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.”