Cerro Gordo County: Not Fade Away

[imgbelt img=winter-dance-party-cd.jpg]What a legacy! One rural Iowa county was both inspiration for The Music Man and the place where, some say, “the music died” February 3, 1959.



A statue of native son composer/playwright Meredith Wilson greets visitors to Mason City (“River City” in Wilson’s musical The Music Man).

The city so embraced the musical that a local museum features set pieces from the film’s streetscape. Festivals celebrating Wilson and his creation bring visitors, marching bands, and music lovers of all sorts to downtown Mason City every year. This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the movie, so celebrations are in double time.

It was during the same period that fictional River City underwent its drama that City National Bank in Mason City determined it could use a better building. It happened that Frank Lloyd Wright had designed Wisconsin’s Hill Top School, attended by a daughter of one of the City National board member’s daughters. The school was renamed Taliesin II, after Wright’s studio. The bank board member, also an attorney, liked the architecture so much that he hired Wright to build not only the bank but his own law offices and a hotel all in one structure. Although Wright designed the building, he left it to his associate William Drummond to build to his specifications. Wright did not return to Mason City to view the result or spend time in the hotel.