Time Machine

Time Machine: Hiawatha's city founders once guaranteed 'no beer taverns'

City celebrates its 70th anniversary this year

Fay Clark was Hiawatha's founder and first mayor. (Gazette archives)
Fay Clark was Hiawatha's founder and first mayor. (Gazette archives)

A small community called Hiawatha Junction formed outside the Cedar Rapids city limits in the 1940s.

A mile north of Cedar Rapids on Highway 150, it included the Hiawatha Trailer Court, seven new houses and a concrete block Quonset building that housed a welding shop and lunchroom. Fay Clark owned the shop, the trailer court, Midwest Oil and real estate, and he built the houses.

By 1950, the settlement had grown to 108 houses, and the residents wanted to incorporate Hiawatha as a city. If that happened, it would become the first community to be incorporated in Linn County since Fairfax in 1936.

“The town gets its name from the Hiawatha trailer made in Cedar Rapids from 1930 to 1942 and the first house trailer manufactured commercially in the United States,” a Gazette story said in 1950.

Under the proposed boundaries, Hiawatha would have 31 houses, with seven more being built. Strangely, the Hiawatha Trailer Court was not included within those boundaries.

‘No beer tavern’

The petition for incorporation, filed in Linn County District Court on April 6, 1950, was led by Fay and Adeline Clark, who guaranteed that “no beer tavern will be opened in the area.”

The new town covered the area from Shiloh Cemetery to the Illinois Central and WCF&N overpass.


A May 10 election was canceled when eight petitioners, who lived northeast of Highway 150 and west of Robins Road, removed their properties from the proposed incorporation area.

A new election was set for May 26 for the 100 voters who lived within the boundaries. Voting was in the office of the Hiawatha Water Co. Fifty-one voters unanimously agreed Hiawatha should be incorporated, making it the 17th incorporated community in Linn County.

Electing leaders

In another election June 9, Fay Clark was elected Hiawatha’s first mayor. Earl Struchen was elected assessor, James Fielding treasurer and David Ross, Leland Wilson, Thelma Karr, Norman Paukert and James Faas as city council members.

Struchen lost his job before he started. Even though the 1946 Iowa code specified a city assessor must be elected, Iowa lawmakers in 1950 changed the law, saying only cities with more than 10,000 population could have their own assessor. A county assessor would handle that work in smaller cities.

A Hiawatha school

In July 1951, residents of Hiawatha and the southern part of Monroe Township voted to form the Independent School District of Hiawatha. A year later, the district’s residents voted to merge with Cedar Rapids.

Clark resigned as mayor of Hiawatha in 1958, saying he felt he should not be mayor while his company, Hiawatha Water Co., was building sewers in the city. Linn County supervisors appointed him as a justice of the peace, and George Bowler became mayor.

By the 1960 census, Hiawatha had grown to 1,346 residents.

Clark was back in the mayor’s seat from 1961 to 1963, with Hiawatha connecting to Cedar Rapids’ sanitary sewer system in 1963.

By 1967, the city had a library, a volunteer fire department and most of its streets had been paved. It also was in the path of the new freeway, then referred to as the Cedar Valley Road.


‘Fastest growing’

The city was recognized as the fastest growing city in Linn County after the 1970 census showed it had doubled in size in the past 10 years.

Despite the Hiawatha City Council push for a western bypass off the new Interstate 380, the Iowa Highway Commission overruled the council, telling Mayor Dale Guthridge the interstate would come through the city in 1982.

By 1984, Hiawatha had 5,000 residents and had added another an 451 acres, increasing its size by a third.

Attracted by Hiawatha’s proximity to I-380, Parsons Technology was one of the first big companies to move to the city, bringing 400 jobs in 1991.

Clark Park

In 2006, a 30-acre park in northwest Hiawatha was renamed to honor Fay Clark, the city’s first mayor.

The Hiawatha Trailer Park that the Clarks started became Oak Brook Trailer Court but was sold to the city in 2010. Trusses from the Quonset-type building were used in a walking bridge at the Fay M. Clark Memorial Park.

The 2010 census put Hiawatha’s population at 7,000. The city is hoping to celebrate its 70th anniversary Aug. 8 during the Hiawatha Fun Fest, depending on how coronavirus restrictions are doing by then.

Comments: d.fannonlangton@gmail.com

Correction: Mr. and Mrs. James Faas were the owners of a two-room “garlow” built in 1946 in Hiawatha. Their last name was misspelled in a previous version of this Time Machine column, taken from news reports at that time.

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