Haines House

Haines House

A Home for Arts, Culture & Heritage

The Altoona Area Historical Society is looking into the possibility of purchasing the historic Thomas E. Haines house one block east of the museum. 

The house is the most historically significant home in Altoona. It was built by Haines, an early Altoona resident, and businessman. The original rot iron fence still encloses the property today. Haines may be best known for donating the land to the city of Altoona to be used as a park, which now bears his name. He also served as the second Mayor of Altoona and operated a tile and brick factory, as well as a grain elevator. 

Haines was not the only prominent occupant of the home. Dr. William Carpenter and his wife Lenora lived there and used part of the first floor as Dr. Carpenter’s office. A side entrance for patients to enter the office still remains. In addition to serving as the town physician/surgeon, Dr. Carpenter also served as Polk County Coroner (1917-1918, 1929-1936), and briefly served as Mayor of Altoona in 1934. 


Other owners of the home have helped to preserve its history. For the last 50 years, the Woodward family has owned the home.  The home is one of the most historically significant homes in the City of Altoona, and one of the most historically intact. As such, the Altoona Area Historical Society is hoping to purchase this home to continue its preservation, while sharing the stories of Altoona’s past, and serving as an educational and community facility. This will serve as the home for arts, culture, and history in the Altoona area. Plans include a full renovation, maintaining the historical significance of the building, and its grounds. Modern amenities will be added to make the facility operational and up to code. 

The Plan

The Haines House will be the center of arts, culture, and history programming in Altoona. As a historical landmark in the community, the facility will maintain its historical identity and serve as a second location for the Altoona Area Historical Society to provide educational programming on the history of the Altoona area. It will also be a place to showcase artwork from artists in the Altoona area, as well as a gallery space for art that may be donated, loaned, or purchased to bring diverse artwork to Altoona. Rooms will also be used for art classes and workshops for artists of all ages. The yard will provide space for sprawling gardens that will be maintained by local gardeners, who will provide gardening classes for all skill sets. In addition to all of the classes that will help maintain the costs of the facility, the garden space and indoor facility will serve as an event venue that could be used for small weddings and family get-togethers, along with other community events. 

The galleries will feature rotating art and historical exhibits open to the public. While some of the rooms will be dedicated to just the history of Altoona, other areas will be a mixture of art and history, featuring historical furniture in the historical society’s collection. This allows the historical society to properly display items in its collection that are better suited for a house museum, freeing up space in its current museum. The facility will be open for regular hours throughout the week and on weekends when events and classes are not being held.


The facility is to be an educational center for arts, culture, and history in Altoona. Thus, educational programming will be a focal point of the facility. Classes will provide an opportunity for people to use the facility for hands-on programming. Classes will be provided on three main topics that the facility will focus on history, art, and gardening. They are also one way to help raise the funds needed to sustain the facility.



The Altoona Area Historical Society currently has limited space for programming. This facility will provide space for larger lectures and programs on topics related to the history of Altoona and history in general. In addition to the historical society’s normal programs, additional classes will include genealogy classes to help people trace their family trees, historic renovation classes for people renovating historic homes, as well as classes on how to use newspapers and historic records for research. In addition to classes, history-related events will be held including historic teas, dinners, and seasonal events. 


There will be art classes for all ages and skill levels. These classes will be taught by local artists and art teachers. While some of the classes will be hands-on art, others will cover art history and appreciation. While most of the art classes will be visual arts, classes on musical and performing arts will also be planned.


One of the highlights of this facility is the large yard surrounding the home. This provides a great opportunity for local gardeners to help landscape and educate the community on different types of plants. Classes can be taught both indoors and out. These classes will help residents of Altoona grow a greater appreciation of gardening, while also helping to create one of the most beautiful gardens in the city.


One of the major sources of income for the facility will be rentals. The beautifully landscaped gardens will be the perfect place for small weddings and garden parties. While the rooms inside are smaller, the main floor has room for small parties and receptions. While larger weddings and events can not be accommodated, the smaller venue and price tag will be a perfect fit for those looking for a more cozy and intimate event venue. A possible “carriage house” addition could be added to provide a larger indoor event rental space, which could also be used for the classes and programs.


This is a current photo of the entryway, showcasing the staircase and main hallway.


Hand carvings of native Iowa flowers are featured in the woodwork throughout the house.


The parlor features a fireplace, sitting areas, elegant wallpaper, and beautiful hardwood floors.


The second floor of the home features four bedrooms, one bathroom, elegant woodwork, and hardwood floors.


The Haines House will be owned and managed by the Altoona Area Historical Society. A committee formed by the AAHS Board of Directors will oversee the facility, and eventually, an employee will be brought on to manage the facility and historical society events and collections. Potential partners include the Altoona Arts & Culture Commission to plan events and classes related to the arts. The Polk County Master Gardeners may also be a partner in the gardening portion of the facility. 


To help complete the purchase, renovation, and ongoing costs, donors and sponsors will be critical to making this a success. Initial major donors can be recognized by having a gallery space/garden named after them. Sponsorship opportunities will also help offset the costs of events and programs planned at the facility. Additional fundraising includes a donor patio of bricks with the names of donors. The historical society will seek public and private partnerships to fund the project and sustain it.


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