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Gardens, bikes and pony rides this weekend at Lucas Farms


Plum Grove, 1844 home of Iowa’s first territorial governor Robert Lucas. — photo by Eleanore Taft

Plum Grove, the 1844 home of Iowa’s first territorial governor Robert Lucas and his wife Friendly, still anchors the neighborhood of Lucas Farms in Iowa City. This weekend, the Lucas Farms Neighborhood Association invites the community in to explore the neighborhood’s past and present at the third annual Lucas Farms History Days.

Tour De Farm Bike Ride

Faith United Church of Christ (1609 Deforest Ave) — Saturday, June 24 at 1 p.m.

Take a 4.5-mile bicycle tour of 25 historic Lucas Farms sites, then socialize and have a snack at Big Grove Brewery (1225 S Gilbert St) around 4 p.m. Helmets required and children welcome with adult supervision.

Lucas Farms History Day

Plum Grove Historic Home and Gardens (1030 Carroll St) — Sunday, June 25, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Check out historic flowers and vegetables at Plum Grove, planted to reflect what the grounds looked like in the era when the house was built. The State Historical Society will bring its mobile museum and Iowa City Transit will offer free narrated bus rides around the neighborhood.

State Historical Society’s mobile museum. — photo by Eleanore Taft

Judy Nyren has lived in the neighborhood 42 years and will narrate the tour, sharing historical tidbits about Iowa governors Robert Lucas and Samuel Kirkwood as well as authors, artists, scientists and other notable neighborhood residents. Nyren called Lucas Farms a “modest neighborhood with a rich history,” and noted that it was farmland for the first 100 years of Iowa City history, then developed a little more each decade.

“We have architecture and stories from almost every decade in Iowa City history,” Nyren said. “It goes from the sublime to the ridiculous.”

Visitors will stop for a sip of soda at a former root beer stand which is now a rental house, peer into Dead Man’s Cave and pause at a former vineyard that once made communion wine. The shuttle connects the three main activity stations: the corner of Highland and Keokuk, Plum Grove and Yewell Street, named for 19th century artist George H. Yewell who created the oldest known drawings of the Iowa City area. A new attraction this year, Yewell Street will be lined with artwork for sale and historical information about the Iowa City art scene. There will be children’s activities on Yewell Street and at Iowa City Assembly of God Church (1330 Keokuk St), including bouncy houses and pony rides.

Plum Grove’s 1840s-style kitchen garden. — photo by Eleanore Taft

Project GREEN Garden Tour

Sunday, June 25 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Take a leisurely stroll around eight historic homes in the Lucas Farms neighborhood. Explore the grounds at Plum Grove (1030 Carroll St) and learn how to attract pollinators with native plants. Admire a fountain and flower gardens at 1133 Kirkwood Ct, and explore the winding paths of a quirky landscape that feeds its owners while complementing their 1940s Moffitt house at 1203 Friendly Ave. The owner of another Moffitt house at 1507 Yewell St filled in a former ball field with wild plants and roses, and a third Moffitt house at 1411 Yewell St is home to Japanese-style garden features including a miniature teahouse. Thirty-five years worth of the owner’s thoughtful landscaping surround 1401 Keokuk, 1425 Ridge St stands out with diverse plants and yard art, and a garden full of birds, bees and butterflies completes the tour at 1402 Spruce St.

Tickets may be purchased at any stop along the tour for $5 (free for kids under 10), and the tour will take place rain or shine. Bid on silent auction items as you wander to support Project GREEN landscaping projects which beautify Iowa City while protecting the environment.


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