Did you know that in 1991, The University of Iowa renamed the green space located just south of the Iowa Memorial Union for Philip G. Hubbard – the first African-American professor at SUI?
The park was first opened in 1926 – calling it Union Park at the time – and it replaced a unique Iowa City neighborhood located on Lots 96 through 99 – a diverse community of hard-working, blue-collar European immigrants, Euro-Americans and African-Americans – all living together alongside the Iowa River.
These four city blocks – Numbered 96-99 go way back to 1839 when Iowa City was first laid out. And long before that happened, Native American tribes called this area home for thousands of years. During excavations here in 2014, archaeologists discovered thirty-three prehistoric artifacts dating from 1,000 to 3,500 years ago. And it was this same land that belonged to Chief Poweshiek and the Meskwaki people when fur-traders from the east arrived in the 1830’s.
By 1840, immigrants began pouring into Iowa City and its on these four city blocks where many simple homes and businesses were built, and over the next fifty years, a unique neighborhood developed. Following the Civil War, many African-American families moved here – making this neighborhood on the eastern shore of the Iowa River one of the most diverse sections of our city.
Sadly, the neighborhood was neglected by many, but still, in the shadow of Old Capitol, a proud diverse community thrived until the 1920’s when SUI finally bought the land in order to develop it into what we see today.
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