. It will become the future home of the Maasdam Barns.
1870 - The farm is purchased by Beverly (male) B. Bower.
1875 - The farm is purchased by R.E. Jones.
1892 - The farm is purchased by L. L. Wilkins.
1905 - While living in Pella (Iowa), Jacob Maasdam partners with a childhood friend, Edward G. Wheeler, a veterinarian.
1906 - In January, Jacob Maasdam and his son William make their initial move to Jefferson County. The two-day journey brings 47 Percheron horses and one Shetland pony from Pella to land overlooking Cedar Creek. Located about 2 miles south of the Wilkins farm, they call their new place "Evergreen Ridge Stock Farm."
Later in 1906 - The Wilkins farm is purchased by Ellsworth Turney, whose company manufactures Charter Oak Wagons. Turney constructs a barn with stone and hand-hewn timber salvaged from a structure built by an earlier owner. (After 1910, under Maasdam ownership, it will be called the Show Barn).
1910 - Jacob G. Maasdam expands his "Evergreen Ridge Stock Farm" with purchase of the Turney property.
Maasdam then builds the Mare and Stallion barns on this site. The "Big House" is also constructed. The old Richey house is later turned into an office.
1915 - Maasdam and Wheeler conduct their first sale of pure-bred Scotch Shorthorn Cattle.
1918 - Maasdam and Wheeler dissolve their partnership.
1919 - Maasdam's American-bred Percheron mare, Amoretta, is named World Champion at the International Livestock Show in Chicago, Illinois.
1931 - Maasdam and Wheeler resume their partnership doing business as the "Iowa Horse Importing Company."
1933 - The Maasdam home (the "Big House") burns down. The family moves into the old Rickey House, which had served as the company office.
1935 - Louis d'Or, reportedly the world's largest Belgian, is imported by J.G. Maasdam & Son.
1945 - J.G. Maasdam ceases sales of horses.
1950 - The farm is purchased by Glenn Gorman.
1973 - Gorman's son-in-law, Ralph Leathers, purchases the farm.
2001-2005 - The Iowa DOT plans a new by-pass and purchases the Leathers farm. A survey finds that a portion of the farmstead is eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places. That portion of the farm is gifted to the Jefferson County Board of Supervisors. Volunteers start restoration of the Stallion Barn.
2005 - The Maasdam Barns Preservation Committee is formed to oversee restoration and development of the farmstead, to restore it and open it to visitors.
2008 - The application for the 7.62-acre historic section of the Maasdam property to be placed onto the National Register of Historic Places is accepted as "The Evergreen Ridge Stock Farm Historic District."
2009 - A period-correct house is moved to the property for use as a Museum.
2011 - Restoration and upgrading continues with contractors and volunteers. On Oct 8, 2011, an Open House was held.