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1862 Van Allen House

HCHT moved the historic Van Allen family home from West Washington Street to its current location in 2009. It now sits on the museum campus, near the Saunders School building 

Restoration and renovation of the house has taken place since that time, including:

• repair and placement of furniture 

• new bathroom fixture installation

• landscaping completion and maintenance

• period wallpaper installation

Renovation continues to date.

interior view Van Allen House-1920s.jpeg
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AM Van Allen.jpeg
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The Van Allen family
Biographies by Doris Onorato

George Clinton Van Allen  1830-1902

Born in Pillar Point, New York, to Cornelius & Lory Ann (Ackerman) Van Allen; educated at Falley Seminary & Wesleyan University, & admitted to the Bar in New York & later Iowa.


Helped survey the Illinois Central Rail Road & laid out a number of Illinois towns, 1855-58. Helped survey the Burlington & Missouri RR line west to Chariton, Iowa. Located in Mt. Pleasant, fall of 1862, opening a law office; remained in business until the date of his death.


Pioneer in the abstract business of Henry County; perfected the present system of abstracting. Established the law office where his son & grandson would follow in his footsteps.


Married in 1857 to Jane (Jennie) Mariah Wright, of Oswego, New York; only son, Alfred, was born in the home they built in 1862. It would become the family home of future generations.



Alfred Morris Van Allen  1869-1945

Known as A.M., resided in the house where he was born at 502 W. Washington, with wife  Alma. Believed he should make a living before marrying; therefore, married at age 41 in 1911. Alma & A.M. reared four sons: George (1912), James (1914), Maurice (1918) & William (1921). The Van Allen household was regimented, with an emphasis on learning. A.M. was determined his sons would do well in school & avoid frivolous behavior.


He set the same standards for himself & was highly regarded in the Community, having graduated from both Iowa Wesleyen and the University of Iowa. He was a member of the Henry County Bar Association for 51 years, following in the Abstract Law Business his father had established. A.M. served Mt. Pleasant on the school board, city council and as mayor.



Alma Eyre (Olney) Van Allen, 1884-1970

Born in Dudley, Iowa, Alma met her husband while attending Iowa Wesleyen. She did not complete college, but taught in country schools before marriage.


Alma looked after her husband and four sons, running the household, canning, cooking, tending to many organizations: P.E.O., Eastern Star & the Library Board. Alma was awarded Mother of the Year from Iowa Wesleyan in 1958. That year, the family enjoyed a rare Mt. Pleasant reunion.


George Olney Van Allen, 1912-1968

First born son of Alfred & Alma Van Allen, was a lawyer, mayor (1949-51) & judge in Mt. Pleasant. Graduated from MPHS in 1930; Iowa Wesleyan in 1934 & received his law degree from the University of Iowa, Summa Cum Laude in 1936.


George had an extreme love & interest in chemistry, but following the wishes of his father he joined the family law office, where he practiced from 1936-1945. He then practiced alone until 1958, when he was appointed 20th judicial district court judge. George was a member of the Iowa Bar Association for 33 years. Being of quick wit, George was quoted as saying, ‘the best thing the Iowa legislature could do would be to adjourn for 2 years.’


George and Winifred Martin married in 1944; three children: Nancy, Fred & Lori.



James Alfred Van Allen, 1914-2006

Born in the family home, as were his father and brothers. Attended Saunders school, graduated from MPHS in 1931; Iowa Wesleyan in 1935; did graduate work at the University of Iowa; earned as MS degree in 1936 & a Ph.D. in 1939; both in Physics.


Helped develop the radio-proximity fuse for naval anti-aircraft guns while employed by Johns Hopkins’ Applied Physics Laboratory; then served as ordnance officer in the US Naval Reserve for three & a half years, including 17 months in the South Pacific Fleet, 1942-44.


James returned to Iowa in 1951 as professor of Physics & head of the Physics Department at the University of Iowa. He taught formal courses in physics & astronomy; founded a space physics laboratory & guided the research work of 45 MS candidates & 34 PH.D. candidates. In 1958, he discovered the Radiation Belts around the Earth, now named for him & subsequently served as principle scientific investigator for 24 space missions (1958-2000), including the first missions to Venus, Mars, Jupiter & Saturn.


James and Abigail Halsey married in 1945; five children: Cynthia, Margot, Sarah, Tom, Peter.



Maurice Wright Van Allen, 1918-1986

Graduated from MPHS in 1935: Iowa Wesleyan in 1939 & received his MD degree from the University of Iowa in 1942. He was an officer in the Army Medical Corps during WWII, specializing in Neurology & Neurosurgery, with service at field hospitals in New Guinea & the Philippines. Afterwards, he did his internship in Philadelphia. In 1948, with his mentor, O.M. Hyndman, a neurosurgery practice was opened in Denver & then later moved to Davenport, Iowa.


From 1952-1959, Maurice was on the clinical staff of the VA hospital in Iowa City. Then joined the faculty of the Neurology department of the College of Medicine at the University of Iowa. For 27 years, he taught neurology, treated hundreds of patients and did research. Maurice was department head from 1974-1986; the Neurology Clinic there has been named in his honor.


Maurice and Janet Hunt married in 1949; four children: David, Marti, Evalyn & Jonathan.



William Albert Van Allen, 1921-1971

Studied to be a Foreign Service officer at Washington DC’s Georgetown University. During WWII, worked for John’s Hopkins Applied Physics Lab; then worked for Bolt-Beranek in Cambridge, Mass. The remainder of his career was spent at Hughes aircraft, ultimately in charge of the London office, handling hundreds of millions of dollars worth of military equipment by the governments of NATO countries.


William & wife Dorothy had four sons: Doug, Bruce, Gregg (Zeph) & Philip.

William and Dorothy divorced and William remarried Katie in the early 70’s.


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