Mason City, Iowa

Mason City is the county seat of Cerro Gordo County, Iowa, United States.[4] The population was 28,079 in the 2010 census, a decline from 29,172 in the 2000 census.[5] The Mason City Micropolitan Statistical Area includes all of Cerro Gordo and Worth counties. It is commonly referred to as the "River City", as the city grew up centered on the Winnebago River.

Mason City, Iowa
Principal Financial Group Building in Downtown Mason City
Principal Financial Group Building in Downtown Mason City
River City
Location of Mason City, Iowa
Location of Mason City, Iowa
Coordinates: 43°8′55″N 93°12′7″W / 43.14861°N 93.20194°W / 43.14861; -93.20194Coordinates: 43°8′55″N 93°12′7″W / 43.14861°N 93.20194°W / 43.14861; -93.20194
Country United States
State Iowa
CountyCerro Gordo
 • Total28.09 sq mi (72.77 km2)
 • Land27.79 sq mi (71.99 km2)
 • Water0.30 sq mi (0.78 km2)
1,129 ft (344 m)
 • Total28,079
 • Estimate 
 • Rank16th in Iowa
 • Density968.95/sq mi (374.11/km2)
Time zoneUTC−6 (Central (CST))
 • Summer (DST)UTC−5 (CDT)
ZIP Codes
50401, 50402, 50467
Area code(s)641
FIPS code19-50160
GNIS feature ID0458840


The region around what would later be first called Shibboleth was a summer home to the Sioux and Winnebago nations. The first settlement that became Shibboleth was established in 1853 at the confluence of the Winnebago River and Calmus Creek.[6] The town had several names: Shibboleth, Masonic Grove, and Masonville until Mason City was adopted in 1855, in honor of a founder's son, Mason Long.[7]

In 1854, John McMillin opened the first store, and Dr. Silas Card opened the first medical practice in the area. Lizzie Thompson established the first schoolhouse in a log cabin in 1856. The United States Post Office Department started service to the town in 1857. Mason City was named the county seat in 1858.[8] In 1870, Mason City, Iowa was officially incorporated as a town with Darius B. Mason as the first mayor. [9]

Musical heritageEdit

Bandmaster 2009

Mason City is known for its musical heritage, consistently producing successful performers and educators.[citation needed] The city's "favorite son," Meredith Willson, grew up in Mason City and played in the Mason City Symphonic Band as a high school student. Willson's crowning achievement was the famous stage musical The Music Man. Many of the characters in it were based on people Willson knew from his childhood in Mason City.[10]


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 28.10 square miles (72.78 km2), of which 27.81 square miles (72.03 km2) is land and 0.29 square miles (0.75 km2) is water.[11][12]


Historical population
Census Pop.
2019 (est.)26,931[3]−4.1%
Iowa Data Center[5]

2010 censusEdit

As of the census[2] of 2010, there were 28,079 people, 12,366 households, and 7,210 families living in the city. The population density was 1,009.7 inhabitants per square mile (389.8/km2). There were 13,352 housing units at an average density of 480.1 per square mile (185.4/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 93.8% White, 1.8% African American, 0.3% Native American, 0.9% Asian, 1.3% from other races, and 1.9% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 5.1% of the population.

There were 12,366 households, of which 26.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 43.2% were married couples living together, 10.8% had a female householder with no husband present, 4.3% had a male householder with no wife present, and 41.7% were non-families. Of all households, 35.0% were made up of individuals, and 13.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.20 and the average family size was 2.83.

The median age in the city was 40.9 years. 21.9% of residents were under the age of 18; 9.7% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 23.1% were from 25 to 44; 28.2% were from 45 to 64, and 17.1% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 48.2% male and 51.8% female.

2000 censusEdit

As of the census[13] of 2000, there were 29,172 people, 12,368 households, and 7,507 families living in the city. The population density was 1,131.3 people per square mile (436.7/km2). There were 13,029 housing units at an average density of 505.3 per square mile (195.1/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 95.40% White, 1.17% African American, 0.18% Native American, 0.77% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 1.07% from other races, and 1.40% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 3.45% of the population.

There were 12,368 households, out of which 28.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 47.4% were married couples living together, 10.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 39.3% were non-families. Of all households, 33.5% were made up of individuals, and 14.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.27 and the average family size was 2.90.

In the city the population was spread out, with 23.6% under the age of 18, 10.2% from 18 to 24, 26.7% from 25 to 44, 21.7% from 45 to 64, and 17.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females, there were 90.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 85.8 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $33,852, and the median income for a family was $45,160. Males had a median income of $32,451 versus $21,756 for females. The per capita income for the city was $18,899. About 7.2% of families and 10.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 10.9% of those under age 18 and 10.1% of those age 65 or over.


Mason City has a very diverse employment base covering multiple sectors of the economy including Manufacturing, Health, Financial Services, Technology and Education, with no one sector or employer dominating the market.

The largest employer is MercyOne North Iowa Medical Center, formerly known as Mercy Medical Center-North Iowa, and before that as St. Joseph Mercy Hospital, is the region's largest hospital. The facility serves 14 counties across northern Iowa. In June 2019, the hospital opened a new $10.6 million behavioral center. The new center will help MercyOne to increase the number of behavioral health-care services it can offer to those in the community it serves who are struggling with mental illness and substance abuse issues. MercyOne to open $10.6 million behavioral center

Other major employers include door manufacturer Curries/Graham Company, Woodhardbor Cabinetry Manufacturers, Principal Financial, Cargill Kitchen Solutions and the Kraft Foods plant that produces the nation's entire supply of refrigerated ready-to-eat Jell-O pudding snacks. Mason City is also a major production center for Portland Cement. In November 2007, Reyes Holding / Martin-Brower opened a distribution facility serving McDonald's in 5 states.[14]

In March 2016, North Carolina based company Prestage Farms proposed to build a $240 million pork processing plant or slaughterhouse in Mason City,[15] employing about 1,800 people. In May, the Mason City Council cast a tie vote rejecting the proposed project.[16] Plant opponents raised environmental issues and expressed concern about possible harm to property values.[17]

Arts and cultureEdit

The Charles H. MacNider Art Museum includes a permanent collection of American art, the famous Bill Baird puppets, and a wide range of ceramics.

Events and festivalsEdit

In late May or early June Mason City holds an annual celebration of its musical heritage called The North Iowa Band Festival. School bands from across the Midwest compete during the parade to be named the best band. The home bands, Mason City High School and Newman Catholic High School Marching Bands, do not compete but do perform in the parade.[18] Meredith Willson returned to participate in the festival many times.


Architecture and the Prairie School

Mason City is widely known for its collection of Prairie School architecture, the largest concentration of any city in Iowa. At least 32 houses and one commercial building were built in the Prairie Style between 1908 and 1922, 17 of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and eight more are contributing properties to a historic district.[19][20]

The first two Prairie structures, the Dr. G.C. Stockman House (1908) and the Park Inn Hotel and City National Bank Buildings (1909–1910) were both designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. The hotel and bank, a mixed-use development at the corner of State and Federal Avenues was the first to be commissioned by local attorneys James E. E. Markley and James E. Blythe. Within a year, Wright was hired to design the Stockman House by Markley's neighbor.[21]

The historic
and endangered
Len Jus Building

Both the Park Inn Hotel and Stockman House suffered from neglect and unsympathetic alterations before they were saved by community organizations. In 1989, the Stockman House was moved four blocks to prevent its demolition; it was subsequently restored and opened to the public by the River City Society for Historic Preservation.[22] Likewise, Wright on the Park, Inc. began restoration on the Park Inn Hotel in 2005 and the former City National Bank building in 2007. The organization reopened both buildings as a boutique hotel in August 2011.[23][24] The Park Inn Hotel is last remaining of the few hotels that Wright completed during his career and is considered a prototype for Wright's Imperial Hotel.[25]

The Rock Glen and Rock Crest National Historic district is a small enclave of single-family homes situated along the banks of Willow Creek five blocks east of downtown. It is the largest collection of prairie-style homes in a natural setting in the world.[citation needed] It features both Prairie School and Usonian design.[citation needed] Five of these houses were designed by Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin, two by Francis Barry Byrne, and others by William Drummond, Einar Broaten, and Curtis Besinger.[citation needed]

In addition to Prairie Style architecture, Mason City is home to extensive Victorian, Craftsman, and Bungalow style homes, as well as historic commercial structures, dates from between 1892 and 1940, including the Brick and Tile Building at the intersection of State and Delaware Streets.

The Mason City Public Library was designed by Chicago architects Holabird and Root in 1939.[26]

The Len Jus Building on North Federal Avenue has an extremely rare sheet-metal facade, it had been placed on the Iowa Historic Preservation Alliance's Most Endangered list because of its poor repair and indifferent ownership,[27][28] but is now being rehabilitated by the new owner.


Mason City has some history of minor league sports teams despite its relatively small size.

The North Iowa Bulls hockey team began to play in Mason City during the 2011–2012 NA3HL season.[29] The Bulls won the Silver Cup in 2013, 2014 and 2016. They have also gone on to win the Tier III National Championship in 2013 and 2015. The North Iowa Outlaws junior hockey team began play in the North American Hockey League in 2005. They were in Mason City until 2010, when they relocated to Onalaska, Wisconsin to become the Coulee Region Chill. The former North Iowa Huskies played in the United States Hockey League until 1999.

Mason City was home to minor league baseball. The Mason City Cementmakers (1912) and Mason City Claydiggers (1915-1917) played as members of the Iowa State League (1912) and Central Association (1915–1917). The teams played at Hanford Park.[30][31]

The Mason City Bats of the short-lived Great Central League played baseball here in 1994.[31]

College Football Hall of Fame coach Barry Alvarez led Mason City High School to the 1978 Class 4A state football championship with a 15–13 victory over Dubuque Hempstead.

River City Rugby Football Club was established in Mason City in 1972. The Club competes in two separate two-month seasons, April and May, and September and October. The Club celebrated its 40th anniversary in June 2012. Over 250 players have played for the Club since it first began. The Club competes against teams from Iowa, Minnesota, and Nebraska in the Midwest Division 3.


Primary and secondary schoolsEdit

Mason City Community School District operates the following schools: Harding Elementary School, Hoover Elementary School, Jefferson Elementary School, Roosevelt Elementary School, Lincoln Intermediate School (5–6), John Adams Junior High School (7–8), Mason City High School, (9–12), Mason City Alternative High School, Madison Early Childhood Center. Past schools include Lincoln, Washington, Grant and Garfield elementary schools, and Monroe and Roosevelt junior high schools.

Newman Catholic Elementary/Middle School, Newman Catholic High School, and North Iowa Christian School. Mason City is also the home of the Worldwide College of Auctioning founded in 1933 by the well-known auctioneer Col. Joe Reisch and subsequently owned/operated for many years by Col. Gordon E. Taylor.

Postsecondary educationEdit

Mason City is home to several institutions of higher education, including the North Iowa Area Community College (formerly Mason City Junior College), a branch of Buena Vista University which is located on the NIACC campus, and Purdue University Global formerly known as Kaplan University. Purdue University to acquire Mason City Kaplan campus Hamilton College, a business school, has operated in the city since 1900.


Movies and documentariesEdit

The town is featured prominently in the first episode of the 12-part documentary film How Democracy Works Now. In the 1989 movie UHF the character Stanley Spadowski (played by Michael Richards) is seen wearing a Mason City t-shirt.

Mason City served as the inspiration for the fictional town of River City, Iowa, in The Music Man, a musical that was composed and written by Mason City native son Meredith Willson (although the 1962 film, which had its world premiere in Mason City, was shot entirely at Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, California).[32]


Channel Callsign Affiliation Branding Subchannels
(Virtual) Channel Programming
3.1 KIMT CBS KIMT 3 3.2
Antenna TV
6.1 KAAL ABC KAAL 6 6.2 This TV
10.1 KTTC NBC KTTC 10 10.2
Heroes & Icons
Court TV
Justice Network
15.1 KSMQ PBS KSMQ 15.2
MHz Worldview
Minnesota Channel
24.1 KYIN PBS Iowa Public Television 24.2
PBS Kids
47.1 KXLT FOX FOX 47 47.2


AM radio stations
Frequency Call sign Name Format
970 KQAQ Real Presence Radio Catholic
1010 KRNI Iowa Public Radio Public Radio
1300 KGLO News/Talk
1490 KRIB Adult standards
FM radio stations
Frequency Call sign Name Format
88.5 KBDC American Family Radio Christian
90.7 K2814BA
(KHKE Translator)
91.5 KNSM Iowa Public Radio Public radio
92.5 K223AB
(KJLY Translator)
93.9 KIAI The Country Moose Country
97.9 KCMR Christian
98.7 KSMA 98.7 KISS Country Country
99.9 KAUS US Country 99.9 Country
103.7 KLKK 103.7 The Fox Classic rock
106.1 KLSS Star 106 Top 40



Surface transportationEdit

The majority of Mason City is served by Iowa Highway 122 and U.S. Route 65. U.S. Route 18 now bypasses the city to the south. Interstate 35 (eight miles to the west) serves the city as well.

Rail serviceEdit

Mason City is home to the Iowa Traction Railway. The IATR is one of the last surviving electric interurban railroads in the U. S., and the only one that still uses electric locomotives to haul freight in regular service.

Mason City also is served by the Canadian Pacific Railway and Union Pacific Railroad. The Canadian Pacific track is part of its US subsidiary the Dakota, Minnesota and Eastern Railroad ( former I&M Rail Link and Milwaukee Road trackage. The Union Pacific's track was inherited from the Chicago and North Western Transportation Company when it bought it in the 1990s. Much of the trackage is composed of the old Chicago, Rock Island, and Pacific Railroad's (aka Rock Island Railroad )

While the Iowa Northern Railway does not operate in the city of Mason City, it does serve other communities in the Mason City micropolitan statistical area. The Iowa Northern has facilities in Manly, Iowa.


The city also hosts Mason City Municipal Airport, (MCW) with commercial service by Air Choice One. It is the airport from which early rock and roll stars Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper (J.P. Richardson) took off on the night of February 3, 1959, after a concert at the Surf Ballroom in nearby Clear Lake, Iowa, en route to Fargo, N.D. The plane crashed a few miles west of the airport in an historic event later referred to as the Day the Music Died. Holly, Valens, Richardson and pilot Roger Peterson all died in the accident.

Notable peopleEdit

Sister cityEdit

Mason City, Iowa, and Montegrotto Terme, Italy, created a Sister City relationship in the spring of 2005. This relationship creates a bridge between the two cities that citizens can use to build new and lasting friendships and relationships.[8]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "2019 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved July 17, 2020.
  2. ^ a b "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2012-05-11.
  3. ^ a b "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". United States Census Bureau. May 24, 2020. Retrieved May 27, 2020.
  4. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Archived from the original on 2015-05-09. Retrieved 2011-06-07.
  5. ^ a b "Data from the 2010 Census". State Data Center of Iowa. Archived from the original on July 18, 2011. Retrieved May 18, 2011.
  6. ^ "Mason City Chamber of Commerce". History. Archived from the original on February 23, 2010. Retrieved 2010-12-04.
  7. ^ Chicago and North Western Railway Company (1908). A History of the Origin of the Place Names Connected with the Chicago & North Western and Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha Railways. p. 100.
  8. ^ a b "Mason City Portal". History. Archived from the original on August 14, 2010. Retrieved 2010-12-04.
  9. ^
  10. ^ Zolotow, Sam (April 14, 1958). "'The Music Man' Wins 5 of 18 Tony Awards..." The New York Times: 21.
  11. ^ "US Gazetteer files 2010". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on 2011-02-20. Retrieved 2012-05-11.
  12. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23.
  13. ^ "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  14. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-06-13. Retrieved 2013-06-13.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  15. ^ John Skipper (21 March 2016). "New Mason City pork processing plant identified as Prestage Farms". The Courier. Retrieved 8 June 2016.
  16. ^ "Prestage Farms to seek another Iowa location for pork plant". Radio Iowa. Learfield News & Ag, LLC. 5 May 2016. Retrieved 8 June 2016.
  17. ^ "Prestage to Mason City: No hog plant for you". Des Moines Register. Associated Press. 3 June 2016. Retrieved 8 June 2016.
  18. ^ Skipper, John. "Band Festival royalty shocked and honored". Mason City Globe Gazette. Retrieved 2016-04-27.
  19. ^ Panning, John A. (2009). "Iowa". The Prairie School Traveler. Retrieved June 25, 2010.
  20. ^ "IOWA – Cerro Gordo County". National Register of Historic Places. Retrieved June 26, 2010.
  21. ^ McCoy, Robert. "Frank Lloyd Wright". Wright in Iowa. Archived from the original on 2000-08-18. Retrieved 2010-12-04.
  22. ^ Douglas, Martin (September 2, 1993). "Averting a Wright Wrong". The New York Times. Mason City, IA. Retrieved June 25, 2010.
  23. ^ Skipper, John (April 1, 2006). "Restorers will buy, renovate Wright's bank". Mason City, IA. Retrieved June 29, 2010.
  24. ^ Johnson, Dick (September 14, 2007). "Wright on the Park completes purchase of former City National Bank building". Mason City, IA. Retrieved June 29, 2010.
  25. ^ "The Park Inn Hotel & City National Bank Building: A Brief History". The Historic Park Inn Hotel. Wright on the Park, Inc. Archived from the original on October 5, 2010. Retrieved June 29, 2010.
  26. ^ "Library History – Mason City Public Library". Retrieved 2010-03-29.
  27. ^ Cedar Rapids Gazette, Cedar Rapids historic buildings make 'most endangered' list:
  28. ^ Iowa's Most Endangered Properties, "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-10-07. Retrieved 2008-12-22.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  29. ^, KIRK HARDCASTLE. "Junior hockey – The Bulls – coming to Mason City". Retrieved 21 April 2018.
  30. ^ "IAGENWeb ~ Cerro Gordo Co. ~ Mason City's Centennial ~ Champions in the Sports Field".
  31. ^ a b "Mason City, IA - BR Bullpen".
  32. ^ "Mason City, Iowa is known as the River City". Retrieved 21 April 2018.
  33. ^ Pohlen, Jerome (2005). Oddball Iowa: A Guide to Some Really Strange Places. Chicago Review Press. p. 88. ISBN 9781569764671.
  34. ^ Thoennes Keller, Kristin (2006). Carrie Chapman Catt: A Voice for Women. Compass Point Books. pp. 21. ISBN 9780756509910. mason city.
  35. ^ Bird, Laura (13 October 2013). "'Garner, Iowa' premieres at the Avery Theater". The Globe Gazette.
  36. ^ Newton, Michael (2009). The Encyclopedia of Unsolved Crimes. New York, NY: Facts on File. p. 174. ISBN 9781438119144.
  37. ^ Feather, Leonard (2007). The Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz. Oxford University Press. p. 355. ISBN 9780199729074.
  38. ^ Johnson, Richard (October 9, 2010). "Mason City native Lannon named Creighton president". Mason City Globe Gazette. Retrieved 2010-09-14.
  39. ^ "The Political Graveyard". MacNider, Hanford. Retrieved 2010-12-04.
  40. ^ "Born Losers book website". Scott Sandage. Retrieved 2010-12-04.

External linksEdit