Founded because of the expansion of the Chicago-Illinois Railroad, Alta is the highest point on the railroad in Iowa. Railroad engineer, John I. Blair, named the railroad depot “Alta” in 1870 in honor of his daughter, Altai Blair. The incorporation papers were filed for “Incorporated Town of Alta, Buena Vista County, Iowa” on November 11, 1878 at the State Land Office at the Capitol in Des Moines. Proximity to rail transportation helped Alta develop into a solid farming community.
Settlers began to take residence in Alta in 1869. One of the first commercial structures in the town was the railroad depot, followed by a post office. In 1872, a land company laid out the town of Alta. The original plat consisted of four blocks. Hearing of this new settlement, P.G. Peterson of Chicago moved to Alta to start a hotel and help establish a good town. Soon after, a group of tradesmen and businessmen followed from the Chicago area bringing several businesses to the rapidly growing community. These new businesses included an elevator, a blacksmith shop, a hardware store, a general mercantile, a medical practice, and a law firm.
Agribusiness is still the mainstay of our community, but new industries – like the production of electricity by sleek wind turbines dotting our countryside – have drawn a rich mix of new residents from diverse backgrounds to Alta.
More than 1800 people call Alta home today, and many others who live in the surrounding rural areas enjoy our shops, parks, and schools. We welcome you to come and explore Alta. Catch our energy!