Copyright 2003 By Bob Hibbs
Saturday November 01, 2003 

Saturday Postcard 218: Local Map Shows Minnehaha & Clarksville

Coralville and northwest Iowa City highlight a section of a century-old township map which focuses on the Iowa River loop

 located between today’s Rocky Shore Drive in Iowa City and First Avenue in Coralville. Note a “Minnehaha” label in the 

river near the east (right) edge, and the “Clarksville” label above Coralville.



By Bob Hibbs


Local history lurks in the lines and labeling of a 1900 map showing Minnehaha along the Iowa River across from today’s City Park and the existence of both Clarksville and Coralville upstream.

The map depicts a block-long island in the river opposite the mouth of Clear Creek, but doesn’t display the historic 1843 Coralville dam then located just a block upriver from the island. Other delightful discoveries follow as one explores the historic treasure.

“Ice House” labeling stands out along the river near the bottom center of the map along a rural road now called Rocky Shore Drive connecting to what is now Park Road. The ice house site is near what is now be the intersection of Rocky Shore Drive with Highway 6 and Hawkins Drive.

Absent from that is the Crandic Railway right-of-way which was purchased in 1903 for construction of that venerable “Interurban” connection to Cedar Rapids via Coralville, Oakdale, North Liberty and Swisher.

The Rock Island route clips the map’s lower left corner, and its spur to the north shows to the Coralville mills and beyond. Among others, the spur served Jacob Hotz, a prominent contractor a century ago, who cut river ice at Coralville and shipped it to Silvis, Ill., where it was used to pack refrigerator cars on national routes.

Hotz may have served residential customers from the “Ice House” showing on the map; but, more probably it was an early location for the Englert Ice Company which later operated its main storage facility at Brighton Beach across the river from City Park.

The map displays identically-sized labeling of both Coralville and Clarksville. The latter was named for prominent Iowa City banker Ezekiel Clark, brother-in-law to Samuel Kirkwood. Clark enticed Kirkwood to Iowa where Kirkwood blossomed in politics as governor and U.S. senator.

Kirkwood, an Illinois lawyer and friend of Abraham Lincoln, successfully managed the Coralville flour mill which had been built by Iowa City founder Chauncey Swan and others. It was closed as a failure before being acquired by Clark and Kirkwood.

Another Iowa town called Clarksville with a post office precluded the Clarksville near Coralville from getting a postal facility, so it eventually was annexed into Coralville and the name died locally. The first Coralville post office sat on a site now in the First Avenue right-of-way near its intersection with Fifth Street.

Coralville became a municipal corporation in 1873 and included the Clarksville subdivision within its boundaries, just as “East Iowa City” was absorbed by Iowa City several decades later.

Like Clarksville, the Minnehaha subdivision name died. It had been platted in the 19th century on the north bank of the Iowa River just upriver from what became the northerly reaches of City Park. The surrounding farm was owned by P.J. Regan, a prominent Iowa City nurseryman.

On his farm Regan built the first local golf course – now part of the Elks Club course – under an 1899 lease, which may make it the oldest American golf course west of the Mississippi. For $500 Regan agreed to build and maintain a nine-hole course for a newly-formed “Iowa City Golf Club” for use during the 1900 season.

He also agreed to move an existing farmhouse to the Minnehaha site for use as a clubhouse with “lavatories and water supplied thereto.” The golf course was purchased by the Elks in 1947 for $20,000.

The Hutchinson farm at the southeast (lower right) corner of the map became part of what today is the Manville Heights neighborhood in northwest Iowa City. Bert Manville bought the Hutchinson farm and put it to use as site of the first local Chautauqua in 1906. Residential development began in earnest the following decade.

Scanning an old map helps one pull together the flow of history spanning many decades.

Next Saturday: Streetcars roam Iowa City.

Bob Hibbs collects local postcards and researches history related to them. 

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