History of the States is something we all learn in elementary school. Have you ever wondered, though, how specific things are chosen to be the symbol of a State? Althea R. Sherman, originally from National, Iowa, inspired the Iowa Legislature with one of her paintings of the American Goldfinch, which they then later adopted as the State bird of Iowa. Althea, a well-educated woman, had a passion for birds and loved to observe them. In fact, she loved bird watching so much that in 1915, she hired local carpenters to build a tower specifically for the purpose of observing the entire nesting cycle of native birds. Today, a replica has been built and named appropriately – the Sherman Swift Tower.
Althea’s original design was a simple wooden structure; a 28 foot tall, 9 foot square tower with a two foot square artificial chimney, whose sole purpose was to attract birds to nest in the Chimney Swifts. Her vision drew hundreds of visitors from Clayton County and abroad to peak through the doors, windows, and peepholes in the chimney to observe the natives species of birds.
With the ability to observe the nesting process, Althea was diligent about recording all of her observations. She compiled documentation over 18 years that totaled more than 400 pages of research. You are invited to see the replica of Althea Sherman’s 1915 Chimney Swift Tower every weekend from Memorial Day through Labor Day from 1pm-4pm.
To read more about the amazing travels of this tower, please visit the website. For more information on native birds, download the Iowa Ornithologists’ Union Checklist of Birds in Clayton County, and see how many species of birds you can locate when you visit Sherman Swift Tower in National, Iowa.