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Part homestead, part history

Property features schoolhouse, cave and other century-old structures

November 4, 2012
By ANDREW POTTER - Staff Writer ( , Times-Republican

GLADBROOK - The homestead of David and Judy Martens is one part living quarters, one part museum.

Visiting the early 1900s plot north or Gladbrook is like a trip back in time with century-old structures still there such as a smokehouse, icehouse, cave and a one-room schoolhouse, which is being used as their garage. They also have a traditional farm home on site, but it's the other structures on the two-acre property that get the most attention from visitors.

The farm structures were built by George and Clara Martens in the early 1900s, who were David's grandparents and people are amazed the family has kept them intact through the years.

Article Photos

Judy Martens stands on the steps of the cave on their rural Gladbrook property. It is one of several unique and historic structures on their homestead.

"They've been there a long time and we didn't see any reason to tear them down," David said. "The people that see them are surprised that we've kept them around."

With all the structures of yesteryear on their property, it can be a hit for the older crowd to see.

"The old-timers really appreciate it," Judy said. "People say when they go by here how well we've taken care of the place."

Here is a rundown of some of the unique structures on the Martens homestead.


The schoolhouse was originally up the road and moved to its current location decades ago, where it serves as s storage area for tools and a garage.

"It's still got the blackboard in it," Judy said.

Above the blackboard are two messages to the students, one reads "Welcome" and the other reads "To Forgive is Divine."


The man-made cave was built to store vegetables and cream. The concrete and brick structure has also been used by a neighbor to store apples through the years. The Martens decided to no longer use it for storage in the 1980s when the walls were crumbling. It features a wood door and concrete steps that lead down to the underground. From the outside it appears just as a small mound in the grass.


Right next to the cave is the icehouse, which has two doors stacked on top of each other, just how their ancestors would stack the blocks of ice inside. It's now used to store garden items, but Judy bought an ice pick to hang outside of it as an homage to the structure's former life.


The brick smokehouse still has the wires and brackets where the meat was hung to smoke.

"This is in pretty good shape for being 100 years old," Judy Martens said as she opened the door of the smokehouse.

Even though they've loved their time on the land, the Martens have put the property on T-47 approximately four miles north of Gladbrook up for sale.

"Dave is 71 and I'm 68 and we just think it's time to downsize," Judy said.



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