Project gives rare glimpse into early Iowa City life
Tuesday, September 23, 2014

What if slicing into the soil could give you a window into the way Iowa City used to look, even before the Civil War? Now, researchers from the University of Iowa Office of the State Archaeologist (OSA) are about to get a better view of how Iowa City’s people lived in the town’s earliest years, thanks to an ongoing archaeological dig in Hubbard Park.

Hubbard Park dig
Office of the State Archaeologist crew exposing foundations in Hubbard Park in January 2014. Photo courtesy of the OSA.

The OSA is continuing its work from last winter as part of a partnership with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the State Historical Society of Iowa, Iowa Homeland Security & Emergency Management Department, and the UI.

The investigation initially began in accordance with a federal undertaking after artifacts were found in the park during flood mitigation construction at the Iowa Memorial Union. The original dig was paused in order to finish that construction and to wait for more accommodating weather. It has now resumed.

Hubbard Park dig artificat
A 1907 token found during an auger test at Hubbard Park during the week of September 22, 2014. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Reetz, OSA.

During excavations last winter, the OSA discovered flood deposits from 1851 that left a thick layer of soil and buried an historic surface now below modern-day Hubbard Park. This created a time capsule from Iowa City’s pre-Civil-War era. Archaeologists recorded artifacts and features such as house foundations below this flood layer, a rare kind of preservation in urban settings. Archival research indicates the block was a working-class neighborhood settled during the 1840s.

For the next three weeks, the OSA will work with staff and students from the UI Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences in the College of Liberal Arts and Science to auger test and soil core the park to understand the historic landscape and locate archaeological deposits. Beginning in early October and continuing into November, archaeological excavations will explore the park landform.

The OSA seeks to involve interested students and community members with this project. Volunteers can sign up for fieldwork at Hubbard Park beginning on Oct. 15 and lab work at the OSA after Thanksgiving. An online volunteer sign-up is available at, or contact Elizabeth Reetz at the OSA: or 319-384-0561.

In addition, contact Reetz if you have information about families that historically lived in Hubbard Park, including the Antony Corso, Bradford Henyon, and Joseph Rinella families.

Additional questions regarding media coverage can be directed to Brittany Borghi at or 319-384-0048.