Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Meanwhile, Back in Iowa: Spillville

When we left Mason City, we considered stopping for a late lunch - but we were eager to get on the road, to be sure we arrived at Spillville before the Dvorak museum closed. So, off we went, figuring we'd grab some fast food on the road.

Bad idea. What Thelma the GPS knew, and we didn't yet know, was that the road to Spillville was nothing more than one county road after another, with an occasional bar and not much else. So, no late lunch until long after we left Spillville!

This building was our destination in Spillville. In 1893, it housed a tinsmith, and, during the summer, the upper floor housed Antonin Dvorak and his family.

Today, the upper floor houses an exhibit on Dvorak and his visit to Spillville. At the time, he was living in New York, heading a conservatory for Jeanette Thurber. Dvorak's secretary, Josef Kovarik, invited him to visit Spillville, a community of Czechs, thinking he would feel at home there. The letters and memories in the exhibit suggested that he was very much at home there, taking walks, visiting with neighbors, playing the organ in the local church, and composing several pieces. The exhibit was well-done, and very informative.

The lower floor houses the Bily Clock exhibit, which was an unexpected treat.The Bily brothers, Joseph and Frank, were born in the 1880's, and never traveled more than 35 miles from Spillville. They were farmers and carpenters, working with their father on his farm, but their hobby was carving clocks. Over their lifetime, they made forty clocks, none of which was ever sold - in fact, they are all in this museum.

Here are a couple examples of their clocks, scanned from the souvenir booklet we bought.

This first is the Old Swedish Clock. It was originally carved in Sweden, and was brought to the Bily brothers, in pieces, for restoration. They repaired it, and made a number of additions. We liked it because the base (which they carved) includes a bear and an owl.

Still running, after 250 years

This second clock is the American Pioneer History Clock. (The tour guide said that the Bilys named the clocks.) It was the first original clock designed by the brothers, and is considered to be their masterpiece. Supposedly, in 1928, Henry Ford offered 1 million dollars for this clock, but the brothers turned him down. (According to this inflation calculator, that is 13.7 million dollars in today's money. Wow.)

8 feet tall, 500 pounds

Our next stop was Rockford, Illinois. As we drove, the weather looked like this:

It did actually rain some, as we drove to Rockford, but not much. Guess all those clouds were just for show.

More on Rockford in the next blog post...

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