Historic Downtown Iowa City Buildings
1 – Blackstone Building
- 118 S. Dubuque St.
- c. 1882, Italianate
- Originally a two story carriage and harness manufacturing shop, the third story Mansard roof was added sometime in the late 1880s. A number of businesses have been located in this building including hardware stores, theaters, confectioner, cleaning and pressing shop, and meat market.
- Further Reading:
2 – Franklin Printing House
- 115 S. Dubuque St.
- 1856, Greek Revival
- This three-story, pre-Civil War, brick building is the oldest commercial buildings in Iowa City. Two prominent newspapers, the Iowa Capital Reporter and Iowa Standard, associated with the establishment of Iowa City as the state capitol have occupied Franklin Printing House.
3 – Jefferson Hotel
- 129 E. Washington St.
- 1913 and Late 1920’s, Classical Revival influence
- Built 1913 by a group of prominent Iowa City businessmen, the Jefferson Hotel’s “modern” appointments, such as an electric elevator, 250’ artesian well, telephones, electric lights, and hot and cold running water, made it a premier hotel in Iowa. Many important public figures stayed here, such as John F. Kennedy during the 1960 campaign.
- Further Reading:
- “Iowa City’s Jefferson Building may go back to being a hotel,” The Gazette, 1 August 2013
4 – Arcade Building
- 128-130 E. Washington St.
- 1874, remodel 1907, Early 20th-Century Commercial
- This 1874 building was given a face-lift in 1927, creating the handsome, terracotta façade we see today. From 1926 the west half of the Arcade Building housed Earl Snyder’s Dombey Boot Shop. The business took its name from a Charles Dickens novel, Dombey and Son in which Dombey was an outstanding and wealthy London shoe merchant.
5 – First National Building
- 202 E. Washington St.
- Remodeled 1911, Classical Revival
- The original bank building at the corner of Dubuque and Washington Streets was remodeled in 1911 in the popular civic style of the day. The post office, Carnegie Library and several University buildings were constructed in the Classic Revival style as well, and clad in Indiana Limestone.
6 – Paul-Helen Building
- 207-215 E. Washington St.
- 1910, Early 20th-century Commercial
- Designed by F . X. Freyder, the Paul-Helen Building was named for the children of the owners, G. W . Schmidt, C. A. Schmidt, and William Kurz. It is one of the four surviving buildings from Iowa City’s pre-World War I commercial boom.
- Further Reading:
7 – IXL Block
- 218-220 E. Washington St.
- 1883, Italianate
- These red brick buildings are good examples of Italianate style commercial buildings. The top cornices and window hoods are constructed of pressed tin. The 218 Washington building still retains its original storefront with cast iron columns.
8 – Englert Theater
- 221 E. Washington St.
- 1913, Commercial and Classical Revival
- William Englert, a descendent of the Englert brewing family, constructed this theater during the pre-World War I building boom. William and his family lived in a second-story apartment above the theater lobby. Some of the greatest names and productions touring American playhouses stopped at the Englert including Sarah Bernhart. Performers often stayed in the third-floor sleeping rooms above the Englerts.
- Further Reading:
9 – Historical Marker
- Washington and Linn Streets
- The marker at the northwest corner of Washington and Linn Streets indicates the location of the Iowa City stage coach stop along old Military Road from Dubuque to the northern boundary of Missouri. The stop was authorized by Congress in 1839. Legend has it that Samuel Clemens’ opinion of Iowa City was diminished by a spill he took while dismounting a stage coach here in the late 1800’s.
10 – Old Iowa City Post Office
- 28 S. Linn St.
- 1904 & 1931, Classical Revival
- This was the first building constructed specifically as a Post Office in Iowa City. This excellent example of Classical Revival architecture was one of a several civic buildings located on or adjacent to Linn Street. This building was converted to a senior center in 1974.
11 – O’Leary Velie Garage
- 104-116 S. Linn St.
- c.1918, 1924, Craftsman
- This building was originally constructed as the Velie Motors (manufactured in Moline) automobile showroom, repair shop and storage garage. In the second-to-last storefront on the south end you will find the stone “bumpers” indicating the location of the automobile entrance.
12 – Old Iowa City Press-Citizen Building
- 319 E. Washington St.
- 1937, Art Moderne
- The Iowa City Press-Citizen was a result of the merger of two daily newspapers in November 1920 – The Iowa City Press that espoused Democratic Party views and the Iowa City Citizen that offered a Republican Party voice. At the time of the merger the economic realities of operating a newspaper became more significant than party politics.
13 – Benevolent Protective Order of Elks Hall
- 325 E. Washington St.
- 1909, Eclectic – Colonial Revival and Craftsman Styles
- The B.P.O.E. Hall was built on the eve of a twenty-year building boom in Iowa City. Before its construction, the Elks fraternity met at the P.P. Freeman home where they kept a full size elk on the front porch.
14 – Boerner-Fry Company Building/Davis Hotel
- 332 E. W ashington St.
- 1899, Neo-Classical
- Prussian immigrant Emil Louis Boerner constructed this multi-story factory building for the production of vanilla extract, perfumes and pharmaceuticals. Boerner was largely responsible for the establishment of the State University of Iowa’s pharmacy department and served as its first dean. In 1922, the building was converted to the Davis Hotel.
15 – Unitarian Universalist Church
- 1907, Craftsman and Tudor Revival
- This residentially-scaled, Craftsman and Tudor Revival style church is designed without the ecclesiastic ornament (such as a steeple) typical to church architecture. The simple appearance of the church reflects the beliefs of the Unitarian Universialist Association, which was organized in Iowa City in 1841.
- Further Reading:
16 – State Historical Society of Iowa
- 402 Iowa Ave.
- 1958, Modern influence
- The State Historical Society was established by the Iowa General Assembly in 1857 and operates as a historical research library with extensive manuscript and photo collections. Hours are 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday.
17 – Old-Isolation Hospital
- 300 block of Iowa Ave.
- 1916, Renaissance Revival
- The State University of Iowa Isolation Hospital was designed by the Des Moines architecture firm Proudfoot and Bird in the same style in which they had designed the SUI Hospital. After the hospital was moved to the west side of the river, the Isolation Hospital was renamed the Music Building. This relatively unaltered building; however its currently unoccupied and its future is uncertain.
18 – Old State University of Iowa Hospital
- Iowa Ave. between Linn & Gilbert Streets
- 1897-1914, Renaissance Revival
- The center section and southeast wing of the first UI hospital were built at this location in 1897 on a site south of a former city park. The southwest wing was constructed in 1908, northeast wing in 1912 and northwest wing in 1914. In its final form, the building was U-shaped facing Iowa Avenue. The tower and larger portion just beneath it, which has many windows, was the operating theater in the days before reliable and powerful artificial lights were readily available. The hospital remained at this site until 1928, when operations were relocated to the west campus. The old hospital was converted to classroom and laboratory space, and eventually renamed Seashore Hall for Carl Seashore, a pioneer in the field of psychology.
19 – Hohenschuh Mortuary
- 13-15 S. Linn St
- 1917, Georgian Revival
- William P. Hohenschuh operated a mortuary from this location. Hohenschuh was a state leader in the mortuary business as well as president of Hotel Jefferson. He contracted with the Chicago architectural firm H.L. Stevens and Company to design both buildings.
20 – G. H. Van Patten House
- 9 S. Linn Street
- c.1874, Italianate
- This rare remaining house within downtown Iowa City, was once one of many stylish residences located on the fringe of downtown. The house’s most prominent residents were George H. Van Patten, a carpenter and builder, and his wife Harriet, a dressmaker.
21 – People’s Steam Laundry Building
- 225 E. Iowa Ave.
- c. 1909, Classical Revival
- By the turn of the 20th-century, downtown Iowa Avenue had become “laundry row,” which included People’s Steam Laundry. The laundries employed dozens of young women, including many Bohemians, before and after World War I. “C.O.D. Laundry” can still be seen painted on the side of The Que at 211 Iowa Avenue.
22 – Hall of Anatomy
- 100 block of Iowa Ave.
- 1902, Classical Revival and Beaux-Arts
- The well-preserved, six-sided building was designed by Des Moines architects Proudfoot and Bird, who also designed a number of other University buildings in the same Classical Revival and Beaux-Arts style. The Hall of Anatomy originally included an embalming area in the ground level, a lecture hall on the second floor, a dissecting laboratory on the third floor, and a cremating area in the attic level.
23 – First Congregational Church
- 30 N. Clinton St.
- 1869, Gothic Revival
- The architect of the First Congregational Church, Gordon Randall, learned his craft under the tutelage of Asher Benjamin of Boston before moving to Chicago. During his 34-year career he specialized in schools, churches and courthouses, including the Union Park Congregational Church in Chicago.
- Further Reading:
24 – Old Capitol
- ClintonSt. at Iowa Ave.
- 1840-1842, Greek Revival Style
- The centerpiece of the Pentacrest, Old Capitol served as the Iowa Territorial Capitol from 1842 until 1846. The building later housed the Iowa State Legislature until 1857 when Des Moines was awarded the state capitol. The building, designed by John F, Rague, was constructed of native stone; however the porticos and cupola are wood, painted to simulate stone. The building underwent restoration in 1920, the early 1970’s and 2002. The most recent restoration resulted in the loss of the original dome by fire, but was reconstructed.
- Further Reading:
25 – The Pentacrest
- The University of Iowa Pentacrest, bordered by Jefferson, Madison, Washington and Clinton Streets, consists of five University buildings with the Old Capitol serving as the focal point. UI President George E. MacLean (1899-1911) developed the Pentacrest plan in 1905. Besides Old Capitol, the buildings on the Pentacrest are Schaeffer Hall (1902), MacBride Hall (1908), MacLean Hall (1912) and Jessup Hall (1924). The Pentacrest is located on the site designated as Capitol Square in the original 1839 Town Plat of Iowa City.
- Further Reading:
26 – Coast and Sons Building
- 10-14 South Clinton
- c. 1895, Renaissance Revival
- “From Coast to Coast You’ll Find No Better Clothes Than Coasts,” was the slogan used by prominent Iowa City retailers William P. Coast, and his sons William O. and Preston. Coast and Sons clothiers operated from this location from 1893 until about 1935 when the building was occupied by Towners Clothing. Seifert’s clothing began operating here in 1962.
27 – McDonald Optical
- c. 1883, Late Victorian, Gothic Revival influence
- From about 1888 to 1926 this three-story brick building with a decorative cornice housed various confectionaries including an ice cream factory and a bakery, most of which were owned by the Namur family. Namur’s Bakery was renowned for its “Snowflake Bread.” McDonald Optical has been operating here since 1956.
- Further Reading
28 – Whetstone’s Drug Store
- 32 S. Clinton St.
- c. 1868, Italianate
- From 1890, the building housed Whetstone’s pharmacy, which was operated by John Whetstone and his son Robert. The store was a landmark in the downtown and boasted the motto “Store of Convenience at the Convenient Corner.” The store included a soda fountain where “Persian Sherbet” was a featured.
29 – Iowa State Bank & Trust Company
- 1912, Early 20th-Century Commercial
- This multi-story commercial building was designed by prominent Iowa architects Proudfoot, Bird and Rawson of Des Moines. It was erected as the Johnson County Savings Bank. A number of significant Iowa Citians were trustees of the banks, and the bank’s first president was former governor Samuel Kirkwood. During the Great Depression the bank suspended operations and in 1934 the Iowa State Bank and Trust Co. was incorporated.
30 – Crescent Block
- c. 1895, Late Victorian
- Over the years, this building has housed a number of retail establishments, including Montgomery Ward and Company. The west portion of the building retains its original storefront. A small bay to the east has a unique curved, 1930’s, Art Modern storefront, which is clad in black Carrara glass tiles.
31 – College Block Building
- 127 E.College St.
- 1878, Italianate
- This is the earliest commercial building in Iowa City known to be designed by an Iowa City architect, Chauncey Lovelace. Nearly lost to the Urban Renewal Program in 1978, the designation of the building to the National Register of Historic Places forestalled its demolition. The building was eventually successfully redeveloped for a restaurant and apartments.
32 – Old Carnegie Public Library
- 218 S. Linn St.
- 1903, Beaux Arts and Classical Revival
- Designed by Des Moines architecture firm Liebbe, Nourse & Rasmussen, this building was constructed with an endowment from steel baron Andrew Carnegie. Its classically influenced design represents the nation’s democratic principles of providing the opportunity to read to all individuals.
33 – Iowa City Masonic Temple
- 312 East College St.
- 1913, Classical Revival and Craftsman
- Based on the south face of Schaeffer Hall on the Pentacrest, the Masonic Temple was designed by Cedar Rapids architectural firm of Charles A. Dieman and Company. The building was originally outfitted with both electrical conduit and coal gas piping for lighting due to the uncertainty of electricity as a lighting source at that time. The interior was designed in the Craftsman style and remains largely intact. The original cost of the lot, building and its furnishings was $50,000.
- Further Reading:
34 – Trinity Episcopal Church
- 320 E. College St.
- 1871, Gothic Revival Style
- Constructed for $6,250 in 1871, the design of Trinity Episcopal Church is attributed to New York architect Richard Upjohn who was an advocate of Gothic Revival Architecture. Trinity was built either directly from plans by Upjohn, or from designs published in his 1852 book, Upjohn’s Rural Architecture. Only one other church, which is non-extant, in Iowa is credited to Upjohn.
Document History. The written historic information above is from a guide to historic building in PDF format. Unfortunately, the original source(s) were not cited nor was the name of the person who assembled the original document. The document was redesigned here to be viewed on the web for those using mobile devices and/or needing visual accommodations for information accessibility. Text layout formatting with styles was included and links were added. The links provide additional information for those unfamiliar with local references. Typos were also corrected, such as “hree-story building” was changed to “three-story building” and “from 1893 until the about 1935” was changed to “from 1983 until about 1935.” Additional information was obtained from the Iowa City Historic Preservation Plan of February 2008. For a fun way to learn more about what you’ll find in downtown Iowa City, follow the What’s in Downtown Iowa City Pinterest board managed by the Iowa City Downtown District organization.