Ash Park Tour Introduction


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The Ash Park historic district, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1993, is one of Mount Vernon's most vibrant neighborhoods. Located between 5th and 8th Avenues, and 6th and 8th Streets, it was originally a 240-acre orchard owned by Reuben Ash. The early settler reportedly arrived in Mount Vernon with his brother Alfred in 1839 with only 50 cents, although there is little proof of the exact circumstances surrounding Ash’s arrival.

At that time, Mount Vernon was comprised of one log house and a blacksmith shop, and the surrounding countryside, it was said, remained “all wild and unimproved.” Reuben Ash purchased a tract of government land and a claim belonging to a Mr. Roland to create his farm and orchard. The land was ultimately sold due to economic hardship. First, insects infested Iowa from 1875 to 1876. Then, a drought paired with economic depression in the mid-1890s decimated Iowa’s agriculture. The Ash family sold 20 acres of their estate to Cornell College in 1891, which was used to construct an athletic field. Over time the rest of the Ash property was broken up and sold as individual lots for home construction. Thirty-six of the 42 homes in this historic district were built between 1885 and 1919. Many were originally owned by or rented out to Cornell College faculty. Thus, Ash Park and Cornell College share a history and a close community relationship based on mutual support that continues to this day.

Current residents pride themselves on their neighborhood's historic integrity and authenticity. There is a valued tradition of former homeowners passing along information and documentation of the homes’ histories to the new owners. Homeowners paint and make renovations in the original styles of their homes, and try to keep as much of the original structure wherever possible. It can be difficult, at times, to keep up with the maintenance of owning an older home, but Ash Park locals make it clear that it is all worthwhile. As one former Ash Park resident explains, old homes "foster a different … sense of place."