Imagine Northeast Iowa

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Come "Czech" out Spillville this Summer!
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Come "Czech" out Spillville this Summer!

If you haven't been to Spillville yet, you don't know what you are missing! Come "Czech" us out this summer! You'll be glad you did!

Spillville is a cultural and historical small town with much to offer. We are a friendly place with a great big heart and lots of history in northeast Iowa. The town is the most historic Czech village in America and is the oldest Bohemian community north of St. Louis and west of the Mississippi. Our scenic town is nestled among the soft rolling hills of the Turkey River Valley.

We are a dedicated community of families striving to preserve our rich history, heritage and Czech culture in the northeast corner of Iowa. The Czech world-famous composer Antonin Dvorak spent the summer of 1893 in Spillville, where he composed two of his most famous chamber works.

Come take a walk through town with us. They say first impressions are important, and our new east bridge coming into our small village makes a big impact with beautiful hanging baskets lining up not only on the bridge but continue into town on both sides of the streets. The flowers have been a project undertaken by the town and paid by donations. City councilman, Jeff Ira, came up with the idea a couple of years ago. Jeff can be seen driving his golf cart and water wagon early every morning with his companion, a beagle named Dobrej (Czech word for good) watering the 95 flower baskets before he goes to work.

Spillville attractions include the Inwood Ballroom, one of very few Iowa historic ballrooms located at Riverside Park which also has a memorial to Antonin Dvorak; the Bily Clocks Museum, which showcases elaborate hand-carved clocks by two brothers, Frank and Joseph Bily, who were offered a million dollars for them but refused and donated the clocks to the town instead, never to be sold or separated. The museum also has several rooms of Antonin Dvorak memorabilia. The brick building was the home of Antonin Dvorak where he lived the summer of 1893.

On Main Street, you will find The Old World Inn with an interesting bootlegging history. It has been said that the tunnels were used during Prohibition to smuggle liquor into a saloon across the street. One of the tunnels went to the river, while the other tunnel went across the street to the saloon. The restaurant/bar uses the two closed tunnels by putting booths in them for a unique dining experience. The Old World Inn has served this area since 1871 as a tavern, harness shop, post office, private residence and, most recently, a bed and breakfast and restaurant. The building dates back to 1871--eleven years after the founding of Spillville by Joseph Spielman 1849.

The Spillville town square boasts a historic gazebo built in 1919-1921, called The Sailor’s and Soldier’s Memorial, built in the memory of the area veterans originally in honor of World War I. This is where the community band plays on hot, summer evenings among the lovely hanging baskets and flags. The memorial is a symbol of Spillville’s loyalty and pride to our county will always stand to remind us of what others gave up so that we may live in freedom. Get out your camera, because this gazebo is another “Kodak moment” when visiting our town.

The majestic, 150-year-old stone St. Wenceslaus Church, sits high up on the hill overlooking the town. Did you know that it is one of the oldest Czech Catholic Churches in the United States? It is where Antonin Dvorak played at daily Mass on the Pfeffer 1876 organ that is still in use today. How many places can you go to Iowa and see an instrument a world-famous composer played? The church has just had a complete restoration. Below the church, in 1870 the Czechs built their own parochial school, it is the oldest surviving Czech Catholic School building in America. After much restoration, it serves as a museum for the St. Wenceslaus Parish Historical Society. Antonin Dvorak spent his first week’s stay in the building in 1893.

To the north, as you leave Spillville, is another newly built bridge and beside the bridge where the Big Stones Mill once was, a new park is being built with historical parts and memorabilia of the mill. This will also be a canoe access to the Turkey River. The Big Stones Mill began in 1865. The Mill started with a 48-inch Leffel Turbine Water Wheel. The Leffel Turbine equipment is a rare survival in a frontier mill structure and will be preserved on display.

Come “Czech” us out this summer!

Image credit: Image by author

More about Spillville
  1. Joyce Meyer
    Joyce Meyer
    Old World Inn is no longer open for food as it was when I first wrote this blog, but the last I heard they still take in B&B guests.
  2. RovingPatrick
    The Czech Heritage Partnership (accurate name, I believe) hosts several concerts a year in the beautiful church, often with a Czech connection. What a beautiful place to take in a concert.

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