Penny Postcards – Iowa City South.

Thus far, we’ve shown you some of our Turn-of-the Century penny postcards featuring Old Capitol & Iowa Avenue, the Central Business District, and the recreational areas of the North Side of Iowa City.

(P-0034) Bird’s Eye View of Iowa City – postmarked Nov. 1915 – Looking southwest, note the new Post Office (1904) and City Hall (1881) in the forefront – with the Johnson County Court House in the distance.
Here’s a map of the South Business District of Iowa City – 1900 – with the Johnson County Court House located in Court House Square.

So now, let’s travel southward from downtown – this time – heading toward the two best-known buildings located on the south side of town…

The Johnson County Court House that stands in Iowa City today is actually the fourth building used for government purposes since the county came into existence in 1838. Click here to read more about the history of the Johnson County Court Houses.

(P-0045) Johnson County Court House #4 – circa 1910. The Richardsonian Romanesque style courthouse in use today was designed by the firm of Rush, Bowman and Rush of Grand Rapids, Michigan. It was bid at a cost of $111,000 and built by the firm Rowson & Son of Johnson County. The cornerstone was laid in December 1899, and the building’s tower is based on Henry Hobson Richardson’s design for the spire of Trinity Church in Boston. The building was dedicated on June 8, 1901.
(P-0312) Circa 1910 – On South Clinton Street, the Court House fills up the entire block – here’s a look north on Clinton Street – taken from the west side of the Johnson County Court House.
Click here to read more about the history of Clinton Street.

Click here to read more about the 1901 opening of the fourth Johnson County Court House.

The Rock Island Depot was built in 1898 and was located two blocks south of the Court House.

In 1898, a new Rock Island Depot was built at 115 Wright Street, replacing the original depot – several blocks to the east – built in 1856. Costing $25,000 and using a design similar in plans to other larger stations in Ottawa, IL and Council Bluffs, IA, Iowa City’s new depot was state-of-the art for the turn-of-the-century.

(P-0188) Iowa City Rock Island Depot – Circa 1910 Click here to read more about the Rock Island Depot.
This rare postcard of the Iowa City Rock Island Depot came up for sale on Ebay in 2023 – going for over $125! A fun publicity shot for these gentlemen!

(P-0226) A shipment of sparkling California wine makes this Iowa City writer quite happy! Our postcard features the Rock Island Depot and is postmarked April 19, 1913, addressed to Mrs. J. Nachman, who is living the life of luxury in the swank Langham Hotel on Eddy Street in San Francisco. The hotel was built in 1908 and in its day, it was the cat’s meow. Today it’s still a hotel sitting in the Tenderloin District and is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. Our card reads…

Dear Byrnie…consignment of wines rec’d in good & perfect condition…my Iowa City friends and I will surely have to order a carload of ice and Bromo (Seltzer) to cure the headache on the morning after the night before. Nothing like a sparkling glass of wine to drive away dull care, yes? With Love (Bell?)”

At the turn-of-the-century, there were two railroad lines coming in and out of Iowa City. The Rock Island moved passengers and freight east & west, while the Burlington, Cedar Rapids & Northern (BCR&N) provided north & south service. Both depots and train yards were in the southern section of the city – making it a great place for businesses and light industry to be located. Click here to read more.

Shrader Drug Company on South Gilbert Streetnotice the BCR&N rail line running directly behind the retail operation.

William Edwin Shrader (1858-1933) opened Shrader Drug Store in 1879 – located at 132 S. Clinton St. (above left). In 1899, Shrader added a drug production company – the Shrader Drug Company – to his retail outlet – moving all production into the Hawthorne Glove and Novelty Company building (above right) prior to World War I. This utilitarian three-story brick structure was built in 1906, was located at 529 South Gilbert Street, and the back end of the building conveniently opened up to the BCR&N rail line. Read more here.

(L-0062) Circa 1913 – From American Carpenter and Builder Magazine, this ad from University Sales Company in Iowa City encourages you to mix your mortar in 3.5 minutes! Get your Harding Mortar Mixer today! Only $110 – but if you’re the first in your town to buy one – only $85! American Carpenter and Builder was a trade magazine published between 1905 and 1917, when it was renamed American Builder.

South of downtown on the Iowa River was the site of a little restaurant and boat rental shop called Sum Place. It was located at west end of the Burlington Street high truss bridge (see map above).

(P-0060) Click here to read about the Burlington Street Bridge.
(P-0062) Sum Place Dining & Boat Rental Advertising Postcard
Photographer Fred Kent adds his humor to his 1911 photo of Sum Place – sadly, heavy flooding knocked Sum Place off its foundation and according to city records it was never repaired.
(P-0063) Fishing on the Iowa River Here, a fisherman sits by the spillway of the Iowa River. The Sum Place is shown, along with the Burlington Street bridge. The Centennial Bridge (Iowa Avenue) built in 1876 is in the distance, as well. Click here to read about the Iowa River Bridges.
(P-0208) Speaking of fishing in the Iowa River, A.M – a student at SUI – wrote this friendly postcard back home to Schmitty in Lead, South Dakota. He must miss their fishing times…
(P-0208) “Things are pretty dead by now altho (sic) we had some fine basketball games…I suppose you’re getting your fishing tackle ready about now.”

Think you seen ’em all? Nope – we’ve just started. Now take a look at the Turn-of-the-Century postcard set we call The Miss Tillie Penny Postcard Collection.

Kudos to the amazing resources below for the many quotes, photographs, etc. used on this page.

Iowa City 1900 Map 3, Atlas of Johnson County, Huebinger Survey and Map Publishing Co., 1900,

Leading Events in Johnson County History, Charles Ray Aurner, Western Historical Press, 1912, pp 20-21

Photos from: Finials – A View of Downtown Iowa City, Marybeth Slonneger, p 98

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