Tuttle Learning Walk taking shape

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The Tuttle Learning Walk is paved, but signs pointing out more history and plants have yet to be added. (photo by Steve Woodhouse)

The Historic Pella Trust is funding a City of Pella project to connect the Tuttle Log Cabin to Sunken Gardens Park. Work on this project is nearly complete.

The Tuttle Log Cabin is the first structure to have been built in what became Pella. Thomas and Nancy built the cabin after arriving in the area 13 days after the land was open to settlement in 1843. It was from the Tuttles that Dominie Henry P. Scholte and his Dutch pilgrims purchased the land in 1847 to build Pella.

The Tuttle Log Cabin was built in 1843. (photo by Steve Woodhouse)

Planning the Tuttle Learning Walk took six months. Design work was done by Architect Kim Mulch of Klingner and Associates. The plants that will adorn the walk will be native species, chosen by Landscape Architect Cullen Duke.

Due to COVID-19, the Trust needs another $50,000 to complete the work, including engraved signs that will be adjacent to bumpouts along the walk to educate visitors and others interested about the different periods of Pella’s history. The signs will include QR Codes for people to scan to learn even more.

The Pella Garden Club raised $15,000 for the plants along the walk. Money was raised through the group’s successful Garden Gala.

As for the existing walkway, the brick pavers were placed on solid concrete. Preparing the land before the walk was installed included ensuring proper drainage to avoid water retention in the pavers.

The walkway runs from the cabin, north to the existing sidewalk at Sunken Gardens. The park has recently seen other improvements, including renovations to the windmill. Each year, visitors stroll through the park along the pond that is shaped like a wooden shoe.

The pond at Sunken Gardens. (photo by Steve Woodhouse)

The pond was actually a cooling pool for the power plant in the past. Limestone slabs along the walk are also native to Marion County, and represent what was used to create the first foundations in Pella.

“This is going to be a destination,” Jennifer Van Kooten, Executive Director of the Historic Pella Trust, said. As it stands, the HPT welcomes second grade students and the home educated to the cabin each year for educational experiences. One of the functions of the HPT is to fund historic research to help today’s, and future, generations understand the background of the community. Preserving historical architecture is another primary objective for the HPT. The HPT is a separate entity from the Pella Historical Society.

Van Kooten credits Duane Rempe with the success of the Tuttle Learning Walk. It was his idea, she said, and several grants have been received to make the work that has already been completed, possible. For the Tuttle Cabin, Gale Kirby had a vision of having it surrounded by the community, as a true treasure.

“The City embraced this project from the very beginning,” Lynn Branderhorst, Pella City Council member, added. “This is a perfect example of what nonprofits should do.” Their work has eased the City’s financial stress of making community improvements. “This project never would have happened without this organization.”

The HPT is just as complimentary of the City and its employees, who have been helpful at every step of the way to make the project successful.

Beyond being the first structure in Pella, the cabin holds the additional history of being the site of negotiations between Scholte and Tuttle for the land purchase. Through the years, different families have owned the cabin and all of them preserved it.

The goal is for the walk to be completed by fall. Though Pella was not immune from the economic decline caused by COVID-19 reactions, everyone knows the community will bounce back and the project will be completed. Historic projects such as this continue to be popular among Pella’s visitors.

“The tourists tell us they want to see the history,” Van Kooten said.

The next big project for the HPT is identifying historic districts around town. To learn more about the HPT or to make a donation, visit the group’s website.

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