Location of Altoona, Iowa
|o Total||9.35 sq mi (24.22 km2)|
|o Land||9.35 sq mi (24.22 km2)|
|o Water||0 sq mi (0 km2)|
|Elevation||955 ft (291 m)|
|o Estimate (2016)||17,938|
|o Rank||26th in Iowa|
|o Density||1,555/sq mi (600.5/km2)|
|Time zone||Central (CST) (UTC-6)|
|o Summer (DST)||CDT (UTC-5)|
|GNIS feature ID||0454160|
Anthony Yant first settled in what is now Altoona in 1854, the same year that Gilbert T. Taylor settled there. The land was originally surveyed in 1847 and put up for sale by the US government in 1848, but it took six years to sell. After many different sales between different families, the Davis family ended up with the land on February 1, 1868.
The Davises hired surveyor Juian B. Bausman to lay out the city for them. He is also credited for giving the city the current name. Altoona is named for the Latin word for "high," altus, after surveyor Julian B. Bausman discovered that Altoona was the highest point on the Des Moines Valley Railroad between Des Moines and Keokuk.
The plot was recorded on July 30, 1868, and the Post office opened the next day. When the Rock Island Railroad came to Altoona in September of that year, they referred to Altoona as Yant, the city's original name.
Altoona was incorporated as a city on March 11, 1876.
In addition to serving as Altoona's first mayor, Emory English was the town doctor. After the great train crash of 1877, English was the first doctor on the scene.
Altoona's second mayor Thomas Haines was one of the best known mayors of Altoona. Haines operated the T.E. Haines tile and brick company. Haines is best known for the land he donated to the City of Altoona to be used as a city park, which is known as Haines Park.
The only other mayor of Altoona to have a park dedicated to him is Sam Wise. Wise brought advanced thinking by paving the streets of Altoona, building a sewer system that was advanced for its time and allowed for future expansion. His dedication to Altoona's parks led to the city's sports complex being named the "Sam Wise Youth Complex."
By the turn of the 20th century, Altoona could almost be classified as a coal camp. United Mine Workers of America Local 407 was organized in Altoona in 1897, and by 1902, it had 61 members. This was close to 20% of the town's population at the time.
On May 5, 2003, the Altoona City Council recognized the Altoona Area Historical Society as the City's official organization to collect, secure, and preserve the artifacts and records of the City of Altoona and surrounding areas.
In 2011 the Altoona Area Historical Society started major renovation work on interior of Altoona's oldest building. The building is now a museum open to the public. Museum hours are the second and fourth Sunday of every month from 2-4 pm. The museum is also open by appointment by contacting the Historical Society.
In 2013, construction began for a new Facebook data center. Facebook asked local company RPM Access to build and operate a wind farm that will put more energy into the system than the data center will pull out.
In 2014, plans were announced for a movie theater and an outlet mall. Breaking ground for the movie theater began in 2014 while mall construction began in 2015.  In February 2016, the theater Cinemark Altoona opened to universal acclaim. In October 2017, Outlets of Des Moines held their grand opening.
As of the census of 2010, there were 14,541 people, 5,459 households, and 3,945 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,555.2 inhabitants per square mile (600.5/km2). There were 5,702 housing units at an average density of 609.8 per square mile (235.4/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 95.1% White, 1.1% African American, 0.1% Native American, 1.1% Asian, 0.2% Pacific Islander, 0.9% from other races, and 1.5% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.9% of the population.
There were 5,459 households of which 42.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 57.1% were married couples living together, 11.6% had a female householder with no husband present, 3.6% had a male householder with no wife present, and 27.7% were non-families. 22.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 6.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.64 and the average family size was 3.12.
The median age in the city was 33.7 years. 30% of residents were under the age of 18; 7.4% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 30.4% were from 25 to 44; 23.1% were from 45 to 64; and 9.1% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 48.9% male and 51.1% female.
As of the census of 2000, there were 10,345 people, 3,850 households, and 2,895 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,835.4 people per square mile (708.2/km²). There were 3,959 housing units at an average density of 557.3 per square mile (215.3/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 97.11% White, 0.92% African American, 0.33% Native American, 0.46% Asian, 0.41% Pacific Islander, 0.77% from other races, and 1.20% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.65% of the population.
There were 3,850 households out of which 43.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 58.5% were married couples living together, 14.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 24.8% were non-families. 19.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 5.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.66 and the average family size was 3.08.
Age spread: 30.6% under the age of 18, 8.1% from 18 to 24, 33.3% from 25 to 44, 20.3% from 45 to 64, and 7.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 32 years. For every 100 females there were 91.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 85.9 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $50,162, and the median income for a family was $58,306. Males had a median income of $36,030 versus $28,205 for females. The per capita income for the city was $20,336. About 4.0% of families and 5.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 7.2% of those under age 18 and 4.2% of those age 65 or over.
Altoona (along with nearby Runnells, Mitchellville, and parts of Pleasant Hill and Des Moines) is a part of the Southeast Polk Community School District, and its students attend Southeast Polk High School. The town is home to four of the eight elementary schools in the district: Altoona, Centennial, Clay, and Willowbrook. The current Altoona Elementary building also served as the town's high school until it joined the Southeast Polk consolidation in 1962.
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|In office||Mayor||Special note|
|1876||F.E. English||Altoona's first mayor|
|1930-1931||Alden M. Peterson|
|1934-1935||Wesley L. McQuerry|
|1960-1962||L.J. Sam Wise|
|1964-1973||L.J. Sam Wise|
|1980-1987||L.J. Sam Wise|
|1988-2012||Tim Burget||Altoona's longest serving mayor|
|2012-2017||J.M. Skip Conkling||Only Altoona mayor to die in office|
|2017-Present||Caryl Jean Conkling||Altoona's first female mayor, the first spouse of a former mayor to also serve|