Chautauqua movement of the late 19th century was an attempt
to bring popular culture and education to every corner of
the country. The movement found fertile ground in Waterloo
at what is now known as Chautauqua (or Exchange) Park.
Association was organized by a group of Waterloo businessmen
who were interested in developing the Sans Souci area as
a summer resort. In 1891 they purchased 40 acres of land
at this site for the building of cottages. The first Chautauqua
program was held here the following year. It lasted 10 days
and was housed in a large tent.
success of the program led to construction of a 2,000-seat
amphitheater in 1893. By 1896 the Waterloo Chautauqua was
so popular that the Association was able to afford such
speakers as William Jennings Bryan.
was replaced by a coliseum in 1906 at a cost of $12,500.
The Sans Souci Hotel was built nearby two years later, and
the trolley line was extended to Chautauqua Park. (Townspeople
could also make the trip to the Park on a steam-driven paddle
wheel boat that operated on the Cedar River.)
This was the
high point of the Chautaqua in Waterloo. World War I, and
a 1919 fire that destroyed the coliseum, brought an end
to this early venture in adult education.