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Bowden’s $1 million gift offer is now in writing

March 21, 2023

Dean Bowden has put it in writing.

Tasked in early February with outlining on paper what he means when he offers to put $1 million on the table for Wilson Brewer Historic Park, Bowden did just that prior to Monday’s City Council meeting.

Bowden, of Webster City, last year offered to kick off a joint venture with the city and county to improve and run Wilson Brewer Historic Park by donating $1 million.

There are the caveats outlined in Bowden’s offer, and additions:

“Until the 28-E Agreement crafted between the council and the supervisors is finalized and signed by both entities, I would not continue my support, i.e., the most important point to me is the formation of an elected Board of Trustees to govern the entire project as spelled out in the agreement, plus the hiring of a manager, curator.

“At such time as the Agreement is finalized and the Board of Trustees is established, I will pledge $1,000.000.00 as an endowment to help assure continued operation of the park into perpetuity. My hope is that the $1,000,000.00 gift will serve as an incentive for other contributions to the endowment. The date of a gift is flexible, but most likely I would wait until July 1, 2024.

“In the meantime, I will pledge $50,000.00 to the fund now held by the City. I would hope that in 2023, the patio deck planned for the depot be completed, as well as the courthouse and a public restroom on the grounds as previously planned. By doing these things, I hope it shows the will of the community to finish the park and start work in 2024 to build a 1900’s circa barn on the grounds as per layout for building, parking, etc. To that end, I would pledge $500,000.00 to the completion of the building with the hopes that the community would at least match that amount to complete the project and should there be more monies pledged, it would be added to the existing endowment fund.”

Bowden signed and dated the letter March 13, 2023.

Bowden’s offer, and early discussions between Webster City Mayor John Hawkins and then-Supervisor Chairman Rick Young last summer, opened the door to the cooperative effort.

The City of Webster City owns the park that sits where Superior and Ohio streets intersect. It is the site of the town’s founding, gifted to the city by descendants of Wilson Brewer, the town’s founder. Because it is owned by the city, the city maintains it. Over the years, the budget for that maintenance has fluctuated. And, over the years, buildings have been added to the park for which there was no adequate maintenance budget.

In an effort to move the park into the future, it has been proposed that the city and county work together to establish a separate board that would operate similarly to the boards of trustees that run the Fuller Hall Recreation Center and Kendall Young Library. They are both legacy institutions, funded mostly by endowments and supported to a small extent by the city.

That is the context of the proposed 28-E, an agreement that would eventually allow a city/council hybrid of elected trustees.

The legacy of Wilson Brewer Historic Park was the gift of land, on which were the Brewer-Bonebright homestead and two log cabins built by Frank Bonebright. The homestead was intentionally burned down years ago; the cabins have been moved and reconstructed.

What the Brewer legacy did not provide was an endowment fund. The park now is home to six buildings: a railroad depot, a country schoolhouse, a country church, the county’s original courthouse building, and the two cabins.

That is the context of Bowden’s offer to create an endowment.


View this article as it originally appeared in the Daily Freeman-Journal.

Last modified: March 21, 2023

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