Bob Feller Historical Trail

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The Bob Feller Historical Trail

Come to Van Meter and take a landmark tour of the city. With the guided map below, you will be able to experience where Bob Feller was raised, went to school, honed his pitching skills, and became the man of character for which his legend continues.


1. Bob Feller Historical Monument/Van Meter City Hall

310 Mill St., Van Meter, IA 50261

The Bob Feller Historical Monument, home of a number of Bob Feller artifacts and Van Meter City Hall, is a beautiful building that was originally constructed as the Bob Feller Museum. Residents in Van Meter formed a grassroots organization called Van Meter Memories, documenting historical information about the area, its founders and past and present residents. Bob Feller’s story and relationship with Van Meter became important to Van Meter Memories as tourists would visit, and Bob Feller was gracious in providing memorabilia. After a number of years meeting at various locations and housing many artifacts in the basement of Wells Fargo Bank, the Bob Feller Museum building was constructed and opened to the public in 1995. Not only did the Museum hold two rooms worth of Bob Feller’s personal items, but it was a site also commemorated to the historical families of Van Meter. These family names can be seen scribed into the building’s bricks. Bob Feller’s son, Steve, was the architect, and the building was constructed with donated time, land, money and resources from locals.

2. Bob Feller’s Childhood Home

29410 340th Trail, Adel, IA 50003

Bob Feller grew up on a farm just 2.5 miles outside of Van Meter with parents Bill and Lena Feller. The farm was built by his grandfather, a first generation immigrant from Germany, in 1847. Bill Feller raised corn, wheat, hogs and cattle while Bob was growing up, and, in his recreational time, played catch with Bob and taught him how to play baseball. Bill even built a small ballpark on his property named Oakview Park and developed his own team. He invited neighboring teams to play their Oakview team at the Feller farm. After Bob rose to fame and became a baseball hero, he contacted John Normyle, an architect with Better Homes and Garden Magazine, to build a new home for his parents in 1940. This home has stood the test of time and is the building seen on the property today. His parents lived the remainders of their lives in this house. A number of other residents occupied the house after the Feller family no longer occupied the property. The home even stood as a bed and breakfast for a period of time. Today, it is privately owned, but the property is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

3. Van Meter School

520 1st Ave., Van Meter, IA 50261

The Van Meter School is still comprised of the original construction that stood when Bob Feller attended school along with a number of additions from over the years. Bob Feller played baseball for the Cleveland Indians before he was even out of high school; in the summer between his junior and senior years, he made his famous debut pitching with the Cleveland Indians. Feller returned to Van Meter for his senior year of high school, graduating with the class of 1937. NBC covered the graduation ceremony live on their national radio network. Today, athletics still reign in the Van Meter School. For a school that is only 1A in the Iowa High School Athletic Association and with class sizes of only 70 students or less, the school still boasts quite a number of baseball and softball fields, and a nice football field and track.

4. Grant Street

Grant Street, Van Meter, IA 50261

Grant Street is Van Meter’s historical business district. Many of the buildings that stand on the block on Grant date back to the 1800’s. At the time in which Bob Feller lived in Van Meter, businesses included V & H Grocery, a number of auto and oil companies, Waukee Lumber Yard, a cafe run by Landers, and a medical practice operated by Dr. Allen G. Felter.

5. American Legion Post 403

910 Main Street, Van Meter, IA 50261

Bob Feller played baseball as a teen on an American Legion team located in nearby Adel, Iowa. On this same team, Feller played with Nile Kinnick. Kinnick later claimed the Heisman Trophy as the nation’s top college football player.

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Van Meter city limits, with the Bob Feller Historical Museum/Van Meter City Hall in the background to the left.

Bob Feller was the first MLB player to willingly enlist and serve in World War II. On December 7th of 1941, the day Pearl Harbor was attacked, Feller put his rapidly developing career aside and gave what many argue were 4 of his best physical years for baseball to the United States Navy as Chief Petty Officer aboard the USS Alabama. Feller reported he was driving from his home in Van Meter to Chicago to discuss his next contract with the Cleveland Indians and heard over the car radio that the Japanese had just bombed Pearl Harbor. He had a draft exemption but knew then that he needed to respond to the call. Upon reaching Chicago, Feller told his draft manager his decision to serve and was sworn in on December 9th of 1941.

Following his service, Bob Feller returned the Cleveland Indians and continued to pitch with impressive skill. Today, the MLB has developed the Bob Feller Act of Valor Award, which is for players that have exemplified what Feller represented. Recipients are evaluated on: the display of good character, assisting those less fortunate, supporting the United States servicemen and women, and conduct on and off the field.

The American Legion Post 403 is an housed in the Van Meter Veterans Reception Center, where service men and women of the area are proud to participate. A brick mural similar to the one at Bob Feller Historical Monument can be seen, commemorating United States servicemen and women.

6. Iowa Veterans Cemetery

34024 Veterans Memorial Dr., Adel, IA 50003

The Iowa Veterans Cemetery is located just north of Van Meter. The Cemetery respectfully honors those who have served our nation like Bob Feller. Van Meter is very proud to be a community where service is honored. The community boasts a higher-than-average percentage of veterans, and service in all capacities is proudly offered. The Iowa Veterans Cemetery is a visual reminder and testament of this.

 

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