IOWA CITY — Though the University of Iowa began admitting black students as early as the 1870s, usually only white students received spots in student housing.
But citizens and a private organization took it upon themselves to address the need for housing for black students in the early 20th century — opening a men’s and a women’s dormitory in Iowa City.
Those two buildings, the Tate Arms rooming house and the Iowa Federation Home Dormitory, recently received a Civil Rights grant from the National Park Service.
Iowa City will use the $16,000 grant to develop educational materials on the homes and nominate them to the National Register of Historic Places, said Bob Miklo, Iowa City senior planner.
The buildings, at 914 S. Dubuque St. and 942 Iowa Ave., are now privately owned and have been converted to apartments. The owners of the homes could not immediately be reached for comment.
“I think the most important aspect of this is getting these listed on the National Register,” Miklo said. “Once they’re listed, we want to make sure they’re in the public eye.”
The Iowa Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs opened the Federation Home for black female students in 1920. It housed students until 1950 — four years after the official desegregation of university dorms, according to a media release from the city.
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The Tate Arms building for black male students came later — opening in 1940 and operating until the mid-1960s. The building was named after owners Junious “Bud” and Elizabeth “Bettye” Crawford Tate, who owned a janitorial service and worked at the University of Iowa’s cardiovascular laboratory, respectively, according to the release.
“Both (buildings) are already protected as local landmarks. (The) National Register does bring honor to the buildings,” Miklo said. “It solidifies their importance.”
Both homes are significant in civil rights history in Iowa City because they are “landmarks associated with the struggle for housing equality for black students,” said Jessica Bristow, historic preservation planner, in a news release.
The grant money is planned to be used for signs, literature and a web presence, Miklo said. He said plaques should be placed at the front of both homes and brochures of some sort will be created for use at the library.
City officials hope to publish the educational material in multiple places online. Miklo said he envisioned posts on the city’s historic preservation Facebook page and perhaps on the state’s app for historic sites.
“Making this information available digitally will we think make this more widespread and better known,” Miklo said. “Once you get it on the web, people can refer to it in the future.”
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