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Free workshop and abstract party offered to help residents research the history of their property

Mason City Library
Mason City Library
MASON CITY – Unless you live in a brand new home, you probably wonder what your house was like when it was first built. You might be curious about the people who lived there before you. Tips and tricks to find the answers to these questions will be the topic of a workshop hosted by the Mason City Historic Preservation Commission.

“Researching Your Home’s History” will be Saturday, May 2, 2015, from 10 AM to Noon, in the Classroom at the Mason City Public Library, 225 2nd St. SE, Mason City. The event is free and open to the public.

Sometimes the search for information about a specific home can be long and frustrating. With the advent of the internet and the wealth of online resources, a significant amount of research can be done via the internet from home. Kelli Lydon and Sarah Oltrogge will lead homeowners through researching their home’s history using online resources and property abstracts. The workshop will provide the best online resources for finding general information about your home, as well as tips and guidance for those who wish to go more in-depth with their research.

“It usually starts as a point of curiosity that quickly turns into a treasure hunt, each piece of information added to the puzzle until the image becomes clear,” said Oltrogge, former president, Des Moines Historical Society. “It takes some persistence, but if you’re lucky, you can find out all sorts of interesting facts about the people who walked your home’s hallways before you ever did.”

“People often feel a greater sense of ownership from working on their own house,” said Lydon, vice president, Des Moines Rehabbers Club. “When we repair windows, scrape old wallpaper, and uncover layers of a house’s physical past we find ourselves wanting to know more about the people whose lives shaped the house we care so much about.”

Participants are also strongly encouraged to bring their home’s abstract for an “Abstract Party.” The workshop will decipher the legal language of abstracts, how they are used in researching a home, and the
best way to store them for safekeeping. Participants will be encouraged to share information they find in their abstracts as they uncover valuable details.

Kelli Lydon is co-founder and President of the Des Moines Rehabbers Club, a non-profit organization that connects homeowners with education and inspiration for maintaining older homes in Des Moines. Through the Rehabbers Club, she has helped homeowners learn how to preserve and restore historic features of their homes, research the history of homes and neighborhoods in Des Moines, and promoted responsible restoration and city development. By day she works as a librarian at Des Moines University and by night she organizes classes on window restoration, historic tax credits, and basement insulation. She lives in a 1918 bungalow that she has been renovating with a balanced approach to history and function for the past 8 years.

Clear Lake native Sarah Oltrogge developed her love of local history over the course of 14 years while working for the State Historical Society of Iowa in Des Moines. She is a founding member of the Des Moines Historical Society and served as its president from 2012-2014. Under her leadership, DMHS received its 501c3 nonprofit tax-exempt status, quintupled its membership, and became a respected voice for Des Moines history education and preservation. Sarah was instrumental in saving two historically significant properties from the wrecking ball: a 1930s Conoco gas station and a ca. 1880 row house, one of the last remaining in Des Moines. She is also author of “Images of America: East Village” (2010), a pictorial chronicle of a downtown Des Moines neighborhood over the course of a century. Sarah is currently employed by Central Iowa Power Cooperative (CIPCO) in Des Moines and lives in a 1908 Craftsman Bungalow with her boyfriend Mark and two dogs. Mark and Sarah return to Clear Lake often to spend time with family.

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