Published August 9, 2010 by LS Murphy

Named after the Sauk Chief that is buried in beautiful Rand Park, Keokuk Iowa is a town waiting to be rediscovered. Pronounced Key-O-kuk, although you’ll often hear the locals say “kill-kuk”, this once glamorous river town has some of architecture’s hidden gems resting along the bluff.

I grew up not far from Keokuk and spent a lot of time not seeing the homes for their beauty as I do now.

The antebellum homes rival those of Natchez, Mississippi in opulence and splendor. Unlike Natchez, Keokuk does not have annual pilgrimages, in which homeowners open up the houses for tours.

Unfortunately, there are too many homes that are falling down as the town moves away from the river that gave it life.

Birdwood House, a High Style Italianate mansion, is even for sale for a $249,900. Built in 1855, the home stands tall and proud with the high tower and two car-two story carriage house.

Grand Avenue is exactly as it is named. The most famous house sits here, built of stones stacked and with a beautiful archway leading to the front door. Also on Grand Avenue is The Grand Anne, a bed and breakfast The Grand Anne was built in 1897 in Queen Anne style.

Friendly House stands on its final legs. Gutted by a fire, the home is slated for destruction. Even in its current state, the beauty of what it once was can be seen by the naked eye. A fire may have destroyed the inside but the bricks stand firmly together.

During my childhood, I would beg my mother to take me around Keokuk to look at the churches. Keokuk has plenty of them, and like the grand old homes, many are falling into disrepair. This church still holds services in the basement but its former glory is gone.

Even though I did not appreciate the beauty of most of the houses on the bluff, there was one that I dreamt of owning. It sits on a corner lot but, unlike most homes, it does not face the street head on. It sits angular to the curb in defiance of tradition with stairs leading up to a yard surrounded by wrought iron fencing.

I don’t recall it being occupied although I believe a renovation was started a few years back. There is just something magical about this house. Every year, as I travel to visit my family, I drive by it to make sure it is still there.

One day, I’m afraid I’ll drive by and it’ll be gone. With it, a bit of my daydreaming youth will disappear. Or maybe someone else will see the beauty and restore it.

The homes of Keokuk are lovely. Give this small river town a chance and visit. You may find a home of your own to fall in love with.


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