Grinnell, Iowa

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Grinnell, Iowa
Downtown Grinnell
Downtown Grinnell
Motto: "Jewel of the Prairie"[1]
Location of Grinnell, Iowa
Location of Grinnell, Iowa
Grinnell, Iowa is located in the US
Grinnell, Iowa
Grinnell, Iowa
Location in the United States
Coordinates: 41°44′37″N 92°43′29″W / 41.74361°N 92.72472°W / 41.74361; -92.72472Coordinates: 41°44′37″N 92°43′29″W / 41.74361°N 92.72472°W / 41.74361; -92.72472
Country  United States
State  Iowa
County Poweshiek
 • Total 5.64 sq mi (14.61 km2)
 • Land 5.60 sq mi (14.50 km2)
 • Water 0.04 sq mi (0.10 km2)
Elevation 1,014 ft (309 m)
Population (2010)[3]
 • Total 9,218
 • Estimate (2012[4]) 9,118
 • Density 1,646.1/sq mi (635.6/km2)
Time zone Central (CST) (UTC-6)
 • Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
ZIP codes 50112, 50177
Area code(s) 641
FIPS code 19-33105
GNIS feature ID 0457150
Website City of Grinnell, Iowa
Merchants' National Bank in Grinnell
Architect: Louis Sullivan

Grinnell is a city in Poweshiek County, Iowa, United States. The population was 9,218 at the 2010 census.


Grinnell was founded as a "Yankee" settlement, that is to say it was founded and originally settled by settlers from New England (as well as those from upstate New York whose parents and grandparents had come to that region from New England) who were descended from the English Puritans who settled New England in the 1600s.[5][6] Grinnell was founded in 1854 by Josiah B. Grinnell a Congregationalist from Vermont.[7] The city was originally slated to be named "Stella," but J.B. Grinnell convinced other members of the colony to adopt his own name for the city, citing it as a rare and concise name.[8] Grinnell was incorporated on April 28, 1865,[9] and by 1880 Grinnell had a population of around 2000. Located at the junction of two railway lines (east-west line of the Rock Island Railroad and the north-south Minneapolis and St. Louis Railway), it became and remains the largest community in Poweshiek County.

Grinnell was a stop on the Underground Railroad.[10] One of the most famous events occurred in February 1859, when John Brown, a strong abolitionist, and 12 slaves he was helping escape to freedom, were hosted by J.B. Grinnell and several other community residents. Because of J.B.'s efforts to help slaves and end slavery, in 2013 the National Park Service included his gravesite at Hazelwood Cemetery on the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom listings.[11]

Grinnell was also a stop along the (Mormon) Pioneer Trail, which spans across five states covering about 1,300 miles. The trail was traveled by an estimated 100,000 plus travelers from 1846 to 1869, including some 70,000 Mormons escaping religious persecution. The Pioneer Company of 1846-1847 established the first route; from Nauvoo, Illinois to Salt Lake City, Utah. Today, the Pioneer Trail is still visible through many parts of rural Grinnell.

Grinnell is home to Grinnell College, established in 1846. In 1889, Grinnell College and the University of Iowa played each other at Grinnell College in the first football game played west of the Mississippi River.[12] On June 17, 1882, a tornado destroyed most of the college campus and much of the community with a death toll of 68.[13] In 1889 fire destroyed most of the downtown area.[14] Grinnell College is nationally recognized as a leading undergraduate institution. In July 2006, The New York Times included Grinnell in its profile of the 20 colleges and universities of "established or rising scholarship" which are fast becoming viable alternatives to Ivy League institutions, and is considered one of the 30 Hidden Ivies.

Grinnell was home to Spaulding Manufacturing. H.W. Spaulding began making carriages and spring wagons in Grinnell, Iowa in 1876. In 1909 the Spaulding Manufacturing Company added automobiles to its production line. At one time, the factory was the largest employer in the county.[citation needed] Automobile production ceased at the Spaulding factory in 1916 when it could no longer compete with the cheaper Ford automobile.[citation needed] The Spaulding factory site became home to the Spaulding Center for Transportation/Iowa Transportation Museum.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 5.64 square miles (14.61 km2), of which 5.60 square miles (14.50 km2) is land and 0.04 square miles (0.10 km2) is water.[2]


Grinnell has a humid continental climate with clear seasons, hot, humid summers, and cold, snowy winters. The precipitation averages 36.07 in (916 mm) yearly. Summers are the rainiest times of year, with over two thirds of the precipitation falling between April and September in an average year.[15]


Historical population
Census Pop.
1860 392
1870 1,482 278.1%
1880 2,415 63.0%
1890 3,332 38.0%
1900 3,856 15.7%
1910 5,036 30.6%
1920 5,362 6.5%
1930 4,949 −7.7%
1940 5,219 5.5%
1950 6,828 30.8%
1960 7,367 7.9%
1970 8,402 14.0%
1980 8,868 5.5%
1990 8,902 0.4%
2000 9,105 2.3%
2010 9,218 1.2%
Est. 2015 9,141 [16] −0.8%
Iowa Data Center

2010 census[edit]

As of the census[3] of 2010, there were 9,218 people, 3,567 households, and 2,026 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,646.1 inhabitants per square mile (635.6/km2). There were 3,844 housing units at an average density of 686.4 per square mile (265.0/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 91.9% White, 2.0% African American, 0.3% Native American, 2.7% Asian, 0.2% Pacific Islander, 0.8% from other races, and 2.1% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 3.2% of the population.

There were 3,567 households of which 27.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 43.4% were married couples living together, 10.4% had a female householder with no husband present, 3.0% had a male householder with no wife present, and 43.2% were non-families. 36.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 16.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.16 and the average family size was 2.82.

The median age in the city was 35.6 years. 19% of residents were under the age of 18; 21.4% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 18.4% were from 25 to 44; 21.9% were from 45 to 64; and 19.1% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 47.3% male and 52.7% female.

2000 census[edit]

As of the census[17] of 2000, there were 9,105 people, 3,498 households, and 2,067 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,825.7 people per square mile (704.5/km²). There were 3,725 housing units at an average density of 746.9 per square mile (288.2/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 94.88% White, 1.04% African American, 0.29% Native American, 2.01% Asian, 0.10% Pacific Islander, 0.37% from other races, and 1.31% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.57% of the population.

There were 3,498 households out of which 27.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 47.2% were married couples living together, 9.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 40.9% were non-families. 34.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 16.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.23 and the average family size was 2.84.

In the city the population was spread out with 20.5% under the age of 18, 19.9% from 18 to 24, 22.2% from 25 to 44, 19.0% from 45 to 64, and 18.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 35 years. For every 100 females there were 85.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 80.7 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $35,625, and the median income for a family was $48,991. Males had a median income of $33,956 versus $23,864 for females. The per capita income for the city was $17,939. About 8.9% of families and 13.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 16.1% of those under age 18 and 8.1% of those age 65 or over.


Grinnell is the home of Grinnell College,[18] Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company and Grinnell Regional Medical Center. Other major employers in Grinnell include JELD-WEN and Brownell's.

Downtown renovations[edit]

In the spring of 2005, Grinnell embarked upon a renovation project to make its downtown area more inviting for residents and visitors. The renovation encompassed new water mains, restoration of two-way traffic flow, brick crosswalks in the middle of each block, and more uniform parking spaces in front of downtown businesses. Additionally, a median strip at each intersection was designed with Grinnell's distinctive Jewel Box pattern.[citation needed] Infrastructure upgrades and aesthetic renovations were also planned for the southern section of the downtown area, to include Commercial Street. Downtown street improvements have continued and as of 2016 nearly all downtown streets have been redone. Additional improvements have been made to many business facades. Central Park underwent a major makeover during the summer of 2016, relocating the gazebo and adding a bandstand, public restrooms, and a large group picnic enclosure.

Retirement Communities[edit]

Grinnell is home to two growing retirements communities, the Mayflower community in the middle of town and Seeland Park on the eastern edge. Both communities include a variety of housing options for independent living, including duplex and apartments. Both also provide assisted living options to residents as those needs become apparent.

Arts and culture[edit]


The Grinnell Area Arts Council (GAAC) began in 1979 and sponsors many of the creative projects in Grinnell, including various community theater plays, the community band and a summer arts camp. Each season, the GAAC offers a variety of different classes including theater classes, crafts classes, and language classes. GAAC also sponsors various events throughout the year, such as Music in the Park, a free event offered to community members. The Turlach Ur bagpipe band is also a program of GAAC.[19] The Grinnell Arts Center is housed in the renovated old library building. It include a gallery on the main floor and a small theater performance space on the top level.

The Faulconer Gallery at Grinnell College showcases exhibitions of regional, national, and internationally esteemed artists in a 7,400 square feet state-of-the-art museum space situated in the heart of Grinnell College's Bucksbaum Center for the Arts. Exhibitions by members of the Grinnell College art faculty can be seen throughout the year, and in May, the annual Student Art Salon features student work.


Grinnell has several notable architectural landmarks:[20] Among them, include the Merchants' National Bank designed by architect Louis Sullivan in 1914. The bank is one in a series of small banks designed in the Midwest. The Ricker House was designed by Walter Burley Griffin[21] Marion Mahony Griffin in 1911 and completed in 1912. It was the first of seven houses the Griffins designed for Iowa clients, six of which were built and the other five of which are in Mason City. Ricker House was purchased by Grinnell College in 2000 and is operated as a short-term residence for guests of the College.[22]

See Also: National Register of Historic Places listings in Poweshiek County, Iowa for more listings

Festivals and events[edit]

Grinnell Games Criterium

Grinnell Farmers Market features locally-grown produce, freshly baked goods, honey, james, plants and flowers, and handmade crafts. The market runs from May 16 through October 26 on Thursday and Saturdays. It is located in Grinnell's Central Park, located at 833 4th Avenue.

Grinnell Games is a weekend family sports festival. Community-organized events include Imagine Grinnell's Half Marathon and 5K Run, the Twilight Bike Criterium, The Amazing Chase, Twilight Trail Run, and the Warrior Run. Grinnell Games draws visitors from across the state with its family-friendly activities, sidewalk sales, live music, and a beer garden on Saturday night.



The Grinnell Herald-Register is a semi-weekly newspaper in Grinnell, Iowa. It was formed February 13, 1936 after the merger of the Grinnell Herald and Grinnell Register. The Herald was founded on August 16, 1871 as a semi-weekly newspaper, and the Register was founded in 1888. The Grinnell Herald, in turn, was originally founded as the Poweshiek County Herald on March 18, 1868.[4]

The Poweshiek County Chronicle Republican – often referred to as the Poweshiek County CR or simply The CR – was created in January 2009 as the result of a merger of two newspapers serving other communities in Poweshiek County, the Brooklyn Chronicle and the Montezuma Republican; the Pennysaver, a shopper that had operated in Grinnell, continued, and the new newspaper began incorporating Grinnell news along with its existing coverage of rural Poweshiek County and its communities.


Freq Call Owner Start ERP (W) Nickname Format RDS HD
88.5 KDIC Grinnell College Trustees of Iowa 1968 130 88.5 The Robot College/Variety
106.7 KRTI Newton License Co, LLC 1993 50,000 Energy 106.7 Hot AC
Freq Call Owner Start Day Power (W) Night Power Nickname Format Stereo HD
1410 KGRN Grinnell License Co, LLC 1957 500 47 AM 1410 Stereo Full Service, adult contemporary Yes No

Government and infrastructure[edit]


The first school in Grinnell was founded in 1855.[23] Public schools within the Grinnell-Newburg School District include Fairview Elementary School (K-2nd grade for the eastern side of town), Bailey Park Elementary School (K-2nd grade for the western side of town), Davis School (3rd-4th grade), Grinnell Middle School (5th-8th grade) and Grinnell High School (9th-12th grade). There is one private school, Central Iowa Christian School, which enrolls about 35 students in kindergarten through eighth grade. Grinnell is home to Grinnell College, a private liberal arts college. Iowa Valley Community College also operates a satellite campus on the western edge of Grinnell.

Health care[edit]

Grinnell is served by Grinnell Regional Medical Center, an acute care hospital licensed for 81 beds. GRMC was established in 1967 after the merger of two hospitals. Nearly 60 physicians provide care at the medical center.


In 1901, Joel Stewart funded the construction of the first library in Grinnell, the Stewart Library, which served in that capacity until 2009. The building remains in service today as the headquarters for the Grinnell Area Arts Council. Drake Community Library opened in November 2009. The library serves as a center of community activities. It has 25 public computers, 3 large meetings rooms, and offers a full range of reading and AV materials. The library is actively working to create a digital archive of local history. A wide range of photos and documents are available for viewing as part of Digital Grinnell and the Poweshiek History Preservation Project. Area residents can also use the Grinnell College Libraries.

Parks and recreation[edit]

Grinnell has nine parks that are run by Parks and Recreations, including Arbor Lake, Bailey Park, Central Park, Jaycee Park, Lions Park, Merrill Park, Miller Park, Thomazin Park, and Van Horn Park. Ahrens and Paschall Memorial Park is a privately run by the Claude & Dolly Ahrens Foundation. The city boasts three aquatic centers. A small indoor pool is part of the Ahrens Family Center. The Grinnell Mutual Family Aquatic Center is open during the summer months. Area residents also have access to the Grinnell College Natatoriaum and other college athletic facilities.

Museums & Art Galleries[edit]

Grinnell Historical Museum was founded as a community collaborative effort through a contest for community development by the Grinnell Herald Register in 1950. Four women’s groups––two chapters of the DAR, the Historical and Literary Club, and the Tuesday Club, took as their project the creation of a museum. People responded enthusiastically; donations included a rope bed, a hair wreath, and the twisted bell clapper from the ruins of the first High School, which had burned. The house the museum is currently situated in was generously donated by Rubie Burton. Displays are of interest to visitors of all ages. The kitchen holds an electric refrigerator made by the Grinnell Washing Machine Company, one of the first 50 made in 1932. There is a Military exhibit with uniforms from the Civil War to the Vietnam war. The Carriage House holds several horse-drawn vehicles built by the Spaulding Carriage Factory in Grinnell.[24]

The Stewart Gallery features works of local and regional artists. Located in the old Stewart Library building, the space includes high ceilings and nice light. The Stewart Art Center also includes the Loft Theater space and is home to the Grinnell Community Theater.

The Faulconer Gallery on the Grinnell College campus features year round exhibits of regional, national and international artists. The beautiful space is inside the Bucksbaum Center for the Arts.


The Grinnell Regional Airport makes private and charter flights out of Grinnell. Local cab companies include the Jewel Cab and Peoplerides.[25]

Notable people[edit]

See also: Grinnell College's Notable alumni


  1. ^ "City of Grinnell, Iowa". City of Grinnell, Iowa. Retrieved August 29, 2012. 
  2. ^ a b "US Gazetteer files 2010". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2012-05-11. 
  3. ^ a b "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2012-05-11. 
  4. ^ "Population Estimates". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2013-05-23. 
  5. ^ History of Poweshiek County, Iowa: A Record of Settlement, Organization, Progress and Achievement, Volume 1 page 10
  6. ^ The expansion of New England: the spread of New England settlement and institutions to the Mississippi River, 1620-1865 page 247
  7. ^ Men and Events of Forty Years: Autobiographical Reminiscences of an Active Career from 1850 to 1890 page x
  8. ^ Hamilton, Henry. "A Chapter in the Early History of Grinnell." Grinnell Herald, 1892.
  9. ^ "Grinnell, Iowa". Retrieved August 29, 2012. 
  10. ^ "Iowa's Underground Railroad". The University of Iowa. Retrieved August 29, 2012. 
  11. ^ "NTS listings fall 2014" (PDF). National Park Service. 
  12. ^ "Football: The Legendary Game of 1889". Grinnell College. Retrieved August 29, 2012. 
  13. ^ Grazulis, Thomas P. "The Most "Important" US Tornadoes by State". Retrieved 2 July 2012. 
  14. ^ 1889 fire Fire Ravaged Grinnell in 1889]
  15. ^ Average Weather for Grinnell, IA – Temperature and Precipitation
  16. ^ "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2015". Retrieved July 2, 2016. 
  17. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^ Additional documents on Grinnell architecture are available in pdf format from the Stewart Library website.
  21. ^ Details and photos at
  22. ^ Retrieved 26 April 2013.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  23. ^ Grinnell: A Century of Progress, p.10. Grinnell: Grinnell Herald-Register, 1954.
  24. ^ Retrieved 26 April 2013.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  25. ^ Retrieved 26 April 2013.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  26. ^ "John Ora Bailey Biography". Retrieved August 29, 2012. 
  27. ^ "Illinois Blue Book 19971998,' Biographical Sketch of Bernard E. Pedersen, pg. 61
  28. ^ "The Billy Robinson Story / Grinnell's Pioneer Aviator". Drake Community Library Archives. Retrieved May 16, 2011. 
  29. ^ Billy Robinson's story. From the online collections of Stewart Library.

External links[edit]

Grinnell offers a number of wonderful amenities for a small community.