Einar Broaten

Einar Broaten (1884-1948) was a Norwegian immigrant, who probably came to Mason City as a young man prior to 1912. He was a talented designer and worked for the architctural firm of Jeffers and Company headed by J.H. Jeffers. In 1915, Broaten was taken into partnership and the firm name was changed to Jeffers and Broaten. At the same time, he was actively working on house designs including the Fred Lippert house on N. Washington, built around 1915. However the partnership did not last long. 


Broaten opened his own practice in a brief partnership with a contractor, W.E. Mincy. The 1917 directory has an advertisement for Broaten and Mincy showing a photograph of the Samual D. Drake House (28 S Carolina Ave.). He may have had some influence on Mincy since the Ralph Lloyd Jones house (104 River Heights Dr., designed by W.E. Mincy) on River Heights Drive (also in Rock Crest) shares certain similarities with Broaten’s known designs. A newspaper article shows that the two of them submitted plans for a new Trinity Lutheran Church in 1917. 


A year later, when he registered for the draft in 1918, he listed his employer as Jeffers. By 1920, the partnership had dissolved and Broasten was alone in practice. He was a friend of Chris Rye, a Norwegian contractor who built many of the Prairie School house in Mason City. First considered an eligible bachelor, Broaten was prone to excessive drinking and disappeared from the Mason City architectural scene around 1924.


Broaten went on to design other houses in Mason City and the author of the 1977 Mason City Architectural survey speculated that “many…” of the Prairie School houses in Mason City that had no named architect were probably of his design -- either with Jeffers or by himself. Perhaps the most important house after the Drake house, that Broaten has been given credit for is the so-called Mier Wolf house at 811 N. Adams. The house was built around 1920 by M.J. Nolan who was an investment broker. The house was built around 1920 by M. J. Nolan who was an investment broker. He is no longer listed in the City Directory after 1927 and Wolf is listed as living at the address. Broaten also left town around 1926.


Einar Broaten was the designer of St. Luke’s Hospital in Mason City. He also designed the Nurses Home for Mercy Hospital. He designed the Commercial Savings Bank building in Emmetsburg, IA and the Clear Lake, IA Country Club. This last, may have been the building recently demolished.

Einar Broaten ended his working life as a partner at the architecture firm, Broaten and Foss in Fergus Falls, MN. He drowned in 1948. The Foss Architecture firm is still in Fergus Falls.


​​Thirteen buildings (listed below) still exist that have been identified as being of his design in Iowa, four of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places*. Although he designed in a variety of styles over the years his early work in Mason City was mostly in the Prairie Style.

*Mier Wolf (Critelli) House (1913), 811 N Adams Ave, Mason City, IA

*Lippert House (1914), 521 N Washington Ave, Mason City, IA

Samuel Davis Drake House (1916), 28 S Carolina Ave, Mason City, IA

*Seney House (1920), 622 N Washington Ave S, Mason City, IA

Stillman House (1917), 400 7th Ave, Clear Lake, IA

Citizens Savings Bank (1919), Hanlontown, IA

Vrba House (1918), 590 Allen Ave, Garner, IA

Garner Library (1920), Garner, IA

Kohl House (1920), 122 4th St, Hampton, IA

*Boehmler House (1918), 105 2nd St SE, Hampton, IA

Storck House (1920), 1 7th St, Sheffield, IA

House (1917), 402 1st Ave E, West Bend, IA

House (1917), 1002 2nd St NW, Mason City, IA


The Samuel Davis Drake house (1916) is of particular interest because it was built in Rock Crest in the style of Walter Burley Griffin.​


Samuel David Drake was born in Rockton, IL July 23, 1857. His early education trained him as a teacher and he taught in several Iowa towns. He changed professions and moved to Luverne, IA where he was a telegrapher and station agent. He met his wife Minnie while there and after they married in 1884 they moved to Algona, IA where they lived until they moved to Mason City in 1904. After they married, Drake once again changed his profession and it was as an agent for the Royal Life Insurance Co. that he moved to Mason City. Besides his insurance business he also owned a considerable amount of farm property around Algona and other communities west of Mason City.​


In 1915 he acquired the land from the Rock Crest developer/contractor J.G. Melson to build on and looked for an architect. He may have talked to Walter Burley Griffin originally and for a short time Barry Byrne was on the project. For whatever reason, Drake and Byrne could not work together and Drake then went to Einar Broaten. ​


Chris Rye, whom Broaten also worked with, was the builder of The Drake house. The house is very similar in design to other houses in Rock Glen, notably the Page and Rule houses. It is a two story square floor plan with single story wings. The main two story section and solarium are hipped roofed but the garage and front entrance are gabled with extensions that resemble those on the Page house. This same idea is seen on the Lippert house as well as William Mincy/Ralph Lloyd Jones house on River Hts. Dr. The foundation is of rough surfaced ashler block similar to the several other Rock Glen houses with stucco above. The upper story corner windows seem to imitate those on the Rule house and they have wooden mullions rather being leaded glass. The interior of the house is very much like those of the other prairie school houses with its central fire place separating the living and dining rooms. Picture windows overlook the lawn the stretches to the bluff over Willow Creek. The solarium has rows of windows along each side. The house was completed in 1917.​


​Samuel Davis Drake did not get to enjoy his house very long. He died, in the house, in 1925 after suffering for several months. He was diagnosed with “carcinoma of the stomach.”

Notes on major sources:

The main biographical material we have on Einar Broaten comes from the 1977 Mason City, An Architectural Heritage. The author states that Broaten came here before 1909 but City Directory listings do not show him until 1915. It also states that he left around 1924 although, once again, the city directory lists him until 1927 when his name no longer appears. Notice of his death comes from newspaper accounts. Gebhard and Mansheim have given him credit for the Mier Wolf house design. The while they say it resembles some of Griffin’s work of the pre-1909 period and they, like the 1977 text, date it to 1909. It actually does not appear in the city directory or on the Sanborn Fire Insurance maps until 1920. Gebhard and Mansheim also credit Broaten with a house in West Bend that is, according to them, an exact copy of the Lippert House in Mason City. McCoy may be the major source for information about Broaten’s association with the Drake house as well as the apparent disagreement between Byrne and Drake that led to Broaten finally working for Drake. Brooks has mentioned this in a note in his book wherein he discusses the Drake house and its similarities to the Rule house. McCoy and Brooks are the sources I most relied on with regard to the Drake house and its stylistic characteristics.

Brooks, Allen. The Prairie School, Frank Lloyd Wright and his Midwest Contemporaries. New York, NY: W.W. Norton and Company, Inc, 1996.

Gebhard, David and Gerald Mansheim. Buildings of Iowa . New York, Oxford : Oxford University Press, 1993.

Mason City, Iowa An Architectural Heritage. 1977

McCoy, Robert. “Rock Crest/Rock Glen: Prairie School Planning in Iowa.” The Prairie School Review Third Quarter, 1968.

Samuel Davis Drake obit from the Mason City Globe Gazette September 21, 1925
Einar Broaten death notice is from Fergus Falls Daily Journal, April 11, 1973, p. 4. (Twenty-Five years ago column)

adapted from an article by Terry Harrison of the Mason City Public Library Archives and History Dept.





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