Fairfield Ledger
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Neighbors Growing Together | Nov 26, 2014

Lasagna lunch to raise funds for McElhinny House

Feb 19, 2013

Fairfield Women’s Club will serve a lasagna luncheon from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Feb. 26 at the McElhinny House.

The menu will include a choice between vegetable or meat lasagna, salad, breadsticks, pie and a beverage.

Tickets are $8. For carry-out or delivery, call 472-5762 or 919-5761.

Proceeds will be used for maintenance of the historic McElhinny House.

The McElhinny House on Court Street just north of Jefferson County Courthouse was built for pioneer merchant Robert McElhinny by carpenter John Lynn Jr. Both came to Fairfield from Washington County, Pa.

McElhinny acquired the building site Jan. 15, 1846, purchasing two lots for a total cost of $60. Fairfield was less than 7 years old, and Iowa was still several months away from statehood on Dec. 28, 1846.

Most sources list the initial construction of the house as beginning in 1846, with completion between 1852 and 1857.

The home was Fairfield’s first showplace. One early source described the home as the embodiment of “New England dignity and Southern hospitality.” From its inception, it was elegant with furnishings made of walnut, rosewood and mahogany.

Originally, the house had a parlor and sitting room on the south, a library, dining room and kitchen on the north, with a summer kitchen in the rear. Five bedrooms, each with its own fireplace, were upstairs. The house was surrounded by a high board fence.

Robert McElhinny, once the largest private land owner in Jefferson County, died May 6, 1878 at the age of 74.

The dwelling remained in the McElhinny family for 69 years. At times, the house was closed, and at others it was rented as a rooming house or used a private home.

The home had various owners, then sometime after World War I, it was bought by Fairfield school district, named Central School and used as elementary school until 1931.

In 1933, it was purchased by the Fairfield Women’s Club through a bequest from the estate of Elizabeth McElhinny, daughter of Robert McElhinny. In her will, McElhinny gave $10,000 to the club to purchase a club house.

Since then, not only have Fairfield Women’s Club meetings been held in the historic house, but it has been the setting for parties, weddings, anniversaries, receptions, reunions, club meetings and many other events.

After the McElhinny House was entered in the National Register of Historic Places in 1978, the McElhinny House Foundation was created as a nonprofit corporation to promote and preserve the historical background of Fairfield and the surrounding area, with the McElhinny House as its focal point.

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