Washington West Side Historic District Added to National Register of Historic Places

    DES MOINES – As Iowans move into the new year, a new addition to the National Register of Historic Places offers a glimpse into Iowa’s past.

    In Washington, the West Side Residential Historic District has been added to the National Register for its historic residential architecture and development as a neighborhood from 1856 to 1969.

    "Congratulations to all who worked so hard to successfully nominate the West Side Residential Historic District to the National Register of Historic Places," State Historian Laura Sadowsky said. "This recognition marks an important milestone for Washington as it continues to preserve its history for future generations of Iowans to enjoy."

    The West Side district is bound along West Main Street (north), the 300 to 800 blocks of West Jefferson Street (south), South Avenue B (east) and Sunset Park (west). It includes 252 houses and garages, an educational property and Sunset Park, which was developed in the early 20th century.

    The National Register nomination identified four different time periods of historic residential development and numerous architectural styles in the West Side district:

    • Railroad Era, 1850-1885: including Gothic Revival, Second Empire, Italianate and T-plan buildings.
    • Turn of the Century, 1885-1910: including Queen Anne, Foursquare, Victorian, Colonial Revival and Shingle buildings, along with bungalows.
    • First Half of the 20th Century, 1910-1945: including Craftsman, Classical Revival, Dutch Colonial Revival and Tudor Revival buildings.
    • Post-War Period, 1945-1970: including Ranch, split-level, gable roof and hip roof styles.

    “Key aspects of Washington’s historic residential development and significant architectural designs are represented through the buildings and blocks within each of these periods,” according to the nomination form. “The historical and architectural significance of the district is tied directly to the residential history and development of Washington.”

    In addition, Sunset Park and its network of drives and entries were also cited in the nomination form, including 46 contributing structures such as shelters, restrooms, bridges, play equipment, gardens and a pool building.

    The city of Washington’s earliest development goes back to 1839 when it was platted as the county seat for Washington County. But the town’s most significant period of development was tied to the Missouri and Mississippi Railroad (later the Chicago, Rock Island, and Pacific) in the 1850-1860s and continued after the Civil War and into the first part of the 1880s.

    While the town’s leaders prepared for a building boom at the turn of the 20th century, population grew slowly from about 4,300 in 1900 to only 4,700 by 1920. Subsequently, residential construction slowed for the next 30 years as the country dealt with the Great Depression, World War II and post-war issues.

    In 1950, the town enjoyed a new cycle of growth in population and construction, which lasted the next 20 years. It peaked in the 1960s and slowly leveled out throughout the 1970-1980s.

    The State Historic Preservation Office oversees the National Register of Historic Places program in Iowa in conjunction with the National Park Service. The State Historic Preservation Office is part of the State Historical Society of Iowa, a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs.

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    The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs and its three divisions – the Iowa Arts Council, Produce Iowa - State Office of Media Production and the State Historical Society of Iowa – empower Iowa to build and sustain culturally vibrant communities by connecting Iowans to the people, places and points of pride that define our state. The department’s work enables Iowa to be recognized as a state that fosters creativity and serves as a catalyst for innovation where the stories of Iowa are preserved and communicated to connect past, present and future generations. 

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