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. Grinnell was founded in 1854 by Josiah B. Grinnell a Congregationalist from Vermont. 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. Grinnell was incorporated on April 28, 1865, 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. 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.
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. On June 17, 1882, a tornado destroyed most of the college campus and much of the community with a death toll of 68. In 1889 fire destroyed most of the downtown area. 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. Automobile production ceased at the Spaulding factory in 1916 when it could no longer compete with the cheaper Ford automobile. 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.
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.
As of the census 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.
As of the census 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, Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company and Grinnell Regional Medical Center. Other major employers in Grinnell include JELD-WEN and Brownell's.
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. 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.
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.
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. 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: 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 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.See Also: National Register of Historic Places listings in Poweshiek County, Iowa
for more listings
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 founded as the Poweshiek County Herald on March 18, 1868.
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.
The first school in Grinnell was founded in 1855. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.See also: Grinnell College's Notable alumni
John O. Bailey (1880-1959), judge and politician who served as the Chief Justice of the Oregon Supreme Court, was born in Grinnell and attended local schools before enrolling at Harvard University.
Bruce Braley (born 1957), former member of the U.S. House of Representatives for Iowa's 1st congressional district, was born in Grinnell.
Jeff Criswell (born 1964), offensive lineman who played twelve seasons in the National Football League, was born in Grinnell.
Kirby Criswell (born 1957), linebacker who played two seasons in the National Football League, was born and raised in Grinnell and attended Grinnell High School.
Josiah Bushnell Grinnell (1821–1891), city founder and abolitionist to whom Horace Greeley is quoted as having said: "Go West, young man, go West."
Danai Gurira, actress, known for her role as Michonne in the hit television series The Walking Dead.
Hallie Flanagan (1890–1969), Federal Theater Project head, grew up in Grinnell and also attended Grinnell College.
Harry Hopkins (1890–1946), one of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's advisors and New Deal architect, lived in Grinnell as a teenager before attending Grinnell College.
David R. Nagle (born 1943), Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1987 to 1993, was born in Grinnell.
Robert Noyce (1927–1990), inventor and Intel co-founder who grew up in Grinnell and also attended Grinnell College.
Bernard E. Pedersen (1925-1996), Illinois businessman and legislator, was born in Grinnell.
Billy Robinson (1884–1916), pioneer aviator, moved to Grinnell at the age of 12.
Robert A. Heinlein's 1951 novel The Puppet Masters begins with government agents attempting to investigate an alien ship that landed near Grinnell, Iowa.