CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Hundreds of visitors took a step back in time as Ushers Ferry Historic Village celebrated its 50-year anniversary.
The “birthday bash,” Saturday, July 1, 2023, on the 10-acre site at 5925 Seminole Valley Trail NE, featured the Hawk A Model A Club, Iowa Brass Band, Old West Reenactors — Hole in the Sock Gang and the Red Cedar Regulators — spinning, butter churning and wood stove cooking demonstrations and more.
Intermittent rain stayed light until nearly the end of the event on an otherwise warm summer’s day.
The historic village was created in 1973 by Cedar Rapids Parks Commissioner Stan Reinis and opened to the public in 1975 as “Pioneer Village.” The first building was a church moved to the site, along the Cedar River. It was renamed Ushers Ferry Historic Village in 1986.
Historically, the ground was a favorite camp site of Native Americans both before and after the arrival of white settlers.
The “real” Ushers Ferry was not actually a town, but a ferry boat crossing located approximately a quarter of a mile upriver from the current village site. The Usher family was among the earliest settlers in Linn County, with Dyer Usher arriving in the valley as early as 1836. He established a ferry across the Cedar River that operated until the 1860s.
Ushers Ferry features the home of Dyer’s cousin, Henry A. Usher, the first landholder of the ground the village sits on today. Originally built near the site of Dyer’s ferry landing, the house was moved to farmland Henry owned across the river near Covington and moved a second time to become part of the historical village in 1983.
At its height, 36 buildings dotted the village; most moved from the Cedar Rapids area to be saved during the building of Interstate 380 and other demolition threats.
Program coordinator Ann Cejka said proceeds from an old-fashioned pie auction, including mouth-watering cherry, rhubarb/strawberry and other pies, will go towards rehabilitating the doctor’s house on the Ushers Ferry grounds, one of several buildings still in need of repair after natural disasters have taken their toll in recent years.
During unprecedented flooding in 2008, the site lost 16 buildings, with more devastation during Iowa’s hurricane-strength derecho in 2020, which led to the demolition of the historic depot.
The city-operated site now features nine ADA accessible, historic buildings that depict life in a small Iowa town between the years of 1890 and 1910.
More: See photos of the move of a one-room schoolhouse, and more from the Ushers Ferry anniversary, below.