“I want people to walk away and think that Slater is something much more than a community in Story County.” – Dave Baker

If you find yourself free this Friday, Feb. 1, you might want to have lunch at the Slater Library. After lunch you will be in for another treat, a guest speaker who will tell you all about the buildings and railroad connections involving Slater, Sheldahl, Huxley and Kelley.

Slater Library Director Jennifer Gogerty said that the library is excited to host Dave Baker as part of the monthly Soup and Sound Lunch. She said that lunch will be served at 11:30 a.m. at the library, with Baker presenting “Tri County Time Travel” at noon.

Baker is an Ankeny native who graduated from Central College in Pella with a degree in business and history. He currently works for Iowa State University, and in his spare time he is busy working as a writer, researcher and photographer.

“It was in 2009 I decided that I was going to take my interest in photography and history and use it to raise awareness of the small towns in Iowa,” he explained. “I saw that many of the rural communities were shrinking and that people my age perhaps did not appreciate what they might have to offer in the terms of heritage and history.”

Baker said that, to date, he has photographed over 2,500 historic sites, landmarks, communities, cemeteries and ghost town sites in 74 of the 99 counties. He said that his goal is to generate interest in these places and help preserve their memories. He refers to his work as a celebration of Iowa history, heritage and architecture.

“My presentation is called “Tri County Time Travel” and it will have three parts,” he explained. “In the first part I will discuss the significance of buildings as a historical primary source, with some background about “The 29th State” project. The second part will focus on the post-Civil War railroad boom and how it influenced settlement of communities. Lastly, I will discuss a brief history of Slater, Sheldahl, Huxley, Kelley and other towns in the area that were on the rail lines.”

Baker added that his goal of the presentation is to demonstrate how individual histories, both personal and shared, fit into the bigger picture of state and national history.

“I want people to walk away and think that Slater is something much more than a community in Story County,” he added.

Baker explained that the 29th State Project began to photograph and document all 945 towns in Iowa. His original intention was to create a photo book showcasing the unique and diverse communities in Iowa. He discovered that every county has ghost towns, unincorporated villages and interesting landmarks that help tell the stories of settlers, residents and events. It was then that he started including these in his work.

“Through my Facebook site, web pages and live programs, I strive to bring Iowa’s past to those who might otherwise overlook it, and provide insight as to why learning our history is important,” he concluded.