SCHOLTE HOUSE MUSEUM
The Scholte House is closed for much-needed renovation in 2019.
The "grande dame" of our city is the170-year-old Scholte House. Built by Hendrik Peter Scholte for his wife Maria in 1847/48 over a period of just six months, the home sits on what is now the north side of Pella's square, a testament to the craftsmanship and care of our founding fathers and mothers.
Hendrik, Maria, and Hendrik's three daughters lived in a small log cabin for the first 6 months until workers could cut down black walnut trees from the grove to the north and build this house. Native oak and local stone and bricks were also used, with glass and trim imported from elsewhere. When it was finished in April of 1848, it had many rooms with bare wood floors and bare wood walls. Maria began decorating and ordered carpets, wallpaper, furniture and other items. Many things here they brought with them from the Netherlands, but the furniture was acquired in America.
The Library is the one room in the house that is much as it was when the Scholtes lived here. The rest of the house has changed over the years as different members of the family have lived here. The first addition was the room we now call the Dining Room/Sitting Room, which was originally the carriage house, but was later converted to living quarters as the family’s needs changed. What started as a few rooms grew to the present approximately 26-30 rooms (counting bathrooms, hallways, & enclosed porches). There are 6 stairways (including the 2 basement stairs), 12 exterior doors, 41 interior doors, 69 windows, and 55 light switches to turn off and on each day the museum is open.
Hendrick Scholte had three daughters with his first wife, Sara Brandt, who died in 1844. Sara, Mary, and Johanna ranged in age from five to thirteen when they arrived in Pella. They lived in this house until they married.
Sara married physician Dr. B.F Keables, who also served in the state legislature, as Pella postmaster, and as surgeon to the Third Iowa Infantry during the Civil War. Sara organized many women in Pella to support their soldiers during the war by making bandages and sending other supplies and letters. They had five children.
Mary married attorney and businessman P.H. Bousquet, She died at the young age of 36 after having two daughters.
Johanna married John Nollen, who had been a teacher in the Netherlands. He went into the publishing business with Scholte, and both Nollen and Bousquet joined Scholte’s banking business, which was the forerunner of the Pella National Bank (now US Bank). They had five children who became prominent in the fields of education and insurance.
Hendrik and Maria Krantz Scholte had nine children. One son born in the Netherlands died when he was just 3 days old. Eight more children were born in the house here in Pella but only two of those children, Henry and David, grew to adulthood. Both married, but only Henry had children. Henry’s wife was Leonora Keables, daughter of Dr. E. H. Keables and Hattie Rose Keables. Henry and Leonora’s daughter Bess married George Gaass and gave birth to Leonora Gaass (married name Hettinga), who was our first Tulip Queen in 1936. She also was the last family member who lived in the house until her death in 1987. The rooms on the first and second floors of the west section of the house
were Leonora’s home. George and Bess also had a son, Peter George Gaass, who was an attorney here in Pella, and who, for many years, carried the Dutch flag in the Tulip Time parades. In 1979, Leonora Gaass Hettinga and Pete & Norma Gaass gave the house to the Pella Historical Society to operate as a museum.
The Scholte’s last daughter, Dora, lived until age 11. After Hendrik died from a sudden, massive heart attack on August 25, 1868, Maria took Dora to Detroit, Michigan where they had some acquaintances. She wanted Dora to have a little bit more culture than what was available in Pella at the time. After a while Maria began to play the piano again as she healed from her grief. She met a young man named Robert Beard who shared her love of music and would play his guitar and accompany her on the piano. They became close friends.
Then Dora came down with typhoid fever and was very ill. She wanted to come home to Pella, and even though the doctors advised against it, Maria wanted to bring Dora home. Dora’s oldest brother, Henry, came to help take her home, and Robert said he would go with them also. The long trip proved to be too much for Dora, for she died shortly after their arrival just before her 12th birthday. Maria was devastated. Robert was here to comfort her and later asked her to marry him. Maria was 49 at the time they married and Robert was 24, two years younger than her son, Henry. Robert was an avid amateur photographer and loved to play tennis, so a tennis court was built in the back yard. They also built an observatory on the East end of the house because of Robert and Maria’s interest in astronomy. The observatory and its telescope were later donated to Central College.
Maria died in 1892 at the age of 71. She left the west wing of the house to her oldest son, Henry and his family, and the east wing to her husband. Robert was still in his late 40’s and later married again. He married Kate Keables, who was an unmarried school teacher and the eldest daughter of Sara Scholte Keables (the eldest daughter of Dominie Scholte from his first wife). This may sound a little odd, but there was no blood relation between them. Kate had been only 12 years old when Robert married her Step-Grandmother Maria.
The Scholte home on the north side of the square a few years after it had been finished. At that time, it was considered a palace.