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The northern section of the state was generally the last to be settled. The landscape of the area is essentially that of the classic, slightly undulating open prairie with very little in the way of groves of native trees. The trees and shrubs that do exist tend to reinforce the strong right-angle geometry of the roads—land divisions—or mark the location of farm complexes. While a number of small rivers and streams penetrate the area, their run-off and degree of flow limited their use for water power. An exception is found in the eastern part of this section, especially along the Cedar and Wapsipinicon rivers, where water power was fully developed.

Architecturally this region is very rich. There are elegant examples of nineteenth-century public, commercial, and domestic buildings in communities such as Decorah and Independence. After 1900, Mason City emerged as one of America's centers for Prairie architecture and landscape architecture. Throughout the region one will discover smaller communities with picturesque late-nineteenth- and early twentieth-century high-spired churches of stone and brick, and towns with quiet tree-lined residential streets along which bungalows and classic Prairie-style houses were built between 1900 and 1920. Also common to the region are the sculptural banks of tall concrete grain elevators alongside the railroads, and their more recent counterparts, high-tech metal silos and agricultural processing facilities.

Writing Credits

Author: 
David Gebhard and Gerald Mansheim

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