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Charles City

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The open prairieland of Floyd County is interrupted by three water systems that run northwest by southeast, the largest of which is the Cedar River to the east. 2In 1853 the town of Saint Charles was platted on both sides of the Cedar. The grid in this case mirrored the river's course, its streets running northwest-southeast and southwest-northeast. The city became the county seat in 1854. Bonds were issued in the late 1850s, which resulted in two railroads reaching the community: the Milwaukee and Saint Paul Railway and the Cedar Falls and Minnesota Railway. By the early 1900s the city nursery business, renowned for fruit trees and ornamental trees, had developed into an important industry. Architecturally, one of the significant products of the county has been limestone quarried for use in local buildings as well as those found outside of the area. 3

From the late 1960s on, the inner core of the city underwent many changes. Some of these were due to a tornado that laid waste a large section of the town in 1968. Other “natural maladies” have been the Dutch elm disease that defoliated much of the town's elm trees, and the destruction of buildings by fire, the most recent resulting in the loss of the 1863 Union House hotel. Finally, urban renewal has lent a hand in the removal of a number of older buildings and the substitution of new ones. Notwithstanding these substantial changes, the town still possesses a good stock of buildings, especially from the years after 1900.

Two utilitarian “monuments” within the center of the city should be noted. One is the brick and tile-roofed Anderson Service Station (c. 1924) at 1005 Gilbert Street. The service bay of the station presents an arched opening toward the street, and its extended hipped roof is supported by brackets. The other monument is the Clark Street foot bridge (1906) over the Cedar River. The bridge is a light, delicate suspension bridge with a span of 270 feet. The engineer for the bridge was O. B. Zimmerman.


Environmental Planning and Research, Mason City, Iowa. An Architectural Heritage, 1977.

C. R. Jones, “Floyd County is a Land of Limestone Landmarks.”

Writing Credits

David Gebhard and Gerald Mansheim

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