About the Community

THERE ARE TWO WEBSITES  to find information:
City Services:
Residents, Visitors, Chamber & Economic Development at 

The Chamber Staff is here to help you get settled into the community so feel free to contact our office at 641-585-2092 or stop by and talk to us between 9am and 5pm weekdays at 106 S. 4th Street, Forest City.


Housing & Rentals
Day Cares
Health Care
Clubs & Organizations
Forest City Community Garden


Founded as a town in 1855; “Forest City” was not the first name given to our community in its founding years. In the beginning it was known as Puckerbrush, Big Brush, or Hill City. Robert Clark, the official founder and surveyor of Forest City, deemed “Forest City” as the official name because it was literally cutout of a forest. Most will agree that Mr. Clark made the right choice. In 1878, Forest City was incorporated, and the first mayor, Eugene Secor, was elected.

Forest City’s first train arrived at 3:30 pm on December 10, 1879; a cold and stormy day. The weather didn’t stop residents from turning out to welcome the arrival of the new rail lines at the depot. Rail service meant many things to our community: instead of going to Mason City, McGregor, or Dubuque for supplies or mail, it now arrived by train; instead of cutting down trees for heating, coal was now brought in; instead of riding a buckboard behind a horse to travel long distances, you could ride in the comfort of a Pullman Car; farmers could now ship products from their farms. Eventually two passenger trains and two freight trains arrived and departed daily from Forest City’s two train depots.

When the rail line was built, telegraph poles were erected beside the rail bed. Two weeks after the arrival of the first train, Christmas Day 1879, the first telegraph message went out from Mayor Secor to our friends in Lake Mills.

Voted by Winnebago County supervisors to be County Seat at their June 17, 1896, County Supervisors meeting because the residents of Forest City had a 1,645 signature petition, representing 70% of the county’s voters, to counter Lake Mills’ 1,154 signature petition. The original portion of our current 5 story courthouse was built in just six months with only manual labor-no trucks, no backhoes, no cranes; just people, sweat and engineering. The original portion is still standing more than 100 years later. The cost of the building was $20,496.

Today, Forest City is proud to have a good mix of over 300 businesses, quality education options including Waldorf University, many outdoor recreational opportunities, and over 75 local events throughout the year, all adding to a high quality of life for its residents.




Forest City – by the numbers

The City sits inside two counties, Winnebago & Hancock Counties.


Demographic Information

Population 2015
Total Population 4,018
Educational Attainment (Population Age 25 +)
High School or Higher 92.7%
Bachelors Degree 23.9%
Graduate or Professional Degree 6.3%

Metro Area Distances

City Driving Distance Flight Time Days by Truck
Chicago, IL 441 miles 1
Des Moines, IA 138 miles 20 min 1
Minneapolis, MN 140 miles 20 min 1
Milwaukee, WI 369 miles 1
Omaha, NE 273 miles 1

Leading Employers

Company Name Product/Service Employees
Winnebago Industries Manufacturer of Recreational Vehicles 1,600
CDI Full Body Paint of Recreational Vehicles 210
MOSAIC Provider of residential homes and care for people with intellectual disability 200
3M Distribution center for consumer goods 160

Local Government

  • Type of Government: Mayor/ Council
  • Comprehensive City Plan: Yes
  • Year Plan Completed: 1985
  • City Zoning Ordinance in Effect: Yes
  • County Zoning Ordinance in Effect: Yes
  • Percent of Streets Paved: 85.0