Whether you are a believer in European culture having an influence on American society or simply consider this to be a myth of years gone by, there are distinctive cultures throughout the United States that continue to prove this ideology exists. I will be the first to admit that my knowledge of geography in Iowa is limited aside from Des Moines, so needless to say our trip through this state was all about spontaneity. But that’s when you find those real hidden treasures and we were delighted when we stumbled across the town of Pella, Iowa which was just oozing Dutch influence!
Taking random road trips with no real idea where you are going and then stumbling across a location like Pella makes everything worthwhile. I can’t imagine this town having anywhere near as much publicity as it deserves, though perhaps this is a good thing as it enables the locality to maintain their richly cherished heritage and Dutch influence.
Pella, Iowa – Dutch Influence
Distinctive yet quaint is a perfect way to describe the small town of Pella, Iowa. As we approached this town with a little over 10,000 population, we immediately realized that this was far different from the regular, run of the mill American town that you come across on your travels around the Midwest.
The advertisement of a windmill was an intriguing pull factor for us as we drove through Iowa’s rural landscape, though the moment we entered the downtown area of this town we knew that this town had much more to offer.
When you think about clogs, tulips and windmills, what is the first thing that springs to mind? Amsterdam perhaps or more generically the Netherlands! Well, Pella is a stereotypical example of an American town that has undergone this European influence and over the years has continued to maintain this Dutch heritage.
Just to give you a brief history on Pella. Founded in 1847 by a number of Dutch immigrants led by Henry Scholte, Pella is a reference to ‘Pella in the Perea’ which Christians of Jerusalem found refuge. It is understandable that the Dutch opted for this name as they fled the years of religious persecution and famine in their homeland and moved to this newly found ‘City of Refuge’.
Ever since these days, Pella has continued to thrive on the Dutch heritage and long may this continue if our experiences are anything to go by.
We parked directly in front of Central Park which is located in the heart of Pella’s community. Surrounded by the main central business district, this is an ideal location to get out and explore everything this town has to offer. Central Park exudes Dutch influence, but then again so does the rest of the town!
The Tulip Tower is an iconic landmark in the town and provides the focal point during the first week in May when Tulip Time takes place in Pella. Street parades take place throughout the town and of course it wouldn’t be a true reflection of the Netherlands without Dutch dancers performing on the deck in front of the Tulip Tower, making this a great spectacle for everyone involved.
Wandering around Central Park, we noticed that this was much more than just the hub for the Tulip Tower. A Civil War statue, historic sundial and a replica windmill are all situated here making this a perfect spot to relax and take in the gorgeous weather (if you are fortunate enough to visit Pella on a day like we did)!
If you are seeking true iconography while wandering around the town of Pella, look no further than the incredible sight of the Vermeer Windmill located a short walk down the main street from Central Park. Standing proudly in the heart of Pella, the history surrounding the largest Dutch windmill in the United States is pretty impressive.
All of the pieces that comprise this windmill are completely Dutch, though the final construction and piecing together of this landmark was done inside the town of Pella. What is even more impressive is that Vermeer is still a fully functioning windmill and is constantly churning out flour from wheat, utilizing wind power alone.
A tour of the mill is available should you wish to visit the Historical Museum and Gift Shop, though for us seeing this magnificent structure in action from the outside was enough to inspire us to explore more of Pella’s Dutch background.
The large clogs directly in front of the windmill are yet another iconic representation of Holland, and what better way to entertain your time in Pella than by taking a picture wearing these oversized icons.
A Touch of Holland
The signpost that depicts a map of Pella provides a perfect summary and representation of the town – “A Touch of Holland”. If you are going to have a tagline like that, you should probably live up to the expectations and I can honestly say that Pella does this extremely well.
The Royal Amsterdam Hotel located in close proximity to the Vermeer Windmill offers a great spot to stay the night and of course sample a little Dutch cuisine by visiting Jaarsma Bakery, offering a variety of Dutch pastries etc.
Spending a couple of hours in Pella, Iowa was probably one of the most rewarding experiences we have encountered on our weekend travels. Whenever you come across a gem like Pella, you really have to make the most of your time because this is truly where memories are made.
If you are a US citizen, forget looking for your passport if you are interested in traveling overseas, because the town of Pella provides an amazing alternative yet maintains a true Dutch influence. Think about the Netherlands for a few moments and then take a look at Pella.
Someone recently wrote on our Facebook page commenting on a picture of Vermeer Windmill:
When I scrolled over this picture I was sure that this picture was taken in the NL (so it even fools a Dutch girl)
I think that proves the beauty that lies within the boundaries of Pella, Iowa! Remember that name when you are next road tripping around USA, you won’t regret spending time here.