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Clinton Fun Facts

  • 25 July, 2020

Since we aren’t traveling to Clinton this week for RAGBRAI XLVIII, we gathered some fun facts and interesting tidbits for you. As a Mississippi River town, Clinton has lots of historic architecture. They’re also home to Iowa’s first African-American mayor, several astronauts, and a noted illustrator of the wild West.

Clinton Fun Facts

RAGBRAI XL tire dip in Clinton

Clinton, along with DeWitt (also located in Clinton County), was named in honor of the sixth governor of New York, DeWitt Clinton. 

Among the first settlers of European origin in the Clinton area was Elijah Buell, who built a log cabin on July 25, 1835, and in 1837, established the town of Lyons, named after the French city of the same name. Buell partnered with a John Baker in a successful ferry service across the Mississippi River, at a location called “the Narrows,” between Lyons and what would become the city of Fulton, Illinois. Although Lyons grew rapidly and prospered, it eventually merged into the city of Clinton. 

Clinton was platted as the town of New York in 1836 by Joseph Bartlett. Bartlett believed that the region was rich with gold deposits, and he prepared for a boom town to develop. While waiting for the “gold boom” to materialize, Bartlett started a second ferry service across the Mississippi to the village of Albany, Illinois. However, his service was not as popular as Buell’s in Lyons. Bartlett soon became discouraged, and sold his assets.  

In 1869, due to its importance as a major transportation hub, the county seat was moved to Clinton; it has resided there ever since. The Clinton County Court House, located at 612 North 2nd Street, was designed by G. Stanley Mansfield, Architect, of Freeport, Illinois, and Josiah L. Rice, Supervising Architect, of Clinton. It was constructed between 1892 and 1897. 

The first public school in Clinton was conducted in a log house near the W.J. Young upper mill. It was erected in the winter of 1855-56 and Isaac Baldwin was its first teacher. St. Irenaeus School was opened in 1852. 

The original Lyons-Fulton Bridge was constructed in 1891 (replaced by the Mark N. Morris Memorial Bridge in 1975), followed by the Clinton High Bridge in 1892 (replaced by the Gateway Bridge in 1956). 

Between the 1850s and 1900, the cities of Lyons and Clinton quickly became centers of the lumber industry and were regarded as the “Lumber Capital of the World.” Huge log rafts were floated down the river from Wisconsin and Minnesota, cut into lumber at Clinton, then shipped to the growing communities via the river and the railroads. In the 1880s and 1890s Clinton boasted 13 resident millionaires, more millionaires per capita than any other town or city in the nation. 

In 1877 the noted pianist Carl Lachmund founded the German Conservatorium of Music in Clinton. 

The largest, most elaborate party ever held in Clinton celebrated the debut of Emma Lamb and the twentieth wedding anniversary of her parents, Artemus and Henrietta Sabrina Smith Lamb on October 13, 1885. Fellow lumber baron F.C. Weyerhauser, his wife and daughter attended together with several hundred guests all attired in formal wear. 

The era of opulence came to an end by 1900, as the northern forests were depleted. The sawmills closed, but the railroad and river, providing economical transportation in all directions, attracted manufacturing and heavy industry. The city still boasts a number of magnificent Victorian mansions, including the Curtis Mansion, now the home of the Clinton Women’s Club. 

The American Protective Association (APA) was founded in Clinton on March 13, 1887 by Attorney Henry Francis Bowers. 

On April 27, 1951, the Mississippi crested at 20.7 feet (6.3 m); then on April 26, 1952, it crested again at 20.9 feet (6.4 m). All of that was an exercise compared with the crest on April 28, 1965, which at 24.85 feet (7.57 m) was the highest ever recorded. 

Construction of the Gateway Bridge (Illinois-Iowa) was started in August 1954, was finished in May 1956. It opened on July 1, 1956. 

In 2005, Clinton, along with Coon Rapids, Iowa and Sioux City, was awarded one of the inaugural Iowa Great Places designations. This award brought to Clinton a $1 million state budget allocation for cultural and landscape improvements along the city’s riverfront. 

In 2009, the Archer Daniels Midland began construction of a new cogeneration plant to provide for its electrical needs, which burns coal and leftover corn for the energy. The new cogeneration plant went online in 2010. 

Notable Places in Clinton 

NelsonCorp Field, home of the Clinton LumberKings

  • The most notable parks are Eagle Point Park and Riverview Park. 
  • Other parks are Dewitt Park, Root Park, Southside Park, Edwin P Neubauer Park, River View Stadium, and Four Square Park. 
  • Clinton has the First White Settler in Clinton County Historical Marker. 
  • The Bickelhaupt Arboretum is a non-profit arboretum with one of North America’s largest collections of dwarf conifers. 
  • Felix Adler Children’s Discovery Center a non-profit children’s center to explore science, the arts and culture. 
  • A national U.S. recreation trail, the Mississippi River Trail passes through Clinton. 
  • Clinton Community College 
  • Ashford University (formerly The Franciscan University and Mount St. Clare College) 
  • Bickelhaupt Arboretum 340 S. 14th St. 
  • Clinton LumberKings, a Class A minor league baseball team, affiliated with the Miami Marlins, that plays in the Midwest League. The LumberKings play their home games at NelsonCorp Field. 
  • Clinton Area Showboat Theatre 

St. Irenaeus Catholic Church

  • Saint Irenaeus Church, was designed by W.W. Sanborn and was constructed from 1864–1871.  
  • The Van Allen Building, a National Historic Landmark designed by Louis Sullivan, was completed in 1914 
  • Clinton County Courthouse, constructed from 1892-1897 by architects Stanley Mansfield and Josiah Rice in Romanesque Revival style. Exterior walls are of red sandstone and granite and the tower is of copper which has weathered to a bright green color. Noted architect Claire Allen from Jackson, Michigan also worked on this building. 
  • Clinton Public Library, financed by Andrew Carnegie and built 1903-1904 from the design of the Chicago architectural firm of Patton & Miller. Beaux Arts Neoclassical style with a monumental entry with processional steps and flanking paired columns. Symmetry of design and borrowings of Greek and Roman inspired elements complete the composition. Exterior walls of cut and dressed limestone. 
  • Lafayette Lamb House (YWCA), constructed in 1877 by architect W.W. Sanborn and rebuilt in 1906. Originally built in the Second Empire style, the 1906 ‘modernization’ converted it to more of the Georgian Revival style. 
  • City National Bank (First National Bank), designed by John Morrell & Son in the Neoclassical style and constructed in 1911-1912 
  • Howes Building, constructed in 1900 for Edward Madison Howes by architect Josiah Rice in Renaissance Revival style, featuring engaged pilasters with Ionic capitals. The exterior street facades of the building are of red face brick with decorative accents of red terracotta. The fourth floor added in 1905 by architect John Morrell. 
  • Ankeny Building, constructed in 1930, designed by Chicago architect Harold Holmes in “Moderne” or Art Deco style. The building street facades are clad with cream-colored terracotta panels. Upper story windows are steel and glass in a stylized “Chicago window” expression.  
  • Moeszinger-Marquis (Armstrong) Building, designed by Josiah Rice and constructed in 1891 by William Bentley for the Clinton Produce Company. In 1907 the Baldwin Bros. acquired the building for its wholesale hardware business, which in turn passed to its successor company, the Moeszinger-Marquis Hardware Company in 1912. In 1941 the building was acquired by R.W. Armstrong, who also conducted a wholesale hardware business from the premises. 
  • George M. Curtis Mansion (Women’s Club), constructed in Queen Anne style in 1883-1884 
  • Castle Terrace Historic District, originally platted in 1892. The project was a promotional effort to show developers, architects, and builders the application and products of the Curtis Company. The architectural design is highly eclectic, with Tudor Gothic the primary style utilized. 
  • Cherry Bank, Built 1870–1871, the Dr. A.L. Ankeny/Lindmeier/Cottral house is two stories high with walls of red brick with buff-colored brick used for quoins at the corners and for the window arches. A cornice, hip roof, and widow’s walk cap the building 

Notable People from Clinton 

Dale Gardner, NASA Astronaut

  • Felix Adler, “King of Clowns,” Ringling Brothers Circus 
  • Matt Bentley, professional wrestler for Total Nonstop Action Wrestling 
  • Marquis Childs, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist 
  • Muriel Frances Dana, child actress who appeared in silent films 
  • Angela Dohrmann, actress, television personality 
  • Robert Drouet, actor and playwright 
  • Judith Ellen Foster, lecturer, lawyer, temperance leader, early feminist 
  • Dale Gardner, NASA astronaut 
  • Artemus Gates, World War I hero, banker, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Air during World War II 
  • Salvatore Giunta, Staff Sergeant, U.S. Army, first living recipient of the Medal of Honor since the Vietnam War. 
  • Col. David Hilmers, former NASA Astronaut 
  • Robert Bruce Horsfall, artist 
  • Bernhard M. Jacobsen, Congressman 
  • William S. Jacobsen, Congressman 
  • David Johnson, running back, University of Northern Iowa and Arizona Cardinals 
  • David Joyce, lumber baron, industrialist 

Art by W.H.D. Koerner (photo from

  • W. H. D. Koerner, artist 
  • Otto Kraushaar, educator, 6th president of Goucher College 
  • Chancy Lamb, lumber baron, industrialist 
  • Cynthia Leonard, suffragist, writer, mother of Lillian Russell, lived in Clinton 
  • Raymond J. Lynch, attorney, administrative law judge 
  • Larry Mac Duff, football player, head coach, and defensive coordinator 
  • Denise McCann, American-Canadian musician, wife of Randy Bachman of Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive, born in Clinton 
  • James C. McGloon, Illinois state legislator 
  • Beth Marion, B-movie actress of the 1930s 
  • Peggy Moran, film actress, married film director Henry Koster 

George Nelson, NASA Astronaut

  • George Nelson, former NASA astronaut 
  • Stephen Paddock, Mass Shooter 
  • Allen E. Paulson, businessman, developed the Gulfstream executive jet 
  • Ken Ploen, football player Rose Bowl Hall of Fame, Canadian Football Hall of Fame 
  • Dan Roushar, American Football Coach, currently with the New Orleans Saints 
  • Lillian Russell, singer and actress in comic operas 
  • George Shadid, Illinois legislator 
  • Duke Slater, football player College Football Hall of Fame who became a judge 
  • George Stone, Major League Baseball AL batting title champion 
  • William Theisen, founder of Godfather’s Pizza 
  • William G. Thon, Illinois state representative and lawyer 
  • John Delbert Van Allen, dry goods merchant, department store owner 
  • Krista Voda, sportscaster, Fox Sports, SPEED Channel 
  • Colonel Russell W. Volckmann West Point graduate, leader of guerrilla resistance in the Philippines 

LaMetta Wynn

  • LaMetta Wynn, first African-American elected as mayor of an Iowa municipality 
  • W.J. Young, lumber baron, industrialist 

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