116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
HISTORY HAPPENINGS: Cedar Rapids students ‘discover’ history
Iowa BIG students create virtual tours
By Jessica and Rob Cline, - The History Center
Jan. 24, 2023 5:00 am
The younger of this column’s two scribes, who developed a love of history while in middle school, loves projects that connect students to the history of our community.
The History Center developed just such a project in collaboration with Iowa BIG — an initiatives- and projects- driven school program — and the city of Cedar Rapids’ “History Happened Here” program.
The virtual museum project, known as “Linn There, Done That!,” invited Iowa BIG students to engage with a variety of materials from The History Center’s archives and research a location in Linn County from its earliest days to contemporary times.
The students then developed virtual tours of a site featuring video, text, audio and images from the archival materials. The tours can be found online at historycenter.org/linn-there-done-that.
The tours can be enjoyed from the comfort of your home via computer, or you can go to one of the locations and use your mobile device as you walk the area.
One of the tours that caught our eye is 200 First St. SW in Cedar Rapids, the site of an F&M Bank branch. The distinctive building was built as part of an expansive urban renewal project that began in 1969 and which remade First Street almost entirely.
The virtual tour begins much earlier, with the first entry in the tour material saying “this area was part the town of Kingston, a community of about 400 people and named for David King. In 1870, residents of Kingston elected to have their town annexed by Cedar Rapids, and this area then became known as ‘West Cedar Rapids.’ ”
According to the tour materials, one of the primary landmarks of First Street SW for many years was the Troy Laundry Co. at 216 First St. SW. The company’s motto was “Let the Troy Bring You Joy.”
Urban renewal projects in the 1960s sought to remove “blight in the business district,” according to a May 6, 1969, Gazette article.
Buildings on the river side of First Street SW were replaced by an expansive riverfront park system. Buildings on the other side of the street were replaced with modern concrete buildings, like the F&M Bank building.
The one exception was another bank. The Peoples Savings Bank at 101 Third Ave. SW was spared due to its history. Built in 1911, Peoples Savings Bank was designed by the famed architect Louis Sullivan and was the second of his “jewel box” banks in the Midwest.
The “Linn There, Done That” tour ends with the note that the F&M Bank building — originally built as the American Federal Savings and Loan — was the largest of the new concrete buildings that sprang up during the urban renewal process.
Of course, the history of First Street SW doesn’t end in with the end of the tour.
Since the period covered, additional changes to the area include the transformation of Peoples Savings Bank into a restaurant, the creation of the McGrath Amphitheatre in the aftermath of the 2008 flood and the current construction of the First and First project in the 100 block.
But the “Linn There, Done That” tour provides a deeper understanding of the area so that we can see the connections and changes between the past, the present, and the future of our community.
The “Linn There, Done That” collection also includes segments on the history of Ely, a city of 2,500 southeast of Cedar Rapids; the village of Western south of Cedar Rapids; and the U.S. Bank parking ramp at 300 Second Ave. SE, which has a wonderful history that might be easy to overlook as parking ramps do not necessarily pique a person’s interest at first blush.
We encourage you to take a look — and to celebrate the research of young people in our community who are committed to the preservation of our shared history.
We would like to thank The History Center’s Alicia Ramsden for her assistance with this column. And we would be remiss if we didn’t mention that Bryan Cline (brother to Jessica, son to Rob) came up with the name “Linn There, Down That.”
Jessica Cline is a Leadership & Character Scholar at Wake Forest University. Her dad, Rob Cline, is not a scholar of any kind. They write this monthly column for The History Center. Comments: HistoricalClines@gmail.com