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Constructed in 1861, this house was one of the first brick houses built in Waterloo and belonged to Rensselaer Russell, a real estate investor, broker, and dealer of dry goods. Russell imported material from the Dubuque, Iowa and Chicago, to build his home which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. The home now serves as a public museum that includes period furnishings and exhibits about life in Iowa in the 19th century and beyond.

The house that Rensselaer Russell lived in until 1896. One of the oldest houses in Waterloo, Iowa.


Rensselaer Russell was born in Ostego County, New York in 1828. His father and grandfather were carpenters, the latter immigrating to the United States seventy-five years prior to the year of Rensselaer's birth His grandfather was able to acquire some land after building several homes for some the wealthiest families in the area putting his carpenter skills to good use. The family business allowed Russell to acquire a good education while providing the connections he needed to start a successful dry goods store. He married his wife, Caroline Richards, in 1853 and returned with her to her father’s farm where he worked as a farmer on the property. In 1858, Russell built his family home in the Italianate style in the small community of Waterloo. Construction of the home was completed in 1861, the same year as the start of the Civil War. Russell continued with his jobs in real estate and dealing dry goods until his death in 1896.

His home was one of the first brick houses built in the city and is one of the oldest homes in Waterloo today. Across from his home, Russell purchased land and donated it to the city for a public park. The city selected the name Washington Park for the donated greenspace, and soon after Russell’s passing, the city decided to honor Rensselaer Russell by naming the residential area where he lived Russell Square. Years later, a local historic preservation organization purchased the home, restored it to its former appearance, and converted the private hoe into a local history museum. The home was added to the National Register of Historic Places in the summer of 1973.

“The Rensselaer Russell House,” State Historical Society of Iowa. Accessed July 7th 2021.

“Rensselaer Russell House Museum,” Grout Museum District. Accessed July 7th 2021.