The city of Newton, Iowa, is named for a Revolutionary War soldier, Sergeant Newton, who served along with a Sergeant Jasper, hence the name of the county in which Newton is located.
Newton wasn’t incorporated as a city until 1857, which means this is the town’s sesquicentennial year. As our “Out and About” correspondent, Dan Kaercher, explains, it has been an eventful century and a half.
Kaercher: For about 100 of Newton’s 150 years, Maytag was an important part of this community’s and Iowa’s history. Started in 1893 as a farm implement company, washing machines were added in 1907 to earn money during farming’s off-season.
It’s fun to visit the Jasper County Historical Museum to see the different ways your mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother washed clothes.
This is part of all our history.
But with Maytag gone, Newton is looking to the future.
One of the newest offerings is the Iowa Speedway.
The Grandstand here can seat 25,000. The track is a 7/8 mile tri-oval with 3 racing grooves. IRL, Sprint cars, and NASCAR Grand Nationals have raced here.
The season’s over now, but there’s still activity.
This weekend at a private club at the track, the Newton Convention and Visitors Bureau will host an afternoon of wine, food, and music. We decided to take a culinary tour of some of the exhibitors.
Newton is still home to one Maytag, the Maytag Dairy Farms. The famous Maytag Blue Cheese has been made right here since 1941.
The dairy farms were started by a member of the Maytag appliance family, but the companies have always been separate.
From start to finish it can take up to six months to make Maytag Blue Cheese just right, and it’s all done by hand.
LaCorsette Maison Inn is a wonderful 1909 mission style mansion. Converted to a B&B in the 1980s, it has a long tradition of gracious lodging and dining, and you don’t have to be an overnight guest to enjoy the food. But you do have to have reservations.
John and Annie Gerken recently purchased this old treasure. Midwesterners with Iowa roots, the family had lived in Maine for 25 years before coming back.
Gerken: One of the reasons we liked Newton was because the town was losing Maytag. It opens up so many great opportunities.
Kaercher: A more recent addition to the Newton community is Jasper Winery, which opened in 2004. The Grobens were Iowa natives who moved away but came back in 1990. The vintner is son Mason, who earned a degree in winemaking at the University of California - Davis.
Groben: I like to say that it's a hobby that went astray for us. We decided to plant a few grapevines up by our garden, to make wine in the basement, and that's what got out of hand.
Kaercher: Named for the county, Jasper Winery features six to eight wines made with grapes from their own vineyard and other growers with names like “Front Porch,” “Behind the Shed Red,” and “Back Road.”
Just outside of Newton, The Sugar Grove Vineyards and Gathering Place is housed in an historic 1870 building. Built as a church, it was then a Grange hall for more than a hundred years.
It also opened in 2004, but Sugar Grove is already reinventing itself. It is transitioning from making its own wines to serving other Iowa wines and beer and focusing on being a gathering place.
Individuals and businesses can rent the hall, or visitors can attend a variety of dinner events Sugar Grove creates itself.
At Saturday Sunsets in the summer, you might even see some elk as you sip a drink, listen to live music, and take a lovely Iowa summer evening.
Additional Images: Jasper County HIstorical Museum
Mundt: Dan Kaercher comes in and sits on the couch every Thursday. And, Dan, despite what’s happened over the past couple of years, it looks like Newton certainly has a future.
Kaercher: Well, that’s absolutely true. And one great example is the event they’re planning in Newton this Saturday from 12-5 at the Iowa Speedway’s Newton Club -- Corks, Cooks, and Chords -- which will be including 11 Central Iowa wineries, 3 chefs’ demonstrations, and live music. So it sounds like a lot of fun.
Now, if you happen to be on the western side of the state, stop by my home town of Council Bluffs and visit that beautiful Union Pacific Museum on Bayliss Square, and you’ll see a collection of photos from the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York. That’s the same Eastman as Eastman Kodak, so you know this is going to be good.
As always, call ahead. For ideas all over the state, visit traveliowa.com.