Ash Park

Tour curated by: Dani Grandinetti '21 under the direction of Professor Catherine Stewart in collaboration with the Mount Vernon Historic Preservation Commission, and with generous assistance from past and present owners of these historic homes.

Ash Park's historic district was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1993, and still serves as one of Mount Vernon's most vibrant neighborhoods. It was originally an orchard owned by Reuben Ash, who reportedly arrived in Mount Vernon with his brother Alfred in 1839 with only fifty cents, although there is little proof of the exact circumstances surrounding Ash’s arrival. Reuben Ash created for himself a two hundred and forty acre orchard. The land was ultimately sold owing to economic hardship. Insects infested Iowa from 1875 to 1876. Then, there was a drought paired with economic depression in the mid-1890s. Together, these factors decimated Iowa’s agriculture. The Ash family sold the land to Cornell College, and Cornell used the land to construct a new athletic field. Over time the rest of this extensive property was broken up and sold as individual lots for home construction. 36 of the 42 homes in this historic district were built between the years of 1885 and 1919. The district itself resides east of the Ash Park baseball field and northeast of the college. It includes the homes between 5th and 8th Ave, and 6th to 8th street. Many houses in the Ash Park District were originally owned by or rented out to Cornell College faculty. Thus, Ash Park and Cornell College have a shared history, and a close community relationship based on mutual support that continues to this day.

The community of Ash Park is enriched by active and engaged residents. Its homeowners are eager to be involved in Mount Vernon and are impressed by one another's pursuits. The neighborhood is also lauded as a safe and welcoming place to raise children, with a sense of small-town trust, and proximity to resources offered by Cornell such as Cole Library, musical events, organizations, seminars, and a fitness center.

Current residents pride themselves on their neighborhood's historic integrity and authenticity. There is a rare and valued tradition of former homeowners passing along information and documentation of the homes’ histories to the new owners. Homeowners paint and make renovations in the original styles of their homes, and try to keep as much of the original structure wherever possible. It can be a struggle, at times, to keep up with the maintenance of owning an older home, but Ash Park locals make it clear that it is all very much worth it. As one former Ash Park resident explains, old homes "foster a different… sense of place."

Locations for Tour