Mills County, Iowa


Glenwood Park, Glenwood, Iowa


Mr. Coolidge built a grist mill in Section 12, Township 72, Range 43 for the grinding of grain. A pond on the banks of Keg Creek was created to turn the mill wheel. The mill was sold to Mr. T. B. Gordon in 1851. It was thereafter known as the Gordon Mill.

1869 - The Burlington Missouri River Railroad came to Glenwood, changing the route of Keg Creek and cutting the Gordon Mill trace in half. This probably caused the end of the mill operation. The obstructed mill pond grew into a lake, fed by drainage of the large acreage to the east and the McCoy Branch Creek to the north of the lake.

1907 - The Glenwood Commercial Club created a special park committee of Mr. L. M. Lord and Mr. Clyde Genung.

Glenwood Park and public ownership of the lake began with 35 acres of original Burlington Northern Railroad right-of-way sold to Glenwood for $325 when a new right-of-way was constructed. The property ran from southwest of the city limits to the point where the new right-of-way crossed the old one on the McCoy farm east of Glenwood. It included the original depot and the existing lake. Only 23 acres were suitable for park land.

The Park Committee held this land in trust and wanted to purchase more park land. An artificial lake of 7 acres was created between the bluff and the old right-of-way dump. A trench to the Sivers Branch Creek was dug to fill the future lake 10-14 feet deep.

Proposals included building a Chautauqua pavilion for cultural and historical presentations, a baseball diamond and an “electric” road (a trolley? streetlights?).

An election April 1, 1907, resulted in a Park Commission of 3 members being elected for 5 years with pay of $1 per meeting. Those first Commissioners were Dr. J. M. Donelan, Mr. E. S. Bogart, and Mr. F. J. Wallace.

An additional 29 acres were purchased for $3,525 as follows: 17 acres at $125/acre from Mr. R. S. Cheyney; 8 acres at $100/acre from Mr. Henry Evernham for the lake site itself; and 6 acres from Mr. Ted Sivers at $100/acre. This was financed partially by selling 14 acres of previously purchased but unusable BNRR land, and partially by a 2-mill tax for 7 years for park land acquisitions and maintenance.

1908 - Work began on the artificial lake. Due to low water in the Sivers Branch Creek, the lake was not flooded to capacity at this time. Citizens began using the small pond for ice skating in winter.

1909 - Park Commissioners leased boating and bathing privileges at the new lake to Mr. 0. Elkins. A four room 50’ x 14’ bathhouse with lockers was built over the edge of the water at the south end of the lake with a porch on the north side. A boat house, 20 row boats and a gas boat launcher were also installed. With a water depth of 8 -10 feet, recreation was as good as that available at Lake Manawa.

A levee was constructed on the south side to complete a road ringing the lake. Sharp Street and a walk to the lake from town square were not yet completed. Triangle flower beds at the south entrance to the park and garbage containers were added. Cedar trees were planted at the south end of the park. A cistern was built on the south hill to provide water for free public toilets.

1910 - Postcards of this era carry pictures of “City Park and Lake at Glenwood, Iowa”.

1919/20 - The lake was partially lined with concrete for swimming, one of the largest such areas in Iowa. It became a popular attraction with spring board, water wheel and trapeze. Caretakers, Mr. and Mrs. Walter Jamison, handed out swim suits and towels. More women and girls came to swim than previously, fewer cars were on the streets, and the movie theater lost business to the lake during the summer months.

Boating at the lake was also allowed. The boathouse was on the southwest side of the lake. Benches along the lake were used by courting couples. Fireworks displays were held on the Fourth of July. Tables and swings were added to the park. The Baptist Church held baptisms at the lake.

1938 - The lake bed was dry. “Jalopy” races were held on a figure 8 track on the dry lake bed with spectators sitting on the banks of the former lake. The course was one-half mile long and a race was 30 laps or 15 miles. No car worth more than $100 could enter. Local businesses sponsored the eight racers on Sunday, October 16, 1938, with 10% of the proceeds going to the Park Board.

1939 - The lake was dredged in the fall. Old relics were found. The old Gordon Mill foundation was located on the southeast end of the lake south of Coolidge Street intersection with the east bank of the lake.

1946/49 - The swimming pool was used for water storage by the City. Under the Wildlife Program, 2500 trees were planted in the southeast corner of the park.

1969 - An Iowa State record 50 pound carp measuring 44 inches long was caught in the lake by Fred Hougland of Glenwood.

1979/81 - An amphitheater seating 750 was constructed at the park near the lake. It is named for arts supporter Charles Davies and continues to be supported by the Davies trust fund. It received an Honor Award from the State Chapter of American Institute of Architects. This award was one of only four in Iowa and is the highest award given by that professional body. It was designed by Dennis W. Stacey, formerly of Glenwood and a 1963 graduate of Glenwood High School.

1985/95 - The lake was dredged and the banks were reinforced to prevent the road from caving into the water. An Iowa state record catfish was caught in the lake. The island for nesting ducks, geese and swans was developed and named Delevan. In 1991, a flock of 200 pelicans was forced to land on the lake due to a severe thunderstorm.

1998 - Water from Keg Creek continues to be pumped into the lake. No lake water is used by the City.

1998/2000 - A walking path was added around the lake. Many “memory” benches placed around the lake and park.

Spring of 2000 a fountain was installed in the lake to everyone’s delight.

2001/2004 A large rock is donated and placed at the NE corner of the lake by the park entrance. Flower beds around the lake area are maintained by various individuals/groups in the community. More trees planted around Delevan Island and the lake.

~ contributed by Darlene Jacoby

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Page updated on June 10, 2014 by Karyn Techau