Marybeth Slonneger is getting ready to spotlight a new slice of Iowa City history in 2024
Marybeth Slonneger is getting ready to spotlight a new slice of Iowa City history in 2024
Marybeth Slonneger is getting ready to spotlight a new slice of Iowa City history in 2024 1
Street signs in Iowa City’s historic Goosetown neighborhood. Tuesday, May 8, 2018. — Zak Neumann/Little Village
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If you live in Iowa City long enough, you’re bound to discover the work of local historian and preservationist Marybeth Slonneger. A native of Chicago who came to the University of Iowa to study art in the 1980s, she has made a career of researching and publishing her writing on the history of Iowa City for over 25 years.

Small But Ours (By Hand Press, 1999) is her first publication. It’s a written and photographic history of Bohemian Czech immigrant families, their semi-agrarian community and the small cottages they inhabited in the Goosetown neighborhood. Many of the last names of early Goosetown residents are recognized today in the area business and leadership community — Alberhasky, Rummelhart, and Hayek to name a few.

This fall, Slonneger is getting ready to publish her sixth title on local history and architecture, What Was, What Remains: A Celebration of Iowa City’s Domestic Architecture.

The manuscript features side-by-side comparison images of old and present-day Iowa City architecture. She anticipates it will be available in 2024.

“I have been as interested in the less grand buildings as the grand ones,” said Slonneger, who began surveying Iowa City homes five years ago. “And what will be heartbreaking for the reader will be to see the homes that have been demolished.”

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In addition to writing and publishing books, Slonneger has been a champion for the preservation of Goosetown historic structures and neighborhood integrity. She has rehabilitated five cottages in the neighborhood, including the Isaac A. Wetherby house, which had to be relocated to the 600 block of North Governor Street, and securing the local landmark designation of a Prybil family cottage at 937 Davenport St, built in 1874.

The recent changes to Iowa City’s residential zoning codes may leave Goosetown’s distinctive open yards, historic buildings and longtime residences more vulnerable than ever. Slonneger says that she and others in the neighborhood are happy to discuss the future of preserving the Goosetown neighborhood with anyone interested in the same.

Marybeth Slonneger is getting ready to spotlight a new slice of Iowa City history in 2024 2
A bird’s-eye view of Iowa City and beyond. — Jason Smith/Little Village

This article was originally published in Little Village’s December 2023 issue as a part of Peak Iowa, a collection of fascinating state stories, sites and people.


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