Sunday’s grand reopening of the historic Dayton House stagecoach inn near Bouton will give visitors a taste of what rugged rural life was like 150 years ago in Dallas County.
The house at 14750 Pecos Court lies about one mile west of Lake Robbins Ballroom on 150th Street. The Dallas County Conservation Board has invested several years in the complete restoration of the historic site, and it will now be made available for special events and overnight stays.
Sunday’s grand reopening will run from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
As part of the grand reopening, a troupe of historical reenactors will simulate the stark reality of settler society and the stoic silence of the sons and daughters of the pioneers. Horse and buggy rides will also be available.
What recreation cannot accomplish, imagination will be called to stand in, with tours of the house and grounds led by knowledgeable local historians who will bring the past to life for visitors.
Many stories are told of the original owner of the Dayton House, a stagecoach inn built in 1868 by Seth Dayton, the first registered settler in Beaver Township. It lay along the old Des Moines-to-Fort Dodge stagecoach route and was used as a combination inn, bar and private home.
Dayton made two race tracks on his grounds and was a devoted horse racer. It is said he finally lost the property in a bot on a losing horse. Other tales — such as of the house’s use as a way station for the Underground Railroad, which conducted slaves from the southern U.S. to freedom in the mid-1800s — will also be explored Sunday.
Portions of the stagecoach route were later incorporated into the interurban railroad line, a light-rail service that ran between Perry and Des Moines from 1909 into the 1950s.
The Dayton House sits on approximately 10 acres of land that includes 150 year old oaks and some limited access to Beaver Creek. Peter Malmberg, curator of the Forest Park Museum and historical and cultural resources coordinator for Dallas County Conservation, recently landed a $14,000 grant for archaeological research at the Dayton House grounds.
The Iowa City-based Tallgrass Historians LC, a company specializing in historical research in the Midwest, will conduct light detection and ranging and shovel testing at the site. The company was chosen from among two applicants by the Dallas County Historical preservation Commission.
The Dayton House has a fully equipped kitchen, dining room, two bathrooms with ADA showers, two sitting rooms, three bedrooms accommodating as many as nine people, an outdoor deck, picnic table and fire ring.
It will be available for rent from May to October and in April and November when conditions permit.
An historically rich complement to the Dayton House are the many items in the permanent collection of the Dallas County Conservation Board’s Forest Park Museum. Malmberg noted a current exhibition of historical clothing, such as the original inhabitants of the stagecoach inn would have worn.
Forest Park Museum is located near Perry at 14581 K Ave. Admission is free, and the museum is open year round Monday through Friday from 8 a.m to 4:30 p.m. Extended hours, from May 1 to Oct. 31, include Saturdays, Sundays and holidays from 1- 4:30 p.m.