Sturdevant House Garden
The garden at the Ira and Asenath Sturdevant House was not theirs historically, yet is symbolic and dear to the restoration project. When the present generation of Sturdevant descendants got involved in saving the house, they had to hire someone to mow. Before long that evolved into the generous care of Hartman Services. Rick Hartman and his crew extended their lawn care into a kind of caretaking of the grounds that they continue with pride. They removed unwanted vegetation and trash. The latter included the previous owner’s flood-damaged hot tub (even though when Kathy Sturdevant gave tours she enjoyed teasing visitors about how much Ira enjoyed his hot tub in the 1850s).
As Hartman Services cleared the yard, a miracle occurred. Flowers—some planted by the previous owner and some native volunteers—sprung up into a spectacular display. The previous owner had attempted to plant old-fashioned flowers suitable to the age of the house. She tells that often passers-by would stop to comment on her pretty yard and pretty little pink stucco house. It was a great surprise to her that the flowers remained after the 2008 flood. Iowa’s soil and climate being what they are, each spring the yard has greeted its preservationists with a colorful show. It has also provided flowers for Ira’s and Asenath’s graves, and those of their descendants.
In Ira and Asenath’s day, we know they had a barn that he built in 1857 (it made the newspaper). He probably kept a horse or two, perhaps a milk cow, perhaps pigs, and most likely chickens. At his age, and considering how much he sold land to the town or gave it to family, it seems less likely that he grew sizable crops. They probably had a vegetable garden, perhaps rows of corn, perhaps fruit trees. Near the house were probably a well and a cistern. Ultimately careful study will reveal some clues from newspapers, records, and some archaeology. Surely there were some flowers—perhaps some like the ones we see there today. Even if those have to give way someday to accurate restorations, the present flowers add tremendously to the experience of visitors and supporters.
Kathy Sturdevant with Phlox from the Sturdevant House Garden.