Le Mars, Iowa, with a population over 9,000 became officially recognized as the Ice Cream Capital of the World® in October of 1994. More ice cream is produced here than in any other city in the world.
Le Mars is also proud to tout its British heritage. Le Mars can attribute its cultural and social growth to the English, Irish, Scottish and Welsh, while its industrialization can be mostly affiliated with the German and Dutch.
The history of Le Mars dates back as early as the 1850s when white settlers arrived to the region now known as Plymouth County. The county of Plymouth was organized in 1853 and started with two townships.
In 1869, Le Mars was was named when railroad builder John I. Blair arrived by special train with a company of officials and a group of ladies. When the train stopped the ladies were asked to suggest a name for the town, then know as St. Paul Junction. It is believed that the ladies, whose names were Lucy Underhill, Elizabeth Parson, Mary Weare, Anna Blair, Rebecca Smith and Sarah Reynolds, wrote the first initials of their first names and arrived at an ingenious arrangement of them so as to produce the novel name "Le Mars." Within two decades the tiny town would grow to a city of 4,000 residents. In the United States census of 1890, Le Mars was listed as the 4th fastest growing city in the state.
The story of the English colony begins in Philadelphia in 1876. William B. Close, an Oxford University student, and Daniel Paullin, a land agent who was promoting land sales in Illinois and Iowa, used to converse about the opportunities held in Iowa. Inspired by Paullin's idea, Close and his three brothers organized the "Iowa Land Company."
A spirit of excellence and harmony are prominent in the growth of businesses and industries that market products and services throughout the nation and abroad. The Le Mars Area Chamber of Commerce, Le Mars Business Initiative Corporation and the City of Le Mars are united in the effort to make Le Mars an excellent business community.--The citizens are proud of the quality of life in Le Mars.
The Close family was well connected socially and financially in England and managed to secure a sound financing for their venture. The Closes encouraged upper-class Englishmen to join the colony and mature Brits came to buy farms and ranches and set up banks and other businesses. Young Englishmen, especially the "second sons" of elite families were encouraged to travel to Le Mars to learn the business of farm management. Some of the older men took responsibility for the housing and training of these young pupils or "pups", as they became known.
By 1880 Le Mars was the most well-known city in the USA by the British peoples, other than New York City and Chicago. The four Close Brothers were promoting the farming occupation to British families as opportunities for the 2nd and 3rd sons; providing schools for these pupils or ‘pups’ to learn to be gentleman farmers.
Many buildings in the proposed district were used by the hundreds of British immigrants who flocked to Le Mars during the 1880’s, where golf was first introduced west of the Mississippi here in Le Mars; polo teams competed as far away as Minneapolis and St. Louis.
In the late 1800s, in the peak of Le Mars' "hey-day", the community was one of the most well known cities, along with Chicago, New York and St. Louis, as one of the most popular American vacation destinations. The pups inevitably got into rumbles with the young American males. Pups did not seem to take farm management very seriously and were sometimes known to have unhitched plow horses for informal racing and betting. Polo, golf, steeple chasing, toboggan sledding and riding to the hounds were other popular sporting events of the Le Mars Brits. The 50th anniversary of Queen Victoria’s coronation caused a one week extravaganza here in Le Mars. Remittance men (these ‘gentleman farmers’ received a monthly check from their older brother who inherited the land in England) were the main characters in many an escapade in downtown Le Mars.
The Prairie Club, an all-exclusive club for the Brits, which later was opened to non-Brits, was in the upper quarters of an existing building; banks used by them are still standing, including the telephone exchange that connected them to town. Two pubs, the House of Commons and the House of Lords, were in existing downtown buildings. The hotel where the last remittance man lived during the 1970’s is extant (although most of the hotels are gone). The buildings that housed the grocery stores, cigar stores, drug stores, candy stores, and eating establishments that they utilized are still here. The bathhouse that refreshed the travelers when they arrived is still standing, later used as a hospital, and now an apartment house.
Today, Le Mars is the county seat of Plymouth County and the financial, industrial, educational, recreational, employment, shopping and arts center of the surrounding area.
A spirit of excellence and harmony are prominent in the growth of businesses and industries that market products and services throughout the nation and abroad. The Le Mars Area Chamber of Commerce, Le Mars Business Initiative Corporation and the City of Le Mars are united in the effort to make Le Mars an excellent business community with an unparalleled quality of life. Le Mars is a progressive and aggressive community committed to an improved quality of life and a prosperous climate for economic development.