Sherman Tower


The Althea R. Sherman Chimney Swifts’ Tower was moved from its original site near National, Iowa to a new site at the Bickett-Rate Memorial Preserve near Buchanan, Iowa after a period of storage and initial historic rehabilitation work.

The landscape reconstruction consisted of depicting the non-surviving site by interpreting its original form, features and landscape plantings at the new site.

The site and landscape planting project goals included:

  • Create a master plan for a multi-phase planting and seeding program.
  • Attract Chimney Swifts’ and other song birds to the site for study by ornithologists and the public.
  • Interpret the Swifts’ Tower landscape as an educational experience.
  • Ensure that the Swifts’ Tower landscape is visually and physically separate from the area around Edgewood Hall and the rest of the farmstead but at the same time relates to the surrounding landscape.
  • Use native seed mixes for the areas outside the immediately adjacent site as a way to attract birds and inform the public about the use of native grasses.
  • Design a windbreak that will protect the Swifts’ Tower and the surrounding landscape in the future.

Photographs of the Tower’s original site before, during, and after this time period as a basis for the overall bed layouts, massing of plants, and some of the plant and tree types. We also used several lists and notations in Miss Sherman’s journal and other writings as a starting point for the selection of trees, shrubs and plants for the new site.

We then researched other types of trees, shrubs and plants that were common in this area during the period of significance and that are either native or adapted to insure their long term viability.

Information regarding the needs of birds common in this area for food and shelter. All of this information influenced the selection of plants and trees.

The location and types of existing trees at this new site were by necessity an integral part of the design process since the old cedar trees create shade and affect some types of native trees and shrubs.

The offset elliptical area around the Swift Tower creates an enclosed three dimensional space for the Swifts’ Tower that separates it visually from the landscape around Edgewood Hall. We used the views from the Hall and the windows in the Swifts’ Tower as part of the plan for educational and research opportunities.

The first bed will be planted in the Spring of 2014.

Bickett-Rate Memorial Preserve, Buchanan, Iowa

For The Althea R. Sherman Project Committee, The Johnson County Songbird Project & The Cedar County Historical Society