Our Iowa Heritage: 1900 – 1920 Iowa City – Central.

Without a doubt, the most photographic subject in all of Iowa City over the decades has been the Old Stone Capitol.

(P-0235) Click here to view the postcard story of the Wieneke family.
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(P-0019) Circa 1907 – Here’s a picture postcard a person “wrote” to themselves describing Old Capitol.

Earlier, we showed you some postcard collections from the turn-of-the-century, so now let’s look at a few other spots around Iowa City as viewed through penny postcards from 1900-1920. We’ll start with the Central section of town.

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City Hall – Circa 1910. In 1881, Iowa City built a new City Hall Building at the corner of Linn and Washington streets. The Fire Department headquarters was moved to this building. Ironically, the building nearly burned to the ground that year when a gas hose dryer was left on in the fire department, starting a fire that caused about $17,000 in damage. The cost of rebuilding the hall was $9,925. The fire department managed to prevent any more fires in their new quarters and remained in that building until 1962, when the building was demolished.
(P-0039) Iowa City Promotional Post Card Featuring City Hallcirca 1910
Circa 1920 – It’s believed that the first letters of the slogan “See Us Increase” are a play on the State University of Iowa (SUI), which is how the University was referred to until the 1950’s.
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City Hall looking west on Washington Street – Click here to view the postcard story of the Wieneke family.
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(P-0037) A View of Downtown Iowa City – looking west on Washington Street (from City Hall) – Circa 1914
(P-0038) A View of Downtown Iowa City – looking east on Washington Street (toward City Hall) – 1910
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Here’s the same shot of Washington Street – colorized for a Penny Postcard.
Circa 1910 – Washington Street Celebration.
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(P-0035) The Iowa City (U.S.P.S.) Post Office  Postmarked Dec. 7, 1906 The original post office in Iowa City is a Beaux Arts-style building, built of Indiana Limestone in 1904. This post card from 1906 shows the original building before expansion in 1931. It remained the city’s central post office until 1975. On April 17, 1979, the building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
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(P-0036) The Iowa City Fire Department Circa 1908 with the Iowa City Post Office in background.
The new Iowa City “Carnegie” Public Library in 1904.

The St. James Hotel – Iowa City’s Finest.

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(P-0040) St. James Hotel – Iowa City’s finest. (1872-1916) Located on the corner of Iowa Avenue and Clinton Street (Iowa Book & Supply), it became the Student Union in 1914, replacing Unity Hall across the street, but burned to the ground on Good Friday 1916.
Click here to read more about the history of Clinton Street.

Click here to read more about the St. James Hotel and some of the retail shops surrounding it.

1870’s Postal Cover from St. James Hotel.
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(C-0065) St. James Hotel Stationary/Postal Cover Postmarked Sept. 12, 1910  This letter was sent from Rev. Homer Levi (H.L.) Dodge: a research professor in the Physics Department at the University of Iowa (1915-1919). This letter, written while a first year graduate student at Iowa (1910-1914) was to his father, O. W. Dodge, back home in New York. The St. James Hotel served as a dorm for Iowa students during this time
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Homer Levi Dodge was born on October 21, 1887, in Ogdensburg, New York. His father, Orange Wood Dodge, taught at the Ogdensburg Free Academy, which Homer attended. His mother, Isabella Donaghue Dodge, was an active participant in the intellectual life of the community; after her death, the children’s room of the public library was dedicated to her. From them their son acquired a deep appreciation of the natural world and was encouraged to challenge it both intellectually and physically. Homer Dodge graduated from Colgate University in 1910, and went on to obtain an M.S. in 1912 and Ph.D in physics in 1914 from the University of Iowa. From 1906 to 1915 he spent his summers as a surveyor for the United States Geological Survey. At Iowa he taught physics first as a graduate assistant, then as an instructor, and finally in 1915 as an assistant professor. He was especially interested in applied physics, and concentrated on laboratory experiments and equipment and the investigation of materials. During World War I he was a member of the National Research Council Sub-committee on Detection of Invisible Aircraft; in 1919 the War Department published the results of his investigations. While at Iowa, he applied for and was eventually granted two patents, one for an improved rheostat and the other for a porous damper for acoustical instruments. In 1917 he married Margaret Wing, with whom he had two children, Alice Isabella in 1920 and Norton Townshend in 1927. In 1919, Dodge became chairman of the physics department at the University of Oklahoma, and in 1926 dean of the graduate school. He also developed and directed a program in applied physics for engineers and geologists. He was president of the Board of Trustees for the School of Religion from 1927 to 1944.
(C-0066) St. James Hotel Promotional Postcard This card was the contents of Mr. Dodge’s letter, obviously showing the family back home in New York where he was staying.
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Unity Hall & St. James Hotel. The first two locations of the University’s Student Union. Unity Hall (the Unitarian Church on left) was purchased in 1906, becoming a meeting place for students, but outgrew the facility. The St. James Hotel (center) was then used as the Student Union and men’s dorm from 1914 to 1916. Click here to read more about the history of Clinton Street.
Click here to read more about this devastating fire.
The Burkley-Imperial Hotel – European luxury.
(C-0211) The Burkley Imperial European Hotel at 9 East Washington Street in Downtown Iowa City.
The 1916 MECCA Parade featured a float made to look like an Iowa City/Muscatine Interurban train car. This short-lived train service ran on the Muscatine/Montezuma railroad line, going under the name of Muscatine & Iowa City Railway.
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Circa 1907 – Clinton Street looking north. Click here to read more about the history of Clinton Street.
Circa 1910 – Dubuque Street looking south. Click here to view the postcard story of the Wieneke family.
Keith & McChesney Silversmiths – 104 South Clinton – certainly had decorative stationary. This 1909 postal cover is like an Iowa City billboard – front and back!
Circa 1912 – looking at the corner of Clinton & Washington Streets from University Square.
Click here to read more about the history of Clinton Street.
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View of College Street – Iowa City – circa 1912
(P-0044) St. Mary’s Church The first Mass in Iowa City was celebrated by a frontier missionary on  Dec.  20, 1840 by Father Samuel Charles Mazzuchelli. The cornerstone for St. Mary’s was laid on October 27, 1867. Click here to read about the many bells of Iowa City – one of which was the bell of St. Mary’s!
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Old Brick Church Once known as North Presbyterian, Old Brick (1856) is one of the few surviving pre-Civil War structures in Iowa City.
(P-0041) Ornate Hexagonal Watering Trough (1905-1910)  Located on Iowa Avenue & Dubuque Street. Made for horses and five ornate drinking fountains for people! Eventually moved to City Park, this unique fountain was a gathering place for many years in Iowa City.

Click here to view the postcard story of the Wieneke family.

1914 Elk’s Parade down Iowa Avenue.
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(P-0042) Circa 1900 – Looking west on Iowa Avenue Close Hall on the right, Unity Hall, and Old Capitol.
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(P-0043) Circa 1910 Looking west down Iowa Avenue from Linn Street, you can see The Fountain and Old Capitol on the horizon.
(P-0041) Ornate Hexagonal Watering Trough (1905-1910)  Located on Iowa Avenue & Dubuque Street. Made for two horses with four ornate drinking fountains for people! Iowa City historian, Irving Weber, believed The Fountain, which was eventually moved to City Park, was lost over time, with no trace of it remaining today.
(P-0245) Circa 1909 – Iowa Avenue looking east from “The Fountain”another C.L. Wieneke postcard!
“Just see what the good old summer time can do for Iowa City.”
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Circa 1910 Looking east down Iowa Avenue from Linn Street, you can see University Hospital on the left.
Circa 1910 – Iowa Avenue looking westward from Dodge Street.
Circa 1900 – No trip to downtown Iowa City would be complete without a visit to John’s corner grocery store. Located at 401 E. Market, J.W. Lee started John’s in 1848. When I went to school in the 1970’s John’s was a bit run down so it was called Dirty John’s.
(P-0219) This little postcard postmarked July 4, 1906 depicts one of the favorite pastimes for SUI students whether it be 1906, 1976, or today!
(P-0191) Rare colorized Iowa City Business Section Birds Eye View Postcard w/ Chemical Lab/Pharmacy Building (left), Close Hall (center), St. James Hotel (across Iowa Ave), Hall of Liberal Arts (far right)

Kudos to the amazing resources below for the many quotes, photographs, etc. used on this page.

Snow Ball and High BallFire House Horses, Iowa City Press Citizen, Iowa City Chronology, February 17, 1987, p 31

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