University of Iowa

Historical Marker Program

About

The University of Iowa and its campus have a rich history. For more than 150 years the University has responded to growth in enrollment, changes in educational priorities and practices, fires and disasters, and changing educational values. Despite profound change, its history remains in many of the campus sites and historic buildings that have been preserved, maintained and renovated for new purposes.

The historical marker master plan will help to create an identifiable system recognizable to the University community and its visitors.

Goals

The program has three primary components:

  1. Create an overarching historical marker look and feel that unifies the entire system.
  2. Establish an appreciation for the University’s historical development and the place it holds in the history of the Iowa and the nation.
  3. Heighten public awareness of the historic and architecturally significant aspects of the University campus as well as individual buildings, structures, sites, and objects by drawing attention to important people, events and developments.

 

Hubbard Park

The Park

This space served as a residential neighborhood from 1839–1926. Afterward, the University leveled the block and the area became the Women’s Athletic Field. Designated a park in 1991, its namesake is Philip G. Hubbard, the University of Iowa’s first African-American professor and later university vice president.

The Neighborhood

Before it was a park people lived here. Hubbard Park started out as Block 98 when Iowa City was platted in 1839, becoming one of the city’s earliest residential areas. After the Great Flood of 1851, the neighborhood re-emerged in the 1860s with a mix of workers’ cottages, larger houses, and a corner grocery store.

The People

The neighborhood was diverse. This was a racially, ethnically, and economically mixed working-class neighborhood. Many of the houses were rental units; others were single-family homes. Some families, like the Henyons were prosperous; Bradford Henyon was a shingle maker from New York. Others were not so fortunate and lived in poor conditions. Many residents were immigrants, like the Rinellas, a Sicilian family who ran a corner grocery store that was the social center of the neighborhood in the early 1900s.

The Archeology

Houses were 3 feet below where you are standing! To protect their neighborhood from flooding, residents used soil to raise the block’s elevation, burying and preserving older occupations. Excavations in 2014 by the Office of the State Archeologist, University of Iowa, found remains of the old neighborhood, including foundations, a root cellar, and privy outhouses. American Indian artifacts demonstrate that people lived here for thousands of years. 

Artifacts from the 19th and early 20th centuries reveal the neighborhood’s changing demographics, allowing us to enrich the historical narrative of Iowa City. Due to its historic and archeological importance, this neighborhood is eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places.

 

 

Iowa Memorial Union

University President Walter A. Jessup visualized this as a magnificent student union that “rises in memory of the University’s sacred dead, dedicated to the ideal of service for which they made a supreme sacrifice.”

The original building was designed by Des Moines architects Boyd and Moore in the Beaux Arts style. This design retains classical stone pilasters, arches, balustrades, and quoins at the corners. The original structure was enlarged in the 1950s and 60s to include meeting rooms, offices and a hotel. In the 1980s, interior way finding was improved and key spaces enlarged. The 2007 renovation bridged the additions of the IMU with its original facade. 

The IMU is a laboratory for student leadership development and remains the heart of the campus. It has evolved into a place where students meet classmates, grab a meal, attend lectures, and enjoy entertainment. It reflects President Jessup’s original vision that “this magnificent structure” stir “the impulses of the young men and women of Iowa to lives…of service to mankind.”

Flood of 2008

On June 13, 2008, the Iowa River overflowed its bans in a historic flood. Thousands of volunteers built sandbag walls around campus, but even their tireless efforts could not prevent the devastation of 20 UI buildings - 2.5 million square feet of campus.

At the flood's peak, the IMU stood in eight feet of water. Recovery efforts were organized within days, and give months later the upper three floors re-opened. A $39.5 million dollar flood mitigation and recovery investment reclaimed 83,000 square feet of student-center space on the ground floor. 

(photo courtesy F.W. Kent Collection, University Archives, The University of Iowa Libraries)

 

 

Iowa Memorial Union Pedestrian Bridge and Fountain

The Iowa Memorial Union Pedestrian Bridge stands prominently as a link between the east and west sides of campus.

By the mid 1930s, the campus stretched west of the Iowa River to include the arts complex, Law Commons, College of Medicine, and the University of Iowa Hospitals. UI President Walter Jessup envisioned a footbridge that would encourage growth by connecting the two campuses. In 1935 the structure was completed with federal funding from the New Deal program.

UI architect George Horner designed the steel girder bridge with strength and innovation in mind. Its concrete piers were built to minimize river obstruction by standing parallel to the waterow, a unique concept. Rock-faced limestone steps sit at each end.

After the devastating flood of 2008, the bridge closed; the campus was linked again when it reopened in 2009.

(photo courtesy of F.W. Kent Collection, University Archives, The University of Iowa Libraries)

Historical Marker Sign Map and Locations

For a map of University of Iowa Historical Marker locations on campus, click here.

Hubbard park historical marker sign
Hubbard Park

Located off Madison St. in the northeast corner of Hubbard Park.

IMU historical marker sign
Iowa Memorial Union

The signage is wall mounted and located on the south wall in the North Lobby of the Iowa Memorial Union at 125 North Madison Street, Iowa City, Iowa. The signage is wall-mounted, in the northwest corner of the building.

IMU footbridge historical sign
Iowa Memorial Footbridge

Located on the southeast side of the pedestrian bridge, just to the northwest of the IMU.