“We shape our buildings; thereafter, our buildings shape us.”
~ Winston Churchill
Bridges of La Porte City
The first iron bridge in Black Hawk County was built across Big Creek in 1867 at a cost of $4,500.
A magnificent rail bridge spanning the Cedar River was built in 1912 as a part of the “Cedar Valley Road,” an interurban rail line of the Waterloo, Cedar Falls and Northern (WCF&N) Railroad. The closed-spandrel, arch bridge was the largest of the concrete arch bridges built along the WCF&N line, which served the communities of Cedar Rapids, Waterloo, Cedar Falls, and Waverly. At the time it was built, “the McFarlane Bridge” appears to have been the longest reinforced concrete bridge in the state of Iowa.
Passenger service on the Cedar Valley Road was discontinued in the 1950s, and freight traffic ceased in 1973, when the tracks were removed. Over the next decade, the abandoned rail line was converted to a bike trail, and the Cedar Valley Nature Trail opened in 1984.
Historic flooding in 2008 destroyed the original McFarlane Bridge. The trail was closed at that location for several years, severing the connection between the northern and southern portions of the 50-mile nature trail. Through funding collaboration by private and public entities, a new bridge was constructed at a cost of more than $3 million.
The upgraded bridge, which opened May 4, 2013, was raised more than 8 feet and features 4 T-piers to reduce the surface area in contact with the river, making damage less likely during high-water events.
The Canning Factory
The La Porte City Canning Company once had the largest corn-canning factory in Black Hawk County. The factory was erected in the late 1800s and was located near the railroad tracks on the east side of town, north of the cooperative facility.
Many acres of farmland around La Porte City once were planted to sweet corn, peas and asparagus, which were processed at the factory. Local citizens could earn seasonal income husking corn for the factory. Each bushel husked earned workers a token valued at 3 to 25 cents each, which could be exchanged for money.
Shortly before 1900, the canning factory was acquired by the Iowa Canning Company based in Vinton. The enterprise remained operational until 1954; it was last owned by Green Giant.
A large group of La Porte City-area farmers convened at the La Porte City Auction Company in 1946 with the goal of organizing a cooperative elevator.
They pooled their resources to purchase a modest, existing facility in town, and the La Porte City Cooperative Elevators was officially incorporated on March 28, 1946. The original establishment, purchased from Lon Froning for $25,000, included a small, wooden elevator; feed building; office building; and an elevator to load onto the WCF&N Railroad.
The original board members were A. C. Newton, D. B. Cooper, E. J. Harting, Ralph Brown, Herman Fleck, Alvin Bader, Cecil Feller, Clyde Craft, and Frank Allen.
A $3.8 million expansion to upgrade storage capacity and processing speed was completed in 2014. This project included a 700,000-bushel grain storage bin; a 15,000-bushel-per-hour receiving leg; and a 1,000-bushel-per-hour receiving pit.
The entity merged with Mid-Iowa Cooperatives in April 2019.
La Porte City District Fair
A fairground owned by the La Porte City District Fair Association was a short-lived entity at the turn of the 20th century. Built in 1898, the fair was funded by the sale of $6,000 worth of stock, which sold in 10 days.
Located on 20 acres on the south side of Schull Street, the facility featured an exhibition hall; amphitheater; art hall; hog and cattle sheds; and spacious grandstand. With seating for 2,000 people, the grandstand was promoted as one of the best half-mile horse-raising tracks in the state.
Less than 20 years after it was built, the fairgrounds were sold via public auction at the Terry Hotel corner on November 13, 1913. No photographs of the fairground ever have been found.