Rod Library--Special Collections

Transportation at UNI

Transportation has been a recurring issue at UNI throughout its history. However, back in the early years, students had different transportation concerns than where to park a vehicle on campus.

Back in 1876 when UNI first opened as the Iowa State Normal School (ISNS), the city of Cedar Falls had a population of 3,500 (compared to today's 30,000) and was located 5 miles from campus. Students living in Cedar Falls had to either walk on dirt or mud "sidewalks" or pay for a hack (horse and buggy) in order to get to campus. This was very time consuming and tiring.

Cedar Falls

By 1896, the date of above photograph, Cedar Falls and the ISNS community were growing closer to each other. The photo was taken looking northeast from the middle of campus. The current Ethnic Minorities Cultural and Educational Center is the large brick building on the right lower side. Normal Street, now called College Street, runs in front of this building.

Transportation via horse and buggy was still very popular however.  This is a photograph from the 1905 Old Gold yearbook of the Normal Hill postman Charlie Bley and his old horse Dick.

Charlie Bley

The two had been delivering mail to area residents for 13 years when this photo was taken.

Roads and Sidewalks

For many years the roads surrounding the ISNS were dirt covered. When it rained and when the snow melted in the spring, getting around was very messy. Early sidewalks on campus were covered with wooden planks to protect one's feet. The streets and sidewalks were not paved until the early 1900s.

President Seerley

The above photograph of former President Homer Seerley and his family outside the original President's home, now called the EMCEC, in 1891. The sidewalks are constructed of wood planks.

Normal Street
Normal Street in 1897. Notice the long mud puddles and muddy street.
Photo by Veatch and Bull.
Lang Hall
Street leading up to Lang Hall, then called the Auditorium
Building, in 1903.  The sidewalks are wood planks.

Electric Trolley

As early as 1892 the Normal School had hopes for better transportation for its students. Electric motors seemed to be the answer.

Poem "The Motor"

An electric street car or motor line was proposed that year to connect Cedar Falls and Waterloo with a tracks extending south to the Normal School. Although the students were excited about the idea, it wasn't until late 1897 that a street car began operating in the area.

Trolley
Trolley car standing on Normal Street in 1905. The EMCEC
is located just out of the picture to  the left.

The first trolley route traveled south down Main Street, turned right on 24th Street (or Seerley Blvd.), and then right again on Normal Street. The two passenger cars were powered by electricity from a storage battery and charged by a small gas engine.

Normal Street
In this 1920s photograph of the intersection of 23rd and Normal Streets,
you can see the old trolley tracks  running down the middle of
Normal Street. The store on the corner is now Copy Works.
Notice also that the street is paved with brick.

In October 1900, line was laid on the Normal School grounds running east around and behind the Auditorium Building. This was used to deliver construction materials and fuel. In the photo below you can see the trolley tracks in the lower section. It was taken from the top of the Auditorium Building (Lang Hall) looking northeast.

Cedar Falls

By 1901, a street car depot or waiting station was erected on the west side of campus behind the Auditorium Building.  The line extended from Normal Street in the north and picked up students on the west side.

1901 campus map with street car line

In 1907 the streetcar line was moved so that it entered Normal School from the south. The depot was moved to the northeast corner of campus near the Auditorium Building.

Depot
The depot is the small building on the right in this photograph.
Heating plant
As you can see in the bottom left corner of this 1924 photograph, the tracks extended behind
the main campus buildings to the heating plant. Notice also the antique cars in the parking lot.
Photo by Veatch.

A 1919 map, printed in the College Eye student newspaper, shows the trolley tracks entering campus from the south and extending to the heating plant. On May 18, 1941, trolley service in the area ended and was replaced by a bus system.

Automobiles and Parking

Parking has been an issue on campus about as long as there have been vehicles needing parking spaces! By 1924, when the Iowa State Teachers College (UNI) had a fall enrollment of around 2,700, up to 75 cars were parking behind Old Gilchrist Hall on any given day. The student newspaper estimated that 3/4 of those vehicles were driven by students. Many students would drive their family's car to campus from the surrounding areas. One year later, a new parking lot was added south of Sabin Hall. Around 79 cars could park there.

In addition to parking in lots, people were free to park on the street.

23rd Street

The cars in the above photo are parked along 23rd Street. The brick columns to the right border the sidewalk leading up to the very east end of Bartlett Hall, now the Student Services Center. There are houses on the left in the photo where the University Book and Supply is currently located.  Notice anyting missing?  Parking meters!

Students could also park in the circular drive in front of the Auditorium Building.

Old Administration building
This photo is from the late 1930s. The Old Administration Building and the Crossroads
are shown here; the Auditorium Building is out of the photo on the right.

In the fall 1940, a parking lot was constructed west of Latham Stadium (near the current site of the UNI-Dome) with space for 500 cars.

In April 1947, after a college committee created new parking regulations, a campus policeman was hired to enforce the rules. However, many people challenged the new practice of paying their parking fines to the college business office. This was soon turned over to the local authorities. Currently, campus offenders do pay their fines at the Public Safety Office.

Gilchrist

Above is a photograph of the A parking lot west of the current Gilchrist Hall. If you look closely, you can see the top of Gilchrist Hall over the wooden building in front of it. Notice the lot is covered in gravel.

At one time, parking was allowed in the center of campus near the library.

Old Maucker site

As you can see in the above 1964 photo, cars could park directly in front of the library and drive completely around the circle. This site would later become Maucker Union.

These maps show the parking areas, highlighted in yellow, that were available to faculty, staff, and students in 1953, 1965, 1975, 1985, and 1997.  Click on each to view an enlarged image.

1953 map1965 map1975 map1985 map1997 map
1953 | 1965 | 1975 | 1985 | 1997

In the above thumbnail images, north is at the top. Three streets have been highlighted in orange on each map to help orient the viewers: University Avenue is the street cutting diagonally across the bottom right corner; College Street runs north and south on the far right side; and Hudson Road runs north and south on the left side.  By comparing just the thumbnail images you can see how the number of parking lots has increased since 1953. 

Other Modes of Transportation

Bicycles were also a common mode for transportation. Presently, the number of bicycles in use on campus is on the rise. In the early years, bicycles may have been only used for recreation and not getting from here to there.

Rownd House residents
Early photograph of the residents of a boarding
house known as the Rownd House.

One solution to the parking crunch on campus was the Panther Shuttle bus system. The Met Transit Authority provided free bus service last spring, travelling around campus, and delivering students to the College Square area, ROTH, and Thunder Ridge area. The service began January 12, 1998 and ended for the semester March 13. This, however, was not the first time students had a campus bus service. A similar service began in the spring of 1948.

Actual display and web version created by Susan A. Basye
Special Collections and University Archives
October 1998; December 1998


Rod Library Special Collections and University Archives
University of Northern Iowa
Cedar Falls, Iowa 50613-3675
Telephone: (319)-273-6307
Fax: (319)-273-2913
Email: Gerald.Peterson@uni.edu