The Scholte House

Pella Historical Review Section I-3

Hours: 1:00 – 4:00 Monday – Saturday, admission fee $5 adults, $2 school age children

The Scholte House, built in the winter and spring of 1847-1848, was the fulfillment of a promise Dominie Hendrik Scholte made to his wife Mareah to alleviate her homesickness and disappointment. He had promised to build her a house with all the comforts of the home she had left in The Netherlands.

Remaining much as it was in Pella’s early days, some rooms now play different roles, and others have been added. In this treasured house lies much of the earliest history of de kolonie. Since the Scholte house was built in 1848, some of its rooms have always been occupied by Scholte descendants. The last Scholte descendant to live in the house was Leonora Gaass Hettinga. She and her brother and sister-in-law, Peter and Norma Gaass, then gave the house to the Pella Historical Society in 1979 for use as a museum and Leonara continued to live there until her death in 1987.  The museum’s Director now lives in the home’s  east wing.

This house was built to withstand the ravages of time. Native lumber, walnut and oak, was used for the structure erected on a cut stone foundation, and was also used in the ceilings and floors. Even today, in the cellars and attic, one can see the logs that were used as beams– some with the bark still on them. Bricks were made from Pella soil in a kiln that was already in operation. Glass was shipped from St. Louis and pieces of trim arrived from other places.

Although the rest of the house has been restored and redecorated, the library has miraculously survived with its original furnishings.   Carpets, wallpaper, and ceiling paper date back to the mid 1850s.

Some of the treasures in the museum reflect the intelligence of de kolonie and its visionary leader, while others poignantly illustrate Mareah’s difficult adjustment to her new life. Below are listed just a few of the many interesting artifacts that remain in the museum.

The gold chest, found in the library, is an ingenious creation handmade by a Dutch blacksmith. The once heavily-guarded chest was designed to hold the money the colonists had invested in a venture to buy land in America. The 1922 Souvenir History of Pella states, “In front of the box is a keyhole into which the great iron key fits perfectly, but upon turning the key the box fails to unlock. That keyhole is a ‘blind,’ the real one being in the center of the lid, concealed by what appears to be the head of one of the large rivets. A smart tap on the side of this rivet head caused it to turn on a pivot, revealing the true keyhole. One turn of the key moves eight bolts–three on each side and one at each end–that fits in sockets in the wall of the chest. This chest later became the first safe for the newly-organized Pella Bank.

In the drawing room, one Delft plate from Mareah’s prized collection is displayed. Few pieces of that collection survived the trip to Pella. When the Scholtes moved into their mansion, Mareah began to eagerly unpack her dishes, which had been boxed for more than a year. She found them shattered. Instead of discarding the broken pieces, she used them for an outdoor path from the log cabin to her new beautiful home. Pieces of that “path of delft” were later found when a highway was built in 1937.

In the study a shawl Dominie Hendrik wore to President Lincoln’s inauguration can be seen draped over the rocking chair. Scholte, a Dutch American for only thirteen years, met Lincoln and witnessed the acceptance speech at the 1860 Republican Convention in Chicago. There Lincoln addressed Scholte as his “Dutch friend.” He received a personal invitation to go to the inauguration in Washington, D.C. An interesting coincidence occurred in Washington. Lincoln’s shawl, worn over his shoulders, was identical to the one Scholte was wearing.