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Iowa History Daily: January 21 - Iowa City's Founding

Iowa History Daily: On January 21, 1839, the Legislative Assembly of the Iowa Territory created Iowa City in order to relocate the capital from Burlington to a more central location. Iowa City officially served as Iowa’s capital city from 1841 until 1857.

The Territorial Legislature sent out two men, John Ronalds and Chauncey Swan, in May of 1839 to select a location along the Iowa River in what became Johnson County. The men selected a site overlooking the river, a survey laying out the town from Brown Street to Burlington Street (N/S) and from Governor Street to the Iowa River (E/W) commenced.

As the town rapidly developed, plans got underway for a new capitol building. Crews started construction by 1840, and the territorial legislature moved in for session starting in 1842. John F. Rague designed the building, but quit after only five months of construction due to his frustrations with deviations from his original plans. 

The final four territorial legislatures, as well as the first six meetings of the Iowa General Assembly, took place at the Iowa City capitol building. Although the wish for Iowa’s capital to stand in a central location brought the government to Iowa City, it also drove the capital west when Des Moines gained the distinction as Iowa’s seat of power in 1857. #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar


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