The Clear Lake Chautauqua Fades Away in 1914

The Clear Lake Chautauqua Fades Away in 1914

This is last the in a series of three articles preceding The Clear Lake Chautauqua Revisited to be held at City Park on Saturday, August 17, 2019 from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm and hosted by the Clear Lake Historical Society and Clear Lake Area Chamber of Commerce.

This week’s focus: The demise of the Clear Lake Chautauqua in 1914 and what the Chautauqua Revisited will be like on Saturday the 17th of August.

By Beth Ann Schumacher – president of the Clear Lake Historical Society

The Clear Lake Chautauqua enjoyed a long and successful run from 1875 – 1914.  Thousands of people came to Clear Lake for the camp meetings/Chautauqua to attend lectures, musical events, plays, and non-denominational religious learning opportunities and to hear political candidates and social activists.  However, by 1914, the Chautauqua, which had promoted Clear Lake businesses for decades and had provided both instruction and entertainment, was barely alive.  As smaller towns in Iowa decided to hold their own small-scale summer Chautauqua programs, fewer people came to Clear Lake for that purpose.  Clear Lake became a different type of “tourist” destination with the rise of dance halls, silent movies, automobiles and even radio.

Eventually the land of Clear Lake Park was sold to private citizens who wished to build permanent homes.  The once busy pavilion was officially closed on June 23, 1914 and torn down in 1921.  In 1925, the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution purchased the two acres of land where the pavilion once stood, creating a public park.

Clear Lake’s Chautauqua bell as it is mounted in the bell tower at Zion Lutheran Church at 112 N. 4th St. in Clear Lake.

The bell that had called Chautauqua goers to programs in the pavilion was housed in a wooden tower.  The Blymer steel bell was left to the elements after a Halloween prank left it on the ground when several boys pushed over what was left of the bell tower after the Chautauqua pavilion had been torn down. The bell was badly damaged, but Mr. H. H. Paulson, a Clear Lake blacksmith bought the bell, took it to his shop and repaired it. Paulson, a member of the Lutheran Brotherhood, presented the bell to Zion Lutheran Church and in 1926; the bell was placed in the bell tower of Zion’s second church. It was rung proudly at that building’s dedication. That bell still hangs in the bell tower of the current Zion Lutheran Church building located at 112 North 4th Street.

The Chautauqua movement is still thriving in many states with the Mother Chautauqua at Lake Chautauqua, New York continuing to run its institute each summer.  However, it has been 105 years since Clear Lake has experienced a Chautauqua.  On Saturday, August 17th, the Clear Lake History Society and Clear Lake Area Chamber of Commerce are hoping to give people a taste of the Chautauqua.  There will be music, programs from the band shell stage, recreation, family fun and an opportunity to visit with area non-profits to learn how to serve in our community.  We cordially invite you to join in a day of community fun and learning.

Chautauqua Revisited Program

Special/Events from the Chautauqua Stage

(Located in the Band Shell in City Park. These times are approximate within 10 minutes)

 10:00 am      Opening the Chautauqua – Mayor Nelson Crabb
Remaining time prior to first speaker can be used to visit various non-profits in the park.

 11:00 am       Conversations with Local Suffragettes -                                                Carrie Chapman Catt (Marilyn Lawson) Louise Clausen (Beth AnnSchumacher)

Noon – 1:30 pm   Have lunch at one of our local downtown restaurants – they are ready to welcome you.

 1:30 pm       Conversation with an Historical Interpreter –
Unconditional Surrender – A Visit with Ulysses S. Grant (Pete Grady)

 2:30 pm    Keynote Speaker – Major Gabriel Haugland
“Our Shared Values: The Constitution Requires More than Free Speech”

 3:45 pm    Closing the Chautauqua – Bennett Smith and Beth Ann Schumacher

Activities available in City Park

 Splash Pad Fun                                 Available all day near the water plant on City Beach

Playtime in City Park                       Available all day in City Park

 Exhibits, Learning and Serving       Available all day in City Park.  Take time to visit the many booths and displays of the numerous nonprofit organizations in the north Iowa area that provide opportunities for learning and service.  Some will also have children’s activities available as well.

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