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From the oldest business to a very old douchebag: Iowa City history explored in 2018


Tuesday, May 8, 2018. — photo by Zak Neumann

It’s traditional to look back over the past year as December draws to a close, and Little Village is looking back on all the times we looked back through Iowa City history in 2018.

Thanks to questions submitted by readers to Your Village, in 2018 LV explored the namesakes of some downtown Iowa City streets, identified the oldest business in Iowa City and revisited the Old Capitol Mall before much of it became University of Iowa office space.

In July, the Iowa City Public Library made researching local history easier by putting online an archive of historic Iowa City newspapers, stretching from 1841 to 1925. LV also touched on local archeological discoveries, with a profile of the Iowa City’s oldest douchebag (feel free to insert your own joke here).

Photo by Paul Brennan

Your Village: Who are the streets in downtown Iowa City named for?

Gilbert Street is named for John Gilbert, who should be familiar to anyone who went to school in Iowa City. Gilbert is celebrated as the first American to settle in what is now Johnson County, where he opened a trading post to barter with the local Meskwaki. What probably doesn’t get mentioned in school is that Gilbert’s actual name was John Prentice, and one of the major reasons he came to Iowa is he was hiding from creditors. [read more]

Clinton St., Iowa City, in 1854. — photo by Isaac Wetherby

Your Village: What’s the oldest business in Iowa City?

Determining the oldest business in Iowa City isn’t quite as simple as one might think. Does a different series of companies offering the same sort of goods and services at the same location count as one business because each bought out the prior company? [read more]

The Old Capitol Mall in its pre-UI office days. — photographer unknown. Photo courtesy of Thomas Dean

Your Village: What was the Old Capitol Mall like before it had so many UI offices?

The Old Capitol Town Center, to use the name the place has had since 2000, started out as a standard mall. It opened under the name Old Capitol Center in 1981, bringing a little slice of suburban-style shopping to downtown Iowa City. It wasn’t until 1995 that it fully embraced its malliness, and changed its name to Old Capitol Mall. But by then, its best years as a mall were almost behind it. [read more]

The front page of the Iowa Capitol Reporter, Dec. 4, 1841

Hard-cider, tetanus deaths and poisoned ice cream: ICPL launches an online archive of historic Iowa City newspapers

Clicking on the first link of the first newspaper listed on the archive’s homepage takes you to the Iowa City Daily Press for Friday, July 1, 1904, from which you learn the reading public of 1904 enjoyed stories about death and bloodshed. [read more]

the early 20th century douche found at the future site of the University of Iowa’s Voxman Music Building in 2013. — University of Iowa/courtesy photo

Iowa City’s oldest douchebag

On Sept. 12, 2013, construction workers were using backhoes to clear soil from the future site of the Voxman Music Building on the corner of Burlington and Clinton streets. Thump. One of the machines hit something. [read more]


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