1970-1999 Opportunity Grows


Woodford Island is donated to “the people of the state of Iowa” by Esther Woodford Ashland and L.E. Ashland after being in the same family since 1898.


Junior High School Fire, 1975

Junior High School Fire, 1975

On April 4, 1975 the Clear Lake Junior High School, corner of 2nd Avenue N. and N. 8th Street, burned. At 12:45 pm Friday, Jane Beard, a physical Education instructor at Clear Lake Junior High School noticed a small fire in the school gymnasium. By 5:00 pm that evening the structure had passed from being a place of learning, to a smoldering ruin, leaving only memories and a gutted shell.

The building, 120 ft. long and 212 ft. wide, was built in 1935 at a cost of $150,000. In June the voters defeated a bond issue of $1,295,000 for the purpose of replacing the junior high building. In October, ground breaking was held to begin construction of a new junior high building next to the current high school using the insurance money from the destroyed building. Then on January, 1976, Clear Lake voters passed a bond issue of nearly $1 million to complete the replacement of the destroyed junior high building. The new Clear Lake Junior High School, 1601 3rd Ave N., was dedicated on January 22, 1978 .

On November 8, Clear Lake was connected to the Interstate 35 highway system south to Des Moines. Interstate 35 north to Minneapolis was still under construction. “Mr. Band Master”, John Kopecky, celebrated his 90th birthday, and his 50 years of directing the Clear Lake High School bands. A good friend of Mason City’s Meredith Wilson, Kopecky, was also responsible for originating the North Iowa Band Festival which began in Clear Lake. He lived to be 100 years old.


In 1977 the State of Iowa mandated that Clear Lake must find a source of water other than the Lake, which had always been the City’s water supply. In 1981 work began on a new well, to withdraw water from the Cedar Valley and/or the Jordan aquifers.


The first annual event to commemorate Buddy Holly’s final concert was held at the Surf Ballroom. The popular old Lighthouse Drive-In, located near the Surf Ballroom, was torn down in August. The City purchased a lot on the north side of the current City Library on N. 4th Street to accommodate the first of two expansions to the Library. The City purchased the land from the adjacent Masonic Lodge for $13,500.


Several of Clear Lake’s most prominent citizens died in the early 1980s. They included: Attorney E. B. Stillman; businessman L. E. Ashland; Clear Lake Bakery owner William “Bill” Burkhardt; Nan Clack, 93, a longtime area nurse; French cooking expert Jo Ann Fangman, killed in an auto accident along with her daughter, Kathy; Richard Van Slyke, 58, a longtime Clear Lake funeral director; former Clear Lake Mayor E. L. Secory, 83, founder of E. L. Secory and Sons plumbing and heating; T. G. Burns, 89, superintendent of schools in Clear Lake from 1938 to 1957; Frank Perc “Percy” Walker, 91, who guided the First National Bank of Clear Lake through the Depression in the 1930s.


How about the winter of ’82! For three consecutive weekends in January, Clear Lake was at a standstill as temperatures of 30 below zero, wind chills as low as 100 below and deep, drifting snow forced closing of businesses, cancellations of events and abandonment of travel plans.


The City Council approved a recommendation by the Parks and Recreation Department in April to move the passenger room portion of the 70 year old Milwaukee Road train depot to an area north of the Daughters of the American Revolution Park (DAR Park).


Eight inches of snow greeted Clear Lake residents on April Fools day. There was not much joking about the shoveling! Dave Peck of Winthrop, Iowa, pulled a 29-pounds two-ounce muskie from Clear Lake while fishing at the Ventura grade. The fish, full of eggs, measured 45 ½ girth.

In September, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad and many state officials attended the ribbon cutting ceremony of the dedication of the Clear Lake Fire Museum. The museum was the first of its kind in the state.


Demolition of the deteriorating Park Hotel, Main Avenue and S. 3rd Street, began in April. The “Lady of the Lake”, a 24-foot wide paddle wheel vessel, made its first official cruise around the lake in June.


An estimated 600 people gathered outside the Surf Ballroom in June to witness the dedication of a monument to rock and roll legends Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, J. P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson and pilot Roger Peterson. Clear Lake city crews replaced street signs officially changing 2nd Place North to Buddy Holly Place in honor of the late singer.


The Trolley Trail recreational trail between Clear Lake and Mason City was opened in the fall of 1990. The trail was dedicated to the memory of Michael Secory, a Clear Lake youth killed in a bicycling accident while riding along Highway 18 between the cities. The path now offers safe travel on an asphalt path on the south side of old Highway 106.


A sudden ice storm and freezing temperatures caught most Clear Lakers off guard on October 31, Halloween night. The lake was officially declared frozen on Monday, November 4 which was the earliest freeze in Lake history.


A pristine section of lake shore property located on the south side of Clear Lake was forever dedicated to the nature lover’s use on June 23. One hundred and one acres, to be known as the Woodford-Ashland Lone Tree Nature Area, will be protected from developement thanks to a conservation easement granted to the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation by the descendants of the Woodford and Ashland families; Marcia and Jim Connell, their daughters along with their spouses, Jan and Tom Lovell, Sarah and Dennis Ohlrogge, and Susan Connell-Magee and Kevin Magee.The land remains privately owned although they allow low-impact public use.The farm has been in the family more than 100 years.


The United Methodist Camp, on Clear Lake’s south shore, was sold to The Western Home of Cedar Falls. The plans to build a retirement development was unsuccessful. Later it was sold to private developers who constructed brick condominiums where camp buildings had been.


In September, the Dean Snyder family purchased the Surf Ballroom in order to restore and preservethe landmark. Asked why he wanted to purchase the property, Dean said, “My wife likes to dance; if she liked to fish, I would have bought her a fishing pole.”

The CLEAR (Clear Lake Enhancement and Restoration) project was designed to not only protect the water quality in Clear Lake, but to improve it over the years. Federal, state and local monies were being used to monitor sources of contamination and injurious run-off into the Lake which will provide guidance for programs to improve water quality.

The first Christmas by the Lake event was held. Events include homes decorated for the holidays opened for tours, strolling muscians, with a night parade followed by fireworks over the lake.


After a district court trial to save the building, Judge Gilbert Bovard ruled the All Veteran’s Social Center’s clubhouse was to be razed in 1997.

The Story…In 1945, following World War II, the grateful citizens of this community purchased the nine-hole Clear Lake Golf and Country Club and presented it to the veterans of Clear Lake. The club house was of unique style of cobblestone construction popular in the 1800s. It operated successfully from 1945 until about 1962 when the board of directors closed the clubhouse.


Clear Creek Elementary School was dedicated in October.

Construction began on the Cerro Gordo County Wind Farm. The wind farm consists of 56 turbines occupying 2.4 acres on a 2,100 acre site south of Clear Lake and Ventura.


After considerable study and controversy, the Clear Lake City Council gave final approval to a plan to extend the Sea Wall along the shore to 4th Avenue North. The four block project included placing large rip rap along the shoreline, a brick paver sidewalk close to the Lake, and a green space. The project cost was $400,000.

July 23, 1999 saw the destruction by a spectacular fire of the landmark Ritz Hotel on the south side of Clear Lake. The club, named for its original owner Charles Ritz, dated back to the early 1920s. According to historians, the central part of The Ritz was actually the 1882 Oakwood Hotel. It was moved on skids to its site at Bayside, on the lake’s south shore, from a location on a hill to the east, in the area known as Oakwood. The Ritz – unique for the customer selected own meat from the meat counter – was a favorite eating spot for several generations of locals and vacationers.