Plum Grove Historic Home was the residence of Robert and Friendly Lucas and their family. The Lucas family was originally from Ohio where all seven of their children were born and where Robert worked his way up through the Ohio Legislature to eventually serve two terms as Governor of the State of Ohio—1832-1836. Robert was appointed by President Van Buren as the first governor of the Territory of Iowa in 1838 and served as governor until 1841. After leaving the office of governor in 1841, the Lucas family lived for a time in Bloomington (now Muscatine), though the family went back to Ohio for a short time in 1843 where Robert ran for Congress. He was defeated, and in the spring of 1844 they sold the family farm in Ohio, Friendly Grove, and returned to Iowa permanently. They built Plum Grove in 1844 on 360 acres of land (legally owned by Friendly) south east of Iowa City. Robert lived there until his death in 1853. Friendly sold the house and remaining property in 1866.
When the Lucas family lived at Plum Grove, an extensive orchard to the east of the house was reputed to have several acres of plum trees which may be how the Lucas family chose the name for their new home. The first known use of the name Plum Grove by the family was in a letter written by Robert in 1852. The Lucas family sold Plum Grove in 1866 and it was owned by a number of different families until the State of Iowa bought the property in the early 1940s. The house was restored and opened to the public in 1946.
Today Plum Grove Historic Home sits on four acres of the original Lucas property and the seven-room, brick home is furnished to reflect the Lucas family’s residency in the 1840s-1850s. Free tours of the house offer a glimpse into the lives of the Lucas family and life in the Iowa Territory. Visitors to the site can also tour the historic vegetable and flower gardens which are both part of the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Gardens as well as view exhibits about ongoing archaeological excavations.
Hours: Memorial Day - Labor Day Wednesday through Sunday 1:00pm-5:00pm
(weekends only Labor Day through October 31)
To arrange for a group tour please call (319) 351-5738 or send an email.
University of Iowa Archaeological Field School-mid May-June
Taste of the Heritage Garden—mid-July