Czech Village Story
16th Avenue S.W. looking N.E. across C St.
The Czech Cottage is the first building
on the left and was originally a pharmacy
from 1901 until 1973
The Czech Village is approximately 3 blocks long from the Cedar River to just beyond D Street in Southwest Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Cedar Rapids, Iowa and many towns that surround it, have long been known for a very large population of immigrants from Bohemia and Moravia during the period of roughly 1864 through the early 1900's.
Like many immigrant groups, they tended to cluster together in certain neighborhoods and establish their own business district complete with everything you might find in any small town, hardware store, blacksmith, meat markets, grocers, doctors, lawyers... and so it was with this area of Cedar Rapids. For years it was called Bohemie town and there was a time in it's history, if you didn't speak Czech, it could be a little difficult to do business in some shops.
This business district was nicely positioned just off the official down town Cedar Rapids and very much in the heart of industry, meat processing, corn processing and heavy equipment manufacturing, plentiful well paying jobs. It was a very vibrant little down town, just off down town.
In the late 1960's to early 70's as heavy industry waned and the original Czech immigrants aged and retired, the district began to deteriorate and developed a reputation as a sort of rough part of town.
In early 1974, the remaining Czech business owners along with other interested Czechs in Cedar Rapids began an effort to re-vitalize the area and re-brand it as the Czech Village, a shopping, dining tourist attraction. The mayor of Cedar Rapids at the time, the late Don Canney, was quick to support the effort. Urban renewal $were spent to provide more parking behind the shops that lined 16th Avenue along with street scape renovations and tree planting.
In addition to city help, there was also the local Czech community effort to establish a Czech Museum. The Czech Fine Arts Foundation Inc. was created for that purpose and is now known as the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library...
more to come...