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Neighborhoods history

In this 1894 photo, Sioux Street Railway Co. streetcars are shown on Center Street near W. 15th Street. Streetcars were key for people living in far-flung neighborhoods, like the West Side, to access the downtown area. 

SIOUX CITY -- A lot of Sioux City folks take great pride in being residents of  specific neighborhoods. 

It wasn't always that way. In the early days, Sioux City was a small town, somewhat more than a mile square -- roughly the region where downtown is now, according to Tom Munson, archives director at the Sioux City Public Museum.

In those mid-19th century years, there weren't really neighborhoods. 

Tom Munson, Sioux City Public Museum


"Up until the 1870s, a very high percentage of the population lived in that small downtown area, because it was close to the commercial district -- churches were there, homes were there," Munson said. "It wasn't until the arrival of the railroad, which happened in March of 1868, that you see Sioux City starting to spread out beyond that core area." 

Railroad repair shops began to open in the Floyd River Valley -- fairly far  from downtown. At the same time, a flour mill opened there. 

With these new developments toward the east, new housing (closer to peoples' workplaces) began to pop up.

These neighborhoods developed in no small part thanks to the city's long-gone streetcar lines. In an era when no one had a car and not everybody had a horse-and-buggy, streetcars were an affordable way to connect people in the outlying neighborhoods to the city core. 

"These people all worked someplace -- even the very wealthy worked someplace," Munson said. 


Among the earliest of these "suburbs," as Munson calls them, was Greenville.

Greenville, east of downtown near part of today's Gordon Drive, began to emerge circa 1870, as homes gathered in the area near Thomas Green's newly built brick plant. 

"Does the 'Green' name sound familiar?" Munson asked. "Greenville." 

The name "Greenville" didn't appear until sometime in the 1880s, roughly around the time that Green's Steam Brick Works was absorbed into another brick company. 

Home construction in Greenville boomed near turn of the century, when workers started to congregate to work in the flour mills, manufacturing plants, brick and tile manufacturers and other businesses. 

These workers needed affordable housing, which they found in Greenville. 

Though Greenville residents had less of a need for a streetcar line compared to other neighborhoods, the area was at one time served by the "extraordinarily obscure" Washington Park & Spring Grove Railway Co. 


Neighborhoods history

Morningside Days Parade in 1976. 

The founding father of Morningside was Edwin C. Peters. He bought land in the area and built a home in the 1870s, and others soon followed suit. The neighborhood had become well-established by the 1890s. 

Peters also donated land to the University of the Northwest, a college in the Morningside neighborhood. Doesn't sound familiar? It would later be renamed Morningside College. 

Where does the name Morningside come from? 

"Morningside gets its name because it's the first part of Sioux City to see morning -- it's in the east where the sun rises," Munson said. Who exactly coined the name Morningside is unclear, but a "Morning Side Fruit Farm" existed in the area as early as the 1870s. 

Neighborhoods history

Morningside Avenue looking south east from Indiana Avenue, circa 1919 or 1920. The origins of the name Morningside are unclear, but a "Morning Side Fruit Farm" existed in the area as early as the 1870s. 

For virtually all of its history, Morningside was a somewhat-above-working-class neighborhood. 

"You have some very wealthy developers living there" in the 19th century, Munson said. 

Back in streetcar days, Morningside was served by the Sioux City Rapid Transit Co., which operated an elevated railroad there. 


Among Sioux City neighborhoods, Leeds holds the distinction of being the only one that was once its own town. 

Neighborhoods history

This photo shows Leeds, looking southeast, circa 1910. Leeds is the only of Sioux City's neighborhoods that was once, very briefly, it's own town. 

"For about six months, between 1889 and 1890," Munson said. Its status as independent community ended when Sioux City expanded and annexed it. 

Among the northernmost neighborhoods of Sioux City, Leeds was another working-class neighborhood. 

Neighborhoods history

This photo, taken circa 1891 or 1892, shows Sioux City Engine and Iron Works in the industrial section of Leeds. The commercial and residential portions of Leeds are in the background. Image is looking to the west from the Great Northern mill at 41st and Arthur. 

People who lived in Leeds would have ridden the Sioux City & Leeds Electric Railway Co. to their jobs outside the neighborhood. 

Smith Villa and West Side

A key figure in the history of the West Side is William R. Smith, whose estate and mansion were, after his death, sold by his widow to become Smith Elementary School (now Liberty Elementary). 

While he was still alive, Smith divvied up his farm into building lots, onto which other people built houses. Some of the early West Side houses Smith might've been familiar with still stand, Munson said. 

The area around his former estate became known as "Smith Villa," extending roughly from West 14th Street to West 21st Street, and from Rebecca Street to West Street. This not-terribly-huge area was, in some ways, Munson says, the heart of the West Side. 

"That would have been the 80 acres that William Smith owned," Munson said. 

Neighborhoods history

Ice skating rink at Gilman Park circa 1925. Image is looking to the west from about 17th and Main Streets. 


Like Greenville, Riverside owes much of its early development to Sioux City's once-booming brick industry. In the late 1800s, there were four brickyards in Riverside alone -- which would later be consolidated and absorbed into Sioux City Brick and Tile. They continued pumping out bricks for decades. 

"Through the 1890s into the early 20th century, these were the successful enterprises, and that's why Riverside emerges," he said. "This is how Riverside kind of emerges as a working-class to lower-middle-class neighborhood." 

Practically everybody in old Riverside made their living through bricks. 

"In an 1892-93 directory of the people who are listed as living in Riverside, two out of every three people in Riverside work at one of the brick yards." 

Besides the brick workers, Riverside also hosted employees of the Milwaukee Railroad Shops, which moved there in 1917. 

"Those shops at their prime, in the 1920s, employed 400 people," Munson said. 

Both the West Side and Riverside were served by the Sioux City & Highland Park Railway Co., as well as a secondary line called the Riverside Park Railway Co. 

The Bottoms

The South Bottoms -- nestled near the Floyd River -- was a working-class area that housed a number of immigrant laborers. Unfortunately, the area was very prone to Floyd River-induced flooding. 

Named the Bottoms "simply because they were in the Floyd River Bottoms," the area was a very logical area for housing its early days. 

Neighborhoods history

This April, 1950 photo shows the East Bottoms neighborhood, at 7th Street looking west from Chambers Street. 

"This is a consequence of manufacturing locating in a flood plain, because it's close to the river, which is -- you can dump all sorts of waste there, sometimes you can use it for power. It's nice, flat building land," Munson said. "You build a factory, the neighborhood pops up around it." 

But being in a flood plain, the homes were all at the mercy of the Floyd River and its periodic floods. 

"The Floyd River flooded to a degree almost every year before it was re-channeled," Munson said. 

Neighborhoods history

This photo, taken circa 1905, shows the Norton S. Rowe grocery store, 210 S. Wall St., in the South Bottoms. 

Very serious floods occurred in 1892, 1926, 1934 and perhaps most memorably, in 1953. Eventually the city decided it had had enough of the wild river. 

"The manufacturing interests wanted to control the flooding," Munson said, and a massive re-channelization project was undertaken in the 1960s. 

The Bottoms disappeared in the 1950s, with the construction of the Interstate and the re-routing of the Floyd River. 


Lifestyles reporter

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