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Cutting the ribbon: Supt. Steve Gettel, Mayor Pro Tem Tami Stark and City Manager Chris Ward.

During its early history, when hundreds of families from all over Iowa would walk into the main entrance of the Iowa College for the Blind, later renamed the Iowa Braille and Sight-Saving School, the first thing they would see in the lobby was the large Founder's Room.

That room contained a place to rest, as well as artifacts and information about the school.

It served as a welcome center to new families, and on at least one occasion, it served as a casket viewing room for an IBSSS student who had died.

That room, for the past several years, has been unused, as the school has gone through many changes and the end of its resident student program.

But now, thanks to hard work by local residents seeking to preserve the historical flavor of the building the Founders Room is again open to the public.

Volunteers including Carolyn Hibbs spent hours cleaning the room, washing walls and polishing the antique woodwork.

They formally re-opened the Founder's Room on Wednesday, with a ribbon cutting that included the volunteers, city leaders and the new superintendent, Steve Gettel.

"Everyone who works here understands how important this place is to the community and its history," said Gettel.

The room contains a large book representing part of the Bible, printed not in Braille, but in New York Point, one of four reading systems used until Helen Keller lobbied for the use of Braille only.

New York Point was the system Mary Ingalls used when she was in Vinton, said Hibbs.

Other antique items used in the school decades ago are on display, and the IBSSS historical group is continuing to find more items to share with the public.

Vinton City Manager Chris Ward and Council member/Mayor Pro Tem Tami Stark joined Gettel in cutting the ribbon.

The local volunteers involved in the project included Hibbs, Nancy Baldwin, Nancy Beckman, Robert Spangler, Mike Kelly and Molly Noren. They joined IBSSS staff members for the ribbon cutting ceremony.

The room will be open to the public during business hours and the local historians will continue to add more items to that room.

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Comments (1)

I'd guess that some or most of the furniture in the Founders room was made there on campus, by students.
Joe Klosterman was probably one of the last shop teachers at IBSSS. Joe and his brother, both visually blind, built the house in 1949 that Joe and his wife Hilda lived in at 1004 D Avenue here in Vinton. My dad said they worked on it at night and no lights were used.
By: Thomas Pingenot on August 6th 12:46pm

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