1841 – Walter Butler’s Capitol.
In 1841, the Iowa Territorial Legislature – meeting in Burlington until the new capitol building in Iowa City was ready – announced that they would be willing to come and meet in Iowa City for their winter session of 1841 if the good people of Iowa City would offer them an adequate facility – for free!
As soon as word reached Iowa City, Walter Butler not only volunteered to lead the charge, but he also went immediately to work, building a suitable meeting hall on his property, with the full intention of offering it to the Assembly at no charge, even though that decision ended up being a very costly one for him personally. By early fall, Butler had constructed a two-story frame building on the corner of Clinton and Washington Streets, and here the Legislature met in Iowa City for the very first time in December of 1841.
For the record, the Legislature met here – in Butler’s Capitol – for 54 daily sessions, from December 6, 1841 to February 18, 1842, passing 127 laws on such issues as roads, ferries, dams, private and municipal incorporation, and divorce. They appropriated $24,412 in funding, including $3 to the local justice of the peace, but not one penny to Walter Butler for the use of his facility!
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