Community

Covington, once a railroad stop, it never grew enough to become a city

Covington Hall still stands in the unincorporated Linn County community of Covington, northwest of Cedar Rapids. The community was a stop on the railroad, leading to hopes of growth that never materialized. (Photo by Mark Stoffer Hunter)
Covington Hall still stands in the unincorporated Linn County community of Covington, northwest of Cedar Rapids. The community was a stop on the railroad, leading to hopes of growth that never materialized. (Photo by Mark Stoffer Hunter)
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The recent opening of the long-awaited Highway 100 extension around west Cedar Rapids includes a couple of new exits onto long-established Linn County roads.

One connects to the west end of E Avenue NW, which is one of the oldest Linn County roads with a true east-west trajectory. What we now call E avenue NW — from Highway 100 east to the Cedar River — is a road that dates to the early 1840s.

North of that exit is Highway 100’s Exit No 3, which has the names of Cedar Rapids and Covington on the friendly green exit sign. A smaller sign informs drivers it is also the exit to the Linn County community of Palo.

The road connecting Cedar Rapids to Palo was, for many years, state Highway 94. It is now designated as a Linn County rural street named Covington Road, which becomes F Avenue NW as it enters northwest Cedar Rapids.

Covington Road, or old Highway 94, was once the route to Vinton in Benton County from Cedar Rapids.

railroad stop

The first routing of the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad (the Milwaukee Route), as it journeyed west from Marion, led to the creation of Covington along the old Vinton Road.

Plans for the town were ambitious in the early 1880s. A railroad depot, station grounds, elevator and stockyards were established by the Milwaukee tracks.

An early Covington plat shows about 100 lots covering about six-and-a-half city blocks. Seven new streets were laid out, including Railway Street parallel to the Milwaukee tracks.

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A general store was built, as well as the Covington Church. Records show that a post office was opened for Covington on Dec. 28. 1882. The first postmaster was William F. Stebbins.

The 1890s through the 1910s were active years for the little community, which stood at the eastern edge of Clinton Township in Linn County.

the general store

Wonderful accounts of early 20th century Covington are provided in The History Center’s archives by residents Beulah Armstrong and Marjorie Stodola.

The center of activity was the old Covington General Store, where all necessities were available in the early 1900s. Kids loved the great glass candy case; particularly memorable were the square cookie tins with see-through windows.

In the early 1900s, the passenger railroad cars would still stop in Covington, taking travelers east to Marion. From there, they could ride a streetcar into Cedar Rapids.

In the 1920s, Covington built a second and larger town hall, which still stands today, with the name “Covington” still visible to the main road.

In its early years, many dances and other social functions were held in the town hall. One particular theatrical event is often remembered, when Covington’s women put on an original play called “The Old Maids Convention.” The show filled the town hall and was remembered for decades.

Covington never grew enough to be formally incorporated as a city.

In the 1920s and 1930s, county roads were improved, and there was no longer a need for Covington to be a passenger railroad stop.

In May 1922, the Covington Post Office was closed and postal service shifted to the larger community of Palo.

stony point school

The children of Covington attended classes at the nearby country schools known as Kline and Stony Point.

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The old one-room Stony Point School building still stands, albeit with a leaning bell tower, at the corner where Covington Road meets both Rogers Road and Stoney Point Road on the west edge of Cedar Rapids.

Stony Point School had the distinction of being the last one-room school house to hold classes in Linn County, with its last class in the spring of 1959. The fate of this striking educational historic landmark is unknown at this time.

With Covington now located just east of the new Highway 100 exit, the area could see new development in the coming years and decades.

Here’s hoping any new residential and commercial projects will consider incorporating the Covington name.

• Mark Stoffer Hunter is a research historian for The History Center in Cedar Rapids. Comments: mark@historycenter.org

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