The demise of the Chautauqua

(Above) Clear Lake’s Chautauqua bell, as it is mounted in the bell tower at Zion Lutheran Church at 112 N. 4th St. in Clear Lake.

Editor’s Note: This is the last in a series of three articles preceding The Clear Lake Chautauqua Revisited to be held at City Park on Saturday, Aug. 17, from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. and hosted by the Clear Lake Historical Society and Clear Lake Area Chamber of Commerce. This week’s focus is the demise of the Clear Lake Chautauqua in 1914 and what the Chautauqua Revisited will be like on Saturday the 17th of August.

By Beth Ann Schumacher

president of the Clear Lake Historical Society

The Clear Lake Chautauqua enjoyed a long and successful run from 1875 – 1914.  Thousands of people came to Clear Lake for the camp meetings/Chautauqua to attend lectures, musical events, plays, and non-denominational religious learning opportunities and to hear political candidates and social activists.  However, by 1914, the Chautauqua, which had promoted Clear Lake businesses for decades and had provided both instruction and entertainment, was barely alive.

As smaller towns in Iowa decided to hold their own small-scale summer Chautauqua programs, fewer people came to Clear Lake for that purpose.  Clear Lake became a different type of “tourist” destination with the rise of dance halls, silent movies, automobiles and even radio.

Eventually the land of Clear Lake Park was sold to private citizens who wished to build permanent homes.  The once busy pavilion was officially closed on June 23, 1914 and torn down in 1921.  In 1925, the local chapter of the

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