Section 5.1: Print and Online Resources

Find Your Preservation Story – Researching Preservation Stories

Like any archaeologist or newspaper reporter, you’ve got to do some digging to uncover a story. While it’s possible that you might get your hands dirty in the process, you might also start with what’s readily available in special collections, on the internet, or even by oral interviews with historians or other relevant storytellers.

To begin uncovering your story, use this document to find the storytellers who can add details and events to your story. The first part of this document, lists helpful places and organizations where you can access historical records or even reach historians to learn more about the building whose story you hope to find. The second part  of this document lists resources that can be accessed from the comfort of your classroom as a sort of “virtual field trip” experience for you and your students.

Print Resources

A Field Guide to American Houses by Virginia and Lee McAlester, Knopf, 1990.

A Field Guide to Contemporary Architecture by Carole Rifkind, Penguin Putnam, 1998.

All About Old Buildings: The Whole Preservation Catalog edited by Diane Maddex, The National Trust for Preservation, The Preservation Press, 1985.

American Architecture: An Illustrated Encyclopedia by Cyril M. Harris, W. W. Norton, 1998.

American Vernacular Buildings and Interiors: 1870-1960 by Herbert Gottfried and Jan Jennings, W.W. Norton and Co., 2009.

An Age of Barns by Eric Sloane, Ballantine Books, 1974.

Discovering the History of Your House and Your Neighborhood by Betsy J. Green, Santa Monica Press, 2002.

Barns of the Midwest by Allen Noble, Ohio University Press, 1995.

Buildings of Iowa, by David Gebhard and Gerald Mansheim, Oxford University Press, 1993.

Dictionary of Building Preservation by Ward Bucher, Preservation Press, 1996.

Identifying American Architecture: A Pictorial Guide to Styles and Terms by John Blumenson, American Association for State and Local History, 1977.

“If Ordinary Walls Could Talk: Piecing Together the History of My House” by Mark Speltz, Wisconsin Magazine of History, Spring 2008.

“If These Walls Could Talk: A Primer for Tracing House Histories” by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack, NGS NewsMagazine , December 2004.

Iowa’s Historical Architects: A Biographical Dictionary by Wesley I. Shank, University of Iowa Press, 1999.

House Histories: A Guide to Tracing the Genealogy of Your Home by Sally Light, Golden Hill Press, 1989.

“House Hunting” by Maureen A. Taylor, Family Tree Magazine, September 2008.

“Living in the Lap of History,” by Reid Forgrave, The Des Moines Register, March 25, 2006.

Prairie Grass Roots: An Iowa Small Town in the Early Twentieth Century by Thomas Morain, Iowa State University Press, 1988.

Modern Architecture Since 1900 by William J.R. Curtis, Phaidon Press, 2001.

“Researching a Historic Property” by Eleanor O’Donnell, National Register Bulletin, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1998.

The Iowa Farm House (1857-1950): A Literature Survey by Jean Sizemore, The State Historical Society Library, 1979.

The Prairie School in Iowa by Richard Guy Wilson and Sidney K. Robinson, Iowa State University Press, 1977.

Twentieth-Century Building Materials: History and Conservation, Thomas C. Jester, McGraw-Hill, 1995.

USA Modern Architecture in History by Gwendolyn Wright, Reaktion Books, Ltd., 2008.

Victorian Architecture of Iowa by William Plymat Jr., Palladian Publishing, 1997.

What Style Is It?: A Guide to American Architecture, by John C. Poppeliers, Preservation Press, 1986.

Without Right Angles: The Round Barns of Iowa by Lowell Soike, Iowa State Historical Department, 1983.

Reference Center Documents

State Historical Society of Iowa Digital Resources:

The State Historical Society of Iowa along with local archives and historical collections are good locations to find the following:

Architectural Journals, Cemetery Records, Census Records, Commercial Histories, Community/ County Histories, Court Documents, Directories and Gazetteers, Estate Records, Family/ Personal Papers, Genealogical Records, Land Records, Maps and Plats, Military Records, Newspapers, Photographs and Postcards, and Tax Records.

Online Resources


Agricultural Census Reports 1840-1950:

A Historical Bibliography of Architecture, Landscape and Urbanism in the United States Since World War II:

The Cultural Landscape Foundation:

DOCOMOMO_US (International Committee for the Documentation and Conservation of Buildings, Sites, and Neighborhoods of the Modern Movement—US Chapter):

Federal Historic Preservation Tax Incentives:

The Jefferson Highway Association:

Mesker Brothers Storefronts of America:

National Barn Alliance:

National Register of Historic Places:

National Trust for Historic Preservation:

OldHouse Online (Old House Journal):


Preservation Action:

Preservation Directory:

U.S. Patents:

Vernacular Architecture Forum (VAF):

State & Local

Ames Historical Society:

Association of Iowa Archaeologists:

Burlington Heritage Trust:

Council Bluffs Historic Preservation Alliance:

Hardin County Farm Museum:

Herriman Mansion, Wadena, Iowa:

Iowa Architectural Foundation:

Iowa Barn Foundation:

Iowa Chapter of the American Institute of Architects:

Iowa City’s Friends of Historic Preservation:

Iowa Community Foundations:

Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs:

Iowa Great Places:

Iowa History 101:

Iowa Lincoln Highway:

Iowa Museum Association:

Iowa National History Day:

Iowa Office of the State Archaeologist:

Iowa State University Archives:

Iowa State University Digital Collections:

Johnson County Historical Society:

Main Street Iowa Program:

State Association for the Preservation of Iowa Cemeteries:

Silos and Smokestacks National Heritage Area (SSNHA):

State Historical Society of Iowa:

Trimble Parker Historic District (Davis County):

University of Iowa Special Collections:

University of Iowa Digital Collections:

University of Northern Iowa Special Collections and Archives:

Country Schools

Glenn & Jill Chatfield’s Iowa One Room Schools Blog:

Preservation Iowa’s Country Schools Page:

The National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP)

Chronicling America (Library of Congress):

Library of Congress National Digital Newspaper Program:

National Endowment for the Humanities:

Newspaper (by paid subscription, but a free trial is offered):

Image and Map Collections

David Rumsey Map Collection:

Farwell T. Brown Photographic Archive—Ames Public Library:

lowa Department of Transportation Historic Photographs:

Iowa Geographic Map Server:

Iowa Heritage Digital Collections:

Library of Congress’ American Memory and Photographs Divisions:

New York Public Library Research Collections:

Penny Postcards:

Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps—State Library of Iowa (site requires a free State Library Card number to access maps) :

Upper Mississippi Valley Digital Image Archive:

This project was supported in part by the State Historical Society of Iowa, Historical Resource Development Program.