Lakeside’s 147-acre campus is located on scenic West Okoboji Lake, on Little Millers Bay. The bay and adjacent natural areas are used as outdoor classrooms for Lakeside’s university courses and Outreach Programs. The campus is open year round, and visitors are welcome to visit during daylight hours. Lakeside Lab is owned by the state of Iowa and operated through the Board of Regents. Its mission is twofold: 1) to provide science classes and research opportunities for university students, and 2) to offer Outreach Programs and provide services through the state universities.
Lakeside Lab was founded in 1909 by Dr. Thomas Macbride and colleagues from the University of Iowa, for “the study of nature in nature.” Ownership was held at first by a private stock company, the Lakeside Laboratory Association. In 1936 the Association deeded the station to the state of Iowa, “to be held in trust for the accommodation, promotion, support and maintenance of scientific studies and research.”
A major construction program took place in the mid 1930s, when the Civilian Conservation Corps built five stone laboratories, four student cabins, a bathhouse, and other amenities. Additional buildings were added in the 1960s and 70s. The Waitt Building, opened in 1998, provided a modern water quality laboratory, additional classrooms, and staff offices.
The Lakeside campus is noteworthy for both its natural areas and its buildings. The natural areas are diverse and include prairies, wetlands, and forests. Eleven of Lakeside’s 37 buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Lakeside’s newest building is the Waitt Lab, a gift of the Friends of Lakeside Lab. Opened in 1998, it contains the Bovbjerg Water Chemistry Laboratory, two classrooms, several offices, and Andrea’s Atrium, which is used for receptions and gatherings.
Mahan Hall was built in 1961 and renovated in 2003. It is Lakeside’s largest indoor space and is used for lectures, meetings, and classes. With its open floor plan, Mahan can accommodate a variety of meeting set-ups. It is fully equipped for audio-visual presentations.
The Dining Hall is an old barn that was moved to its present location in the 1930s. It is used mainly in the summer but is available year-round and can accommodate 80 to 90 people at a time. Students, faculty, and guests eat together at round tables, fostering a collegial atmosphere. An enclosed porch, added in 1997, offers a panoramic view of Little Miller’s Bay. The lower level is a student lounge.
From 1935 through 1936, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) built 13 structures at Lakeside: the entry gates, 11 buildings, and a set of stairs down a steep slope to West Okoboji Lake. All were constructed of native stone. The buildings include five teaching labs, four residential cottages, a bathhouse, and a boathouse. All the CCC buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places except the boathouse, which had a large addition (Limnology Lab) built over it in the 1960s. All have been maintained and are still in use.
The five stone labs are named for Iowa scientists: Macbride, Shimek, Pammel, Calvin, and Bodine. Macbride was renovated in 2003 into a modern lab for the study of diatoms and other freshwater algae. Pammel, Calvin, and Bodine maintain more of their original appearance inside, with small, wood-paneled rooms and large concrete tanks for the study of aquatic life. Shimek has an open floor plan.
King Lab was built in 1970 for research in parasitology. It is currently used as a computer lab.
The Library, originally a one-room schoolhouse, was moved to Lakeside and expanded in 1971. Shelves of books and journals take up most of the original structure, while the addition houses a reading room and conference room.
Lakeside’s oldest building is Main Cottage, dating from the late 19th century. It became a part of Lakeside when the first five acres were purchased in 1909. Main Cottage is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is still used for visitor housing.
Residential facilities at Lakeside include three cottages donated by local families. Tamisiea Cottage and Rierson Cottage are used year-round by visiting scholars and other guests. Cotton Cottage was renovated in 2011.
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