Restored Fertile home is open for guest rentals

Restored Fertile home is open for guest rentals Main Photo

15 Feb 2023

News, Blog

Memento Vivere. Remember, you must live. This phrase was the concept behind Fertile’s new home away from home.

The 122-year-old home was transformed into a modern farmhouse for short-term rentals by North Liberty, Iowa residents Matt Wiskus and Tracy McDowell-Wiskus.

The couple spends much of their time at a second home in Clear Lake. They stumbled across the battered house while looking for a property with additional storage.

“The neighbors were just so nice, and they were thrilled someone bought the property and sorta talked us into it,” said McDowell-Wiskus.

The couple had two choices: bulldoze the lot or rebuild.

“It’s 120 years old; how could we just bulldoze that down?” McDowell-Wiskus said. “So we didn’t. We decided to restore a little piece of history in Fertile.”

From there, they needed to decide if they wanted to rearrange the house’s layout. They became determined to maintain it, believing “that from a historical standpoint, it was the right thing to do,” according to McDowell-Wiskus.

Stripped to its studs, the house, now named Memento Vivere, needed to be brought back to life. The first major challenge was to select a place for the stairs; the home had a hole in the ceiling, and it was the only way to access the second floor.

Flooring, drywall, electrical and plumbing were some of the primary focuses in the remodel as some of it was beyond repair. The couple also replaced the windows and doors. The house received new appliances, surfaces and furniture when it was ready.

“So, really, it was kind of a rebuild in a structure,” McDowell-Wiskus said. “And you give into things when you start tearing off siding. I mean, we found complete holes where there was nothing between the siding from the outside to the inside of the house.”

The two-bedroom, one-bathroom home features a coffee/wine bar, laundry, TV and a firepit. Due to its location in Fertile, with a population of roughly 290, the couple realized that many of their visitors would likely be traveling professionals. With this in mind, they also created a workspace, including a desk, chair and lamp.

“For any traveling professional that’s looking for a home away from home and not a hotel, that’s what’s cool about being able to stay in a home when you’re traveling because you can cook for yourself, have space, a separate bedroom, things like that,” said McDowell-Wiskus.

The house began welcoming guests in December 2022 but still needs its finishing touches, including a driveway and seeded yard.

Nearby attractions, places and things to do:

  • Cafe Mir - Fertile
  • The Fertile Market - Fertile
  • Buddy Holly Crash Site - Clear Lake
  • The Surf Ballroom - Clear Lake
  • The Surf District - Clear Lake
  • Pilot Knob State Park - Forest City
  • Waldorf University - Forest City
  • Winnebago Industries - Forest City
  • Diamond Jo’s Casino - Northwood

“Come and stay with us,” said McDowell-Wiskus. “We’d love to host you.”

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