Saturday, August 4, 2007

July 31 thru August 3

If you ever have to move to Iowa, we found the ideal town. After spending three days in Clear Lake, Iowa we decided it would be a great place to live. Situated on a glacial formed lake, Clear Lake's claim to fame is the Surf Ballroom, the location of Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper and Richie Valance's last concert before their plane crashed. An old fashioned late 50's style ballroom that still hosts top name entertainers today.

The town itself boasts a town park with an amphitheater, an old fashioned Main Street with out any fast food spots or big boxes, 2 state parks on the lake and public access with boat ramps to the lake every 1/4 mile. "The Lady of the Lake" paddle wheel tour boat offers a 90 minute cruse mid day and evenings, which we took advantage of on a beautiful balmy night.

Mason City, 8 miles east, is a larger city with equal charm and some interesting attractions. It was the boyhood home of Meridith Wilson, creator of "The Music Man", "The Unsinkable Molly Brown" and other popular songs of the 50's era, like "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas". The museum next to his home has recreated the set from the Music Man movie, complete with a "street" constructed with 4" wood blocks. An information sheet said some Mason City streets were paved with wood blocks to lessen the noise from horses and wagons. The quality of the exhibits far exceeded our expectations. Great take.

We scouted out the nearest nature preserve as usual, and again Mason City provided an outstanding product. Lime Creek Nature Center visitor headquarters has an extensive display of birds and lots of hands on learning tools for kids. We walked about 2 miles of the trails and explored the restored prairie section of the park. Learning the names of all the varied prairie grasses was as challenging as learning cactus names in Arizona.

Another highlight we were excited to discover was the "Stockman House", designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. This house, a hotel and bank downtown were done in his "Prairie School" style. The house we visited last year in Alabama was "Usonian" style. Our guide was very knowledgeable about the differences between the two styles. She also directed us to a near by block with 6 homes all built in this same Prairie School style. These homes were designed by Walter Burley Griffin, Wright's partner, William Drummond and Barry Byrne. I believe Drummond and Byrne were students of Wright's.

The Prairie School style boasts strong horizontal lines that create the feeling of the house relating strongly to the earth. Wright was so meticulous about the horizontal orientation that he even had the chimney grout made white for the horizontal mortar and black for the vertical. This created the appearance of only horizontal lines across the entire brick wall.

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