BOONE, Iowa — The name James B. McHose is a familiar one in Boone. He gave the money for a large city park, he built his house in 1910, and he owned a large brick company in town — Boone Clay Works
“He made the bricks in many of the downtown structures.”
Donovan Olson has a familiar name himself; he’s a former state legislator who couldn’t take his eyes off the McHose House four years ago.
“It was in disrepair and I really hated to see it demolished, torn down or disappear,” Olson said.
As he rehabbed the place, he learned its stories. The old safe confirmed it was McHose’s house; the blind doors and prairie style saluted Frank Lloyd Wright; and the brick — from McHose’s factory — had been burned in the kiln and blistered.
“The story is that the bricks were made for a business in Des Moines, and when the bricks were shipped the owner of the business rejected those, that’s the story that I’ve heard,” he said.
This is a double house — two identical dwellings sharing one roof. You’ll find a few of them scattered about Des Moines. McHose gave his aging mother the west half (these were the days before retirement homes.)
“I think that the goal for this house was to have mother close by, and I suppose having a brick wall between yourself and your mother was enough separation,” Olson laughed.
Olson finished the east half this spring and now rents it out as a vacation home. He has a ways to go on the west half, and hasn’t even begun to tackle the carriage house out back. But this is a labor of love, for a guy who loves the idea of things worth saving.
“Hopefully that’s one of the things I’m remembered for.”