"Neighborhood Development of Early Waterloo"

by Mary Beth Eldridge


The boundaries of the Original Plat of East Waterloo were listed as:

Beginning at Cedar River and Water St. at Mullan Ave., along Mullan Ave. to Franklin St., thence along Franklin St. to 11th St., and along 11th St. to the Cedar River.

The boundaries of the Original Plat of West Waterloo were:

Beginning at the intersection of Mullan Avenue and Cedar River, thence along Mullan Ave. to Randolph Street, thence southeast to 5th Street, thence along 5th Street to South St., then South Street to Sixth Street, Sixth Street to Washington St., and along Washington to 13th Street. At 13th Street due north to a point near 10th Street, and then to the Cedar River.

Neighborhoods of Early Waterloo:

Early Waterloo neighborhoods were platted and developed for many diverse reasons. The neighborhoods quickly reflected their residents' personalities, nationalities, income levels and status in the community. Neighborhoods such as Franklin and South Streets were the prestigious addresses of early Waterloo, where only those with professions such as bank presidents, real estate developers and business owners could afford to live. The working class had their own neighborhoods which were platted out near industrial sites such as the Rath Packing Company (Linden Place Housing Development), the John Deere Tractor Works (Westfield Residential District) and the Illinois Central Railroad Shops (Walnut Court Apartments).

There were recreational neighborhoods, too, such as Cedar River Park and Sans Souci, areas which began as summer cottages and grew into year-round occupancy. Restrictive housing practices created the "Smokey Row" neighborhood. Highland Park became Waterloo's most prestigious neighborhood, showcasing the work of well-known architect Mortimer Cleveland.

Franklin Street Neighborhood

In the 1870s, Franklin Street was the prestigious east side neighborhood, offering the most desirable east side address. Residents of Franklin Street in the early 1900s included: jeweler C.O. Balliett, bank president W.W. Miller, opera house manager Charles Brown, lawyer J.J. Knapp, developer E.T. Cowin, and lumberyard owner Moses Ricker. The average cost of a house on Franklin Street was $2,300 in 1902 with some as high as $15,000.

South Street Neighborhood

This was the elite west side neighborhood of the 1860s and 1870s. Its residents included: banker John H. Leavitt, banker Rensselaar Russell, druggist William Snowden, and city assessor T.E. Churchill. All built elaborate homes on the hill.

West Fourth Street Neighborhood

Manufacturer Henry Weiss built a $16,000 frame house on West Fourth Street in 1902.

Prospect Hills Neighborhood

Platted in 1909, the developers of Prospect Hills wanted it known that their building restrictions excluded all undesirable neighbors. The neighborhood also had setback requirements and a limit of one house per tract. Some tracts were quite large but no apartment buildings or flats were allowed. A nationally known landscape architectural firm from Chicago, O.C. Simonds & Co., were employed to design Prospect's curving streets.

Kingbard Hill Neighborhood

Established from 1910 to 1930. Calvin Kingsley and his wife, Mary Hubbard Kingsley, were the developers. C. Kingsley operated the Irving Hotel and the Kingbard Hill area was the site of the Hubbard family's farm. The neighborhood planned a central boulevard (Kingbard Avenue), curving streets, hilly contours, and a provision for a "children's neighborhood playground," a feature considered quite unusual at the time.

The development of many Waterloo neighborhoods, such as the following, paralleled the development of nearby industrial, commercial or recreational enterprises. William Galloway was instrumental in persuading many factories to locate in Waterloo and he platted and developed the working class neighborhoods around these factories; such as Litchfields, Mason-Maytag Motor Car and Dart Truck Company.

Sans Souci Neighborhood

Charles Bratnober (lumber dealer and real estate developer), George B. Rowell (glove manufacturer) and others, organized the Sans Souci Association in 1897. The streetcar line formed one boundary of the plat. Other island structures were summer fishing cottages. First organized as a seasonal recreational community, in the 1920s city water came to the island and some cottages were remodeled for year-round occupancy.

Linden Place Neighborhood

This housing development was laid out near the Rath Packing Company in 1900 with 26 houses built that same year.

Westfield Factory and Residential District

Thomas Cascaden, Jr. was the prime mover behind the campaign to create the Westfield factory district. The Westfield edition was laid out near the John Deere Tractor Works in 1902. In only one year (1902 to 1903) Westfield progressed from a cornfield to a neighborhood with six factories and several residences.

Litchfield Neighborhood

Was developed in 1903 near the Litchfield Manufacturing Company on West Parker. A streetcar line was run into the area and the land platted for working class residences. Walnut Court A Mortimer Cleveland design, the Walnut Court apartments originated because of the proximity of the Illinois Central Railroad Shops. The 94-unit apartment building occupies its own wedge-shaped block on Walnut Street on the city's east side.

The steel-reinforced concrete, brick and hollow clay tile structure was built in 1922-1923 by a group of investors hoping to attract trade from the nearby railroad depot. Originally a hotel and apartment complex, the building also housed a grocery store and beauty salon at one time in addition to its apartments. In the early 1990s it was owned and operated by the Western Home as senior citizen housing.

Highland Neighborhood

The Highland neighborhood was platted in 1900 and again in 1907. With the help of developers Lewis Lichty and John and Mary Steely, it soon became Waterloo's premier residential district.

An assett to Highland's growth was the nearby hospital. Clustered around Highland Park are some of the most architecturally significant homes in the city. Most of them were built before 1920, including 24 designed by Mortimer Cleveland. Of special note are Cleveland houses at 205 and 215 Prospect, judged by architects in 1979 to be the best-designed houses in the city. Prominent residents of Highland during its peak before 1940, included John and Rueben Rath, presidents of Rath Packing; Keith Funston, later president of the New York Stock Exchange; and A.B. Chambers, later mayor of Des Moines. At that time the neighborhood consisted largely of business owners, business managers, or professionals. After the completion of St. Francis hospital in 1916, the Highland neighborhood also became known as "Pill Hill" for the large amount of physicians living there.

Cedar River Park Neighborhood

Another recreational neighborhood, Cedar River Park was located just north of the Chatauqua grounds in 1891 on the east bank of the river. The area was platted into small lots for summer cottages. In 1892, Dr. O.J. Fullerton built "Glenview" cottage for $300 while Mrs. Barrett built "Vera" cottage for $900.

"Smokey Row" Neighborhood

Restrictive housing practices contributed to the growth of this neighborhood as African-Americans were discriminated against in the area of housing more than any other immigrant group in Waterloo. The "Smokey Row" neighborhood was located along the north edge of the ICRR tracks, bordered on the other sides by Mobile and Sumner or Cottage Streets. Croatians and other immigrants also lived in the area but it became increasingly associated with African-American settlement.

Actually, 110 Black households were located outside the trianglular area on the east side, with many more located in the Westfield Addition. Blacks objected to the term "Smokey Row" because of its negative connotations and said bootleggers and other troublemakers actually frequented a much smaller two-block area by the tracks on Sumner, Oneida, and Barclay Streets.

In 1916, the local realty board passed a resolution opposing selling property to Blacks in a "white district." The group asked the City Council to pass a segregation ordinance too, but the Council refused.