top of page

Little White Store passes generations

Updated: Mar 3

by Dr. Paul Vander Kooi

Huge runoffs of melting water from the western lobe of the Wisconsin Glacier poured down the Missouri floodplain in early summer. The deposited silt was then born aloft by prevailing southwesterly winds, and redeposited to the northeast, producing the loess hills of Northwestern Iowa. The glacier retreated and the silty dunes were colonized by prairie grass, wild flowers, prairie chickens, antelope, deer, elk and bison.

New colonizers claimed the land in 1869. The Orange City Company, Henry Hospers president, plotted out the land for the Dutch settlement. Mr. Hospers purchased all the land of the new city and then deeded it to various purchasers. Thus it was that the land on which the little white store stands was first deeded to Earl David Oelrich in 1870, then deeded by to Henry Hospers in 187s, and deeded to Dirk van den Bos in 1873.

Our little white store’s beginning came in 1877 when Dirk van den Bos and wife sold the property to G.H. Haverkamp. Mr. Haverkamp was in the furniture business and was also undertaker for the new colony. His wife wanted to start a dressmaking store. The little white store had already been built at another location, and in 1880 was moved to its present location, right alongside the Rieckhoff Company building, which had been built several years previously.

Mrs. Haverkamp then managed the Millinery and Dressmaking Store. She sold hats, feathers bonnets, flowers and also cut and fit dresses. It was a store for ladies and I can visualize the women of the community, with their hats, high black shoes and long skirts, tying their horse-drawn wagons to the hitching posts. Accompanying them would be their daughters wearing bonnets to cover their freckles and sunburned noses. Together they would walk on the wooden sidewalks into the store. I also suspect that the more aristocratic ladies of the community got on the Illinois Central Railroad and purchased their special hats in Chicago to set themselves a little above the rest of the ladies.

Haverkamps sold the store to Jennie Markus in 1892 for 850 dollars. Jennie was a spinster who lived on the premises and continued to run it as a millinery shop. I could find no advertisements of it in the newspapers of the time but Annette Van Oort, age 93, remembers it will. It remained Jennie’s possession until 1920.

The Little White Store in Orange City, Iowa full of hats in black and white

Here is the Little White Store full of hats when owned by Jennie Marcus.

The little white store was beginning to fade into the background of mainstream architecture. The Hospers Bank to the north and the Hospers Dry Goods Store to the west had dominated the downtown for over 30 years. Now to the south the elite Hotel Hawkeye had arisen, providing free bus service via the Hutchinson Highway to the major railway terminal in Alton. To the north stood the symbol of the Roaring 20’s, the Cambier Motor Company.

James Te Grotenhuis then purchased the building from Miss Markus. He used it as an electrical shop and in it designed the Silent Sioux oil burner which became one of the major industries of Orange City. (Silent Sioux has been, as if by magic, transformed into the Rowenhorst Student Center of Northwestern College.)

James Te Grotenhuis and wife Ellen Gray, in 1927, then sold the little store to Mik Posthumus. Mike rented the building to dick Andringa who lived with his family on the premises and used it as a barber shop. Dick received the right to purchase the building from Mike in 1935 and in 1939 became sole owner of the building.

Dick and his wife Anna moved out of the building in 1945, selling it to Oscar De Vries, Oscar used it electrical shop and store appliances upstairs. Oscar and his wife Tracy decided to sell the building to Geert and Grada Hollinga in 1953.

Since then the building has been recognized as Hollinga’s Barber Shop. Both Geert’s son Lambert and daughter Jennie were also barbers.

However, it was Lambert who continued his family tradition in the little white store until his recent retirement. Most of us thus remember it as Lambert’s Barber Shop, where now, a hundred years later, men with their little boys with freckles and sunburned noses would go to get their hair cut and to get hunting and fishing advice, equipment, and licenses. To think that 100 years ago only ladies went into the building!

One more mystery. What about the barber pole? Well, a long time ago there was another little white frame store that was a barber shop run by Ed De Groot who had purchased it from someone before him. The barber pole stood in front of this building which had been dismantled in 1920. Geert Hollinga moved this pole to its current location. Thus, the pole also dates back to pioneer times.

What do I think about today when I see the little white store? Of course, I always think of Lambert’s Barber Shop. But going way back, I am reminded of little girls with bonnets and freckles and sunburned noses, of women with big broad black hats, high black hoses and long skirts; of young determined settlers; of prairie fires, furious snow storms grasshoppers darkening the sky and devouring corps; the panic of the smallpox epidemic; of horses and hitching posts and muddy, rutty roads; of hearing Dutch spoken with all its dialects in addition to Frisian, Low German and English.

The little white store was a part of all this, and standing alongside the Rieckoff Company building, is Orange City’s last reminder of this period of Orange City history.

Dr. Paul Vander Kooi (1932-2010) was an Orange City medical doctor, local historian and founding member of the Dutch Heritage Boosters. As a pioneering member of the DHB he translated Dutch documents and led historical research.


bottom of page