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Forest City

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The community is situated just south of Lime Creek. To the east there are extensively forested lands; to the west the landscape opens up onto a slightly undulating open prairie. The original plat of 18 blocks, laid out in 1856, left three blocks open for public use, one for the hoped-for courthouse, one for a school, and one for a public park. The first courthouse was built in 1861, and it was replaced by the present building in 1896. Though more modest than its counterparts at Sioux City, Ottumwa, and Creston, Forest City's Flax Palace of 1892 was another of those wondrous fairy-tale exposition palaces that Iowa contributed to the national architecture scene in the late nineteenth century. 8Architecturally (if one has a good imagination), the Flax Palace projects the solidity of Richardson's Romanesque, sheathed in flax, of course.

Forest City's primary influence on American architecture and culture comes through the thousands of Winnebago motor homes that have been produced by Winnebago Industries, Inc., since 1958. One encounters motor homes with the famous “Flying W” trademark (adopted in 1961) across the entire country as they provide mobile housing for thousands of Americans. The firm also produces travel trailers and camper coaches for pickups. The changing design of these mobile-home products has its own history, closely reflecting new technological considerations, the availability and cost of gasoline, the need for heating and cooling, and other factors.


Betty Baldwin, “Flax Palace.”

Writing Credits

David Gebhard and Gerald Mansheim

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