Also known as the “River City”, Mason City in the state of Iowa, USA is prominently known for its musical heritage as well as for its prairie style architecture. It has the largest number of prairie style houses in the state of Iowa and an array of commercial buildings made in this style. The Prairie school of architecture was a conception of Architect F.L Wright, who has also designed a number of buildings in Mason City.

Mason City represents the prairie style architecture at its peak, which emerged and took over the city’s architecture in the early 20th century. Here are 15 places which architects must visit in Mason city, Iowa.

1. Dr. G.C Stockman House-

Designed by F.L Wright in 1908, Dr. G.C Stockman House is made in prairie style but in form of a more compact dwelling for medium income families. The house has a cantilevered roof, a covered verandah and a shallow hipped roof. It now functions as a public museum and features many authentic period furnishings.

2. Park Inn Hotel and City National bank building-

Designed in prairie school style by F.L Wright, Park Inn Hotel and City National Bank are two adjacent commercial buildings located in downtown Mason City. The Park Inn Hotel remains the only hotel in the world designed by F.L Wright. It acted as a multi-purpose building which served as a law office, bank and a hotel. It is an aesthetically well-integrated building that architecturally would be the bridge between Wright’s Prairie School period and his Midway Gardens and the Imperial Hotel to follow.

3. Brick and Tile building-

Modern brotherhood of America building or the brick and tile building is an eight story structure designed in classical revival style. Its two street facades are clad in granite and terracotta whereas its non-street facades are plain brick. The first floor features a lobby oriented to the stairs and elevator, with marble walls and Ionic pilasters.

4. Len Jus Building-

The Len Jus Building on Federal Avenue in Mason City, Iowa was constructed in 1882. It has a rare sheet-metal facade, manufactured by the Mesker Brothers. This building has been placed on Preservation in Iowa’s Most Endangered list because of its poor repair and indifferent ownership.


5. Kirk Apartment Building-

Mason City’s first luxury apartments, the Kirk features an eclectic design that is organized into horizontal and vertical elements. The horizontal is realized in wide brick bands on the floors. The vertical is realized in the copper-clad oriel windows that tie the second and third floors to the cornice. It is a brilliant example of Victorian style architecture.

6. Tom MacNider House-

Tom MacNider House was designed in 1959 by Curtis Wray Besinger. This Usonian home is a slight break from many of the Rock crest Rock glen homes around it. With its subtle lines it nestles into the hillside.

7. Charles H. MacNider Art Museum-

Opened to public in 1966, Charles H. MacNider Museum is known for its collection of American art, and includes paintings, prints, drawings, ceramics, sculpture, fused and blown glass and textiles. Its distinctive feature is its brilliant steam bent cedar shingle roof.

8. Melson House-

The design of the Melson House attempts to completely integrate a house with its surroundings.   The house, rising three stories out of the creek wall, is capped with concrete keystones. An asymmetrical entryway is on the first floor of the house with the front and back doors directly opposite each other.

9. Rancho Deluxe-

Recycled, re-purposed and rogue, this garden is a half-acre of land filled with art that is a constant work in progress.  Elements from throughout North Iowa’s history including bicycle racks, hub caps, license plates, school gates, signs and even a 3,000 lb. piece of granite from the former County Courthouse have been utilized in creating this strangely unique, and ever evolving hub.

10. Mason City Public Library-

Originally designed as a two story neoclassical building, the Mason City Public Library was made in 1892 by Chicago architecture firm of Patton & Miller. The structure was made using Bedford stone as it gave a smooth finish. Since it was first completed, the library has undergone many changes, redesigns and renovations.

11. First church of Christ, Scientist-

Deemed as a significant example of Architectural eclecticism, the church includes elements of Romanesque and Gothic Revival styles. The building features no symbols, icons or other typical religious ornamentation that would be representative of a religious hall. Instead it reflects an ‘advance design’ exhibited in the highest quality, construction techniques, and standards of the era.


12. Hotel Lester-Lester Café-

Hotel Lester-Lester Cafe, also known as the Dodge House-Long Branch, is a historic building located in Mason City. It was built as a two-story building meant to be used as a railroad hotel for passengers and rail employees. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.


13. Rock Crest- Rock Glen District-

The Rock Crest–Rock Glen Historic District is a nationally recognized historic district located in Mason City. All of the buildings are houses designed in the Prairie School style, and are a part of a planned development. It is the largest cluster of Prairie School houses in the country.

14. State Street Bridge-

The State Street Bridge is a historic structure located in Mason City.  Completed in 1903, this bridge features a barrel arch with filled spandrels. Although the original guardrails have been replaced, it is the oldest roadway arch bridge in Cerro Gordo County. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1998.


15. Music Man Square-

The Music Man Square in Mason City is dedicated to Meredith Willson, the creator of the play and movie The Music Man. Mason City was Mr. Willson’s home town. The streetscape is an exact duplicate of the street scene from the movie. The museum is full of musical history and Mr. Willson’s boyhood home is right next door.


Darshika Rajput is currently in her fourth year of architecture. She is a voracious reader and an art aficionado who loves to translate the essence of a space into words. She truly believes that words indeed are our most inexhaustible source of magic.

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