Mission & History

The mission of RCSHP is to restore, preserve, protect, own/operate historic and/or architecturally significant buildings and sites in Mason City, educate the public about historic architecture and encourage others to do the same.

The River City Society for Historic Preservation (RCSHP) was organized between February and April 1987. Including a Constitution, By-Laws, incorporation under Iowa state laws, and a 501(c)(3) non-profit status under IRS requirements. At the time, the Mason City community was very concerned about the deferred maintenance and resultant safety concerns of an ornate, Victorian vaudeville/movie theater located across from Central Park. The phrase "River City" as part of the RCSHP's name was to tie its efforts at preservation and rehabilitation to the legacy of Meredith Willson, who got his musical start in that theater. Unfortunately, the building fell apart before the RCSHP could marshal sufficient resources to prevent its subsequent demolition.

At the same time, community concern was growing over the neglect of the Civil War monument in Central Park. Located on city of Mason City property, the RCSHP spearheaded an effort to convince city leaders to finance its ultimate restoration. As a by-product of this effort, annual Civil War re-enactments have been held in Mason City ever since.

By summer of 1987, the status of the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Stockman House had became an issue. Faced with either its imminent demolition or its relocation to another site to make room for a parking lot, the RCSHP developed a working relationship with the city of Mason City, which had been given the structure by the property owner.

Ultimately, the city gave the house to the RCSHP on the condition that it be moved to another site and converted into a house museum reflective of the Prairie School/Arts and Crafts style of its origins. Thanks to community volunteers, generous financial benefactors, an Historic Resources Development Grant from the State of Iowa, support from the national architectural community, and the leadership of the RCSHP, the restoration of the Stockman House was virtually completed by June 1992 when it opened to the touring public. It has remained a top tourist destination ever since.

While the Stockman House was undergoing restoration, RCSHP leaders recognized the need for an architectural interpretive center to tell the story of Mason City's architectural wonders. In the mid-2000s, the Society purchased the property to the north of the Stockman House. This dream was realized through generous grants and bequests along with financial support from the State of Iowa. The Mason City Architectural Interpretive Center serves as the entry point for many visitors who appreciate the architectural and historic character of Mason City.

Since its inception, the success of the RCSHP has been, guided by its mission and goals.

Subsequently, other preservation organizations have been established to restore other important Mason City buildings and sites along with numerous efforts by private parties to preserve worthy structures.

Thanks to the RCSHP and other preservation organizations much has been accomplished since 1987; however, other worthy buildings and sites await action.

by Dave Christiansen