Saturday, February 21, 2009
The legend of The Hog House
I grew up in Decorah, Iowa. NE Iowa is an amazingly beautiful place. It was not flattened by glaciers as was the rest of Iowa, but instead was carved into spectacular valleys and gorges by glacial melt. Evidently it reminded early Norwegian settlers of home. Amongst these woods the founding folks of Decorah were wise enough to carve out some magical parks. One of these was Twin Springs - a shady green valley filled with springs, streams, hidden picnic spots, and winding hiking trails. And THE HOG HOUSE.
The Hog House (pictured above, courtesy of Decorah Park and Rec) was teenage heaven. A large, open, unoccupied building with ample room for parking, a huge open fireplace, picnic tables, and a steep heavily wooded hill just behind for escape should the police choose to break up the kegger.
A discussion was brewing among Facebook friends as to whether it was the HOG house or the HAAG house. So I emailed the authorities to settle the matter.
According to 1956 city records:
" this shelter house is historic, In the long, long ago it was part of one of the numerous grist mills run with plentiful water power in and about Decorah. In the early 1880's the Gaston Platform Scales were manufactured in a structure nearby. The power for the mill and for the scales factory came from the Twin Springs thru a race that crossed the road.
The building fell into decay, but years later J.C. Beard used it for a milk house, piping water from the spring to cool the milk. Still later the building was used as a hog house. After the Decorah Parks Commission acquired the property, W.P.A. labor pointed up the walls, repaired the roof, put in a big fireplace, and cemented the floor. The W.P.A. also put a foot bridge across the brook"
Sadly, the hog house was torn down short years ago. I'm certain the city's insurance company demanded that they rid themselves of the most spectacular underage drinking establishment ever known. I'll bet the police department had to budget thousands of dollars just to manage hog house activities. The legal term "attractive nuisance" probably started there. I'm glad I was able to experience just a little of it's mystique as the legend lives on in memory.