The history of the Onawa Public Library can be traced to 1894 when the Monona County Jail held 25 books available to the public . Locations changed several times over the next decade before 1906, when a $10,000 grant was received from Andrew Carnegie to construct a new library. The grant was augmented by $20,000 from local Judge Addison Oliver, who contributed funds for both the building and a permanent endowment for future maintenance.
The cornerstone for the present library was laid October 17, 1908, and the building was officially completed fall the following year. The library, which is markedly different architecturally than other Carnegie libraries in the state, was entered into the National Register of Historic Places in October 1979.
Visitors entering Onawa on State Highway 175 are greeted with a large welcome sign noting the community’s claim to fame: having the widest main street in the United States. The street, actually named Iowa Avenue, is 150 feet wide, large enough to fit a 10-lane highway. It’s composed of two lanes of traffic in each connection, along with frontage lanes and angled parking on each side of the street.
Intricate neon and incandescent lights cover the red and white marquee at the Iowa Theater in Onawa. Located on the western edge of Onawa’s downtown district, the 275-seat single screen theatre dates to the late 1930s. It unexpectedly shut its doors in 1994 with a sign stating it was closed for renovations. In 2002, an Onawa resident purchased the theatre, which had fallen to a state of disrepair.
The dilapidated theatre underwent a quarter-million dollar renovation, with a new ceiling, all new seats, new draperies, doors and the latest screen and sound technologies. Movies are a reasonable $6 for adults, with specials on Monday and Tuesday nights; in 1982, seats were $1.50 each.