Our History


Iowa became the 29th state of the union

1853 John Long, George Brentner, and Joseph Hewitt plat the town

John McMillin opens the first store in the county

Dr. Silas Card became the first doctor in the community


Stackhouse & Belt opened the first grocery store and Peabody opened the first blacksmith shop


The first township election was held

1856 Lizzie Thompson taught students in the first schoolhouse established in a log cabin
1857 The post office was established

Mason City was named as county seat


The first newspaper was published, the Cerro Gordo Press

1867 The Mason City Cemetery Association (MCCA) organized the Mason City Cemetery in the northeast part of the City, near the present Mason City Waterworks
1869 The first train arrived in Mason City, the McGregor and Missouri River Railway Company

Population was 1,183

Mason City was incorporated as a town

F. J. Turnure was named Mason City’s First Marshall

Mason City Fire Company #1 was authorized to act; the first volunteer hook & ladder established for fire protection

1871 The first library was established but was not a free service – it was a subscription library, meaning only paid subscribers were allowed to borrow books
1874 Central Park was established in the center of downtown
1875 St. Joseph Cemetery was organized at the present location
1876 The first ‘fire shed’ was built to house fire protection equipment
1878 The first telephone service was installed; long distance service was available to Algona
1880 Population was 2,510
1881 Carrie Chapman Catt becomes a teacher in Mason City
1884 The Civil War statue was erected in Central Park

Pumps and pipes were purchased for the City water system


The Denison Hose Company was founded.  The first hose cart was purchased by O.T. Denison for use by the Company.  The Water Commissioner authorized to employ personnel to care for the hose and cart.

1886 Mason City Electric Company installed street lights
1888 A second library in the community opened as a reading room

Dr. Stella Mason became the first female doctor to practice in Mason City

The public library moved to East State Street


The building of the Iowa Central Railroad necessitated relocating the cemetery from the northeast part of the City to the present Elmwood Cemetery site (the bodies of the persons buried were moved to Elmwood Cemetery)

1895 The first horse-drawn fire engine was purchased and the first paid fire fighter (driver) occurred this year
1896 A chapel was built on the grounds of the cemetery with a receiving vault and sitting room

The first run of the Mason City Clear Lake Railroad was made between the two communities

A new court house was built in the community on the corner of 1st Street NW and N. Washington Avenue (on the site of the existing parking lot west of the current City Hall location)
1901 Sophia and Dolly Story opened the Story Hospital, the first hospital in Mason City at 107 N. Pennsylvania Avenue
1902 The horse-drawn ‘Hook and Ladder Truck’ was purchased
1906 The first movie theater, The Bijou, was opened by J. M. Heffner, located on the corner of South Federal and 2nd Street SE (the current main entrance of Southbridge Mall to the south on the east side)
1907 The post office was built at 19 South Delaware Avenue

East Park was established and is considered Mason City's most popular park

The Mason City Police Department officially became an organized department

The Mason City Fire Department went from a volunteer department to a paid department

The Park Hospital was built on the northwest corner of 1st Street NW and North Washington Avenue

1910 The Park Inn Hotel and City National Bank, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, opened in downtown Mason City across from Central Park
Colby Car Company was in operation (buildings are still used by the Associated Milk Producers, Inc. AMPI)
1911 The first airplane flight was made in Mason City
The former fire ‘shed’ was razed, the new fire headquarters was built on the same lot
1912 The American Locomotive Company of Schenectady, New York, built locomotive number 457 for the Minneapolis and St. Louis Railroad (the locomotive is now historically retired in East Park)
1913 The City was governed under the Commission form of government

The first patrol wagon was used by the Police Department

The first motorized fire engine was purchased, a 1913 Seagrave


The first motorcycle was purchased for use by the Police Department


Mercy Hospital opened


Mason City was rated a City of the first class with a population of 17,172

The Chamber of Commerce opened

1917 The Mason City Fire Department became fully motorized

The first hard-surfaced interurban highway in Iowa was constructed between Mason City and Clear Lake

Mason City Junior College (MCJC) opened as the first public two year college in Iowa

1920 The census reported Mason City’s population at 20,065 and was ranked as Iowa’s 11th largest city
1922 The Red Ball Bus Line was started in Mason City by Helen Schulz.  This line was one of the first bus lines in the country and perhaps the only one owned and operated by a woman.

The City re-evaluated its form of government and was changed to the Manager form

Charles Lindbergh attended the dedication of the Mason City Airport

Members of the Police Department began working 8 hour days

1928 The Records and Identification Bureau of the Police Department was established

1930 The MacNider family offered seven acres of property on Second NE and Pennsylvania to the City for purposes of building a new library
1932 The Fire Prevention Bureau was established
1933 Scrip Road was built along the Winnebago River from Illinois Avenue to the highway; scrip money was printed and used for the building of Scrip Road
1934 John Dillinger and his gang robbed the First National Bank in Mason City
1935 The Police Department moved into a new station located at 115 South Washington Avenue

The North Iowa Band Festival became annual event

The last street car made its way through the city streets

Mason City Motorcoach Bus Service replaces the interurban railroad


Mason City adopted the first Fire Code in the State of Iowa

The police uniforms were switched from khaki to the current style navy blue uniform

KGLO became the first radio station in Mason City

1938 Elmwood Cemetery purchased an additional 60 acres, expanding the grounds to the south and east with property adjoining South Federal Avenue

A sub fire station is built on South Federal Avenue (the structure is still standing)

Parker’s Woods, located at 1st Street NW and North Jackson Avenue, was established


The new library at 2nd Street NE and Pennsylvania opened its doors to the public

Mid-Continent Airways made the first scheduled airline flight

1941 Two-way radios are installed in the Police Station and in squad cars

The form of government changed to the Mayor-Council form

The first official landing at the new airport located eight miles west of Mason City


A new Mason City Municipal Airport was dedicated

Mason City gets intercontinental air service by Mid-Continent Airlines

The Police Department adds 10 officers, which brings the authorized strength of the department to 27 officers

The first parking meters were installed in the community

1948 Mason City Police takes first place in the First Annual Chiefs’ of Police Pistol Shoot
1949 The St. Joseph Cemetery and Elmwood Cemetery were both deeded to the City of Mason City and began operations as the Elmwood-St. Joseph Municipal Cemetery


Chief Jim Kelley retired, the longest serving fire fighter, after 42 years, 7 months and 21 days

The Elmwood-St. Joseph Municipal Cemetery was expanded to the west with the purchase of 27 acres from the Brick and Tile Company; South Monroe Avenue was built through this land, dividing the cemetery into two separate parcels

1954 KGLO television went on the air

Highland Park Golf Course was established in the northeast part of town

The first radar unit was installed in the police cars

Asbury Park, located on the east edge of town on Highway 122 was established

1958 This was a big year for City parks, with the addition of the Margaret MacNider Campground (near East Park), the Frederick Hanford Park (southwest side), and MacNider Woods (along Willow Creek, south of Hoover Elementary School)

Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, JP Richardson ('The Big Bopper'), and pilot Roger Peterson take off from the Mason City Municipal Airport in a small airplane and crash just north of Clear Lake with no survivors

The Minneapolis & St. Louis Steam Locomotive 457 was donated to the City by the American Crystal Sugar Company and placed in East Park

1960 Industrial Park opens in Mason City

The Palace Theater in Mason City featured the premiere of  “The Music Man” written by Meredith Willson, born and raised in Mason City

The first meter maids were hired by the Police Department

1963 Georgia Hanford Park was established on the southeast side of the City

The last railroad passenger train in Mason City

Willowbrook Mall opened

The back 9 holes of the Highland Park Golf Course were constructed
1966 The Charles H. MacNider Museum opened to the public as an arts center
1967 Jet service from the Mason City Airport was inaugurated by Ozark Airlines

General Hanford MacNider died

Kinney Pioneer Museum opened

1970 The municipal swimming pool opened
1973 The south fire station closed
1975 The new fire headquarters opened at 350 5th Street SW
1978 Marlys A. Shima became the first known female to serve as a City Council member for Mason City

The Police Department moved to its new and current home on South Georgia Avenue

The Park Hospital was torn down

1982 Fire Department personnel receive EMT-B level training

Officer Kevin Pals and Rommel, a German Shepherd, became Mason City’s first K-9 unit


The Police Department swore in the first police reserve officer

1984 Meredith Willson, Mason City’s Music Man, was laid to rest on the family lot in the Greenwood Section of the Elmwood-St. Joseph Municipal Cemetery; also buried there are five other family members
1985 Southbridge Mall held its grand opening
1988 The first female police officer is hired, Susan Linkenmeyer
1989 The Eadmar Hotel collapsed

1992 The Norris Youth Softball Complex was established on the east side of the City
1993 The North Iowa Hazardous Materials team is formed and housed at Mason City’s Fire Department headquarters
1994 The Mason City Youth Task Force was formed as a community coalition with the appointment of youth and adults representing a diverse cross section of the community
1996 The drive-in theatre held its last show (located on the southeast corner of Eisenhower Avenue and 4th Street SW)

Construction of the Mason City Room in the west wing of the public library was completed

Defibrillators were placed in police squad cars for emergencies

1999 The Civil War Statue was renovated and replaced on its pedestal in Central Park

The population of Mason City is 29,172
The City Volunteer Program was established to provide a unique opportunity for volunteers to share their time and talents as they partner with City staff on municipal projects

Mason City celebrated its Sesquicentennial (150th birthday)

Mason City’s new Aquatic Center opened

The new Operation & Maintenance facility located on North Massachusetts Avenue was completed and included new offices, breakroom, shop, central store and salt and sand storage facility

Jean Marinos became the first female to serve as the Mayor of Mason City


A monument consisting of 12 black granite stones was erected and dedicated in Central Park to honor the community’s veterans

The Mason City Fire Department begins providing ALS ambulance service to the City of Mason City, most of Cerro Gordo County and the east half of Worth County

Friends of the 457 was formed to preserve and maintain the steam locomotive and fundraising efforts of the Minneapolis & St. Louis Steam Locomotive 457 in East Park

The new Water Treatment Plant was constructed on 12th Street NE

The State of Iowa Community Betterment Program recognized the State Street Railroad Trestle Painting Project completed by local volunteers

Eagle Scout Matt Meyer was honored by the United States Freedom Corps for planning and constructing a Fire Fighter Memorial and was presented the award by President George W. Bush while the President was in Mason City


The railroad overpass on 12th Street NW was completed and opened to the public


Mason City created a Sister City Relationship with Montegrotto Terme, Italy


Renovation of Central Park in downtown completed

The Park Watch Program was established, which consists of volunteers touring the parks to help decrease crime and vandalism

Friends of the 457 receive the State of Iowa Governor’s Award for the preservation work on the 1912 Minneapolis and St. Louis Steam Locomotive 457


The Mason City Fire Department was voted the 2007 Career Service of the Year by the Iowa Emergency Services Association

The Winnebago River Trail Bridge was constructed connecting East Park and the Aquatic Center

The Youth Task Force is nationally recognized as one of America’s 100 Best Communities for Youth


The Winnebago River in Mason City reached the highest crest ever recorded in history at 18.72 feet which exceeded the levee in one of the worst flooding events the City of Mason City and State of Iowa have experienced

Mason City was ranked as the #10 least expensive urban areas to live, according to the ACCRA Cost of Living Index


Margaret MacNider Campground renovation completed

The Mason City Police Department celebrated its 100th anniversary as a Police Department with an authorized strength of 49 officers

East Park celebrated its 100 year birthday


The 19th Street SW railroad overpass was opened to the public


The renovation of the Mason City Public Library was completed


The City Volunteer Program hit the 45,000 mark in regard to the number of hours donated by citizen volunteers to municipal projects and nearly 400 volunteer projects were completed since the establishment of the program in 2002



The only remaining Frank Lloyd Wright Hotel, the Historic Park Inn Hotel, reopened to guests following a multi-million dollar renovation


The Federal Avenue Streetscape and Utilities Improvement Project in downtown Mason City is completed



The Minneapolis and St. Louis Steam Locomotive 457 located in East Park celebrates its 100 year birthday


Mason City was selected as one of four Iowa communities designated a Blue Zones Project™ demonstration site


2013 The Mason City Fire Department's Emergency Medical Services surpassed the 'one million miles driven' mark since the ambulance services started in 2004

Downtown Mason City was named as 1 of the 10 Great Neighborhoods of the 30 Great Places in America by the American Planning Association representing ‘the gold standard’ for ‘a true sense of place, cultural and historical interest, community involvement and a vision for tomorrow’

Air Choice One began air service as the carrier for the Mason City Municipal Airport with daily flights to Chicago, Illinois and St. Louis, Missouri

RAGBRAI XLII held an overnight stop in Mason City for the second time in the history of the ride


Information in part courtesy of Mason City Public Library Historical Collection
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