The Jefferson Street Historic District is a linear neighborhood that extends along East Jefferson Street from Clinton to Van Buren streets. Properties facing the intersecting streets of Dubuque, Linn, Gilbert, and Van Buren are also included within the district. The district includes a mix of institutional buildings (religious and academic) and residential buildings that reflect its historical development along the edge of the downtown and the University campus. University-related resources include buildings originally used as a biological sciences classroom building, a medical school anatomy lecture hall, an isolation hospital, and sorority houses. Buildings used for religious purposes include four churches, a student center, a former convent, and a rectory. The balance of the district includes two large apartment buildings, a collection of medium- and large-sized single-family dwellings that date from the 1850s through the 1930s, and a variety of secondary structures erected during the early 20th century. The district contains a total of 38 primary resources with all but one considered contributing. Buildings in the Jefferson Street Historic District exhibit a range of late 19th and early 20th century architectural styles including excellent examples of eleven distinct styles and several vernacular residential forms.
The Gilbert-Linn Street Historic District makes up a mixed residential and commercial neighborhood at the west end of Iowa City’s traditional North Side. Some of the city’s oldest buildings are in this neighborhood. Residents and property owners in the area participate in the geographically larger Northside Neighborhood Association. The Gilbert-Linn Street Historic District has an irregularly shaped boundary that begins approximately four blocks north of the Downtown and the East Campus of the University and extends north approximately four blocks along N. Gilbert and N. Linn streets from E. Bloomington Street to Fairchild Street along the eastern edge and E. Ronalds Streets on the western edge. Mercy Hospital’s campus is at the southeast corner of the District. Boundaries along the west and east edges generally extend only one or two lots west of Linn Street and east of Gilbert Street, respectively, depending on the integrity of buildings and the presence of parking lots or vacant parcels. Properties facing the intersecting streets of E. Davenport Street, E. Fairchild Street, and E. Church Street are also included.
Since the 1960s, this area of Iowa City has been the subject of intense debate and neighborhood planning. Following the completion of surveys of the neighborhood in the 190s, unsuccessful efforts were made during the early 1980s to designate several larger North Side residential and commercial historic districts to the National Register. These efforts were closely tied to efforts to establish a local ordinance historic district as well. Following extensive debate, public hearings before the HPC and P&Z Commission, and boundary revisions, objection from owners in the southern blocks of the proposed district saw the effort tabled. Following adoption of the 1992 Historic Preservation Plan, the North Side blocks were resurveyed and new efforts were made to establish boundaries for smaller districts. The first such effort in 1994 saw the Brown Street Historic District successfully listed on the National Register and as a local district after an extensive public education campaign.
In 2003, efforts returned to designation of a historic district in the west end of the North Side. A smaller, mixed-use residential and commercial area extending along Gilbert and Linn Streets was proposed for National Register designation. Public debate focused on potential restrictions to commercial development and expansion related to Mercy Hospital in the south blocks if the same area were designated as a local ordinance district. Eventually, boundaries for the National Register area were reduced to the current district. Concurrent plans to designate the area as a local historic district failed when the City Council denied the district in 2004 by a narrow margin.
The Goosetown neighborhood encompasses the blocks at the east end of the North Side and is discussed as a separate neighborhood because of its distinct ethnic origins and building stock. It is roughly bounded by Oakland Cemetery on the north, Rochester Avenue and the alley south of Bloomington Street on the south, North Dodge/North Lucas-Governor Street on the west, and Reno Street on the east. Originally developed in the mid to late 19th century, this area was populated largely by working class Bohemian or Czech immigrants with a smaller number of German immigrants.
Once characterized by small houses situated amidst semi-agrarian blocks, Goosetown grew both internally and on its edges in the decades immediately following 1900. The commercial and civic center for Goosetown lay to the west in the blocks along North Johnson and North Dodge streets. Around North Market square, several churches, successive public schools, and a Czecho-Slovakian fraternal hall were built. Over time, large lots in Goosetown were sometimes subdivided and houses were occasionally moved or more often replaced when circumstances required it.
Through the years, the Goosetown neighborhood remained a neighborhood of closely-knit Bohemian and German families. For the men, work life might include a job at a local brewery or in one of the building trades if you were lucky. For those less fortunate, low-paying jobs changed frequently. For the women, work outside the home included jobs as laundresses and domestics or. if you were fortunate, clerking in a store downtown or working at a printing company or the local glove factory. As the University of Iowa grew after 1900, employment opportunities gave stable jobs to dozens of Goosetown residents.
Through two World Wars and the Great Depression, Goosetown remained a close-knit neighborhood of working class families whose children attended the same school and attended the same churches. They maintained pride in their former Bohemian homeland while they took new pride in their Iowa City neighborhood, their well-kept homes, and productive gardens. Public awareness of the history and location of Goosetown has grown since 1992, especially following publication of Marybeth Slonneger’s Goosetown social history, Small But Ours, in 1999.
Goosetown’s identity as a distinct neighborhood has grown with pride in the modest design and scale of the neighborhood’s housing stock. A parallel recognition has developed of the area’s “affordable housing.”