Walk Into the Past: a Podcast about the Pest Houses of Iowa City

Some of you may know that, in a part of Hickory Hill Park that is near Oakland Cemetery, lie the scant remains of the last pest house in Iowa City. There isn't a whole lot to see, but it's the history and significance of such a structure that is really interesting. This is especially true during these times, when the terms 'social distancing' and 'coronavirus' are on everyone's lips, and an infectious illness has changed the way we all live, work, and interact with one another. Pest house photo

Starting in 1881, Iowa City had a series of pest houses, places where people with infectious illnesses could be quarantined away from others. This practice lasted into the mid-1920s. I first read about this in the Irving Weber books (lovingly digitized by Iowa Digital Library!)that compile his local history articles that were written for the Press Citizen. That prompted me to do my own research using the Library's databases of digitzed newspapers (primarily NewspaperARCHIVE and Historical Iowa City Newspapers), and the result was a Pest House Walk that we did in the park a few years ago. It seemed like a good time to try and make that walk available again, but in a different way...here you have it, the Pest House Podcast!


Join me and my socially distanced colleague/local history buddy, Melody Dworak, as we take a nice stroll in Hickory Hill, learning about the pest houses and how they were used. We started our walk at the Norton Wayside Shelter, which is located at the South (Bloomington St.) entrance to the park. The walk is about a mile long round trip, and might take about 25-40 minutes depending on your pace (your mileage may vary, of course...I'm a slow poke!). When we did a test run (okay, test walk), we got to the actual site about 16 minutes into the recording, with a kid in tow. It goes without saying that you don't have to actually do the walk...listen whenever, wherever! But, if you're looking to get out of your house and into some of the nicer weather we're having, this makes for a good excursion.

Be warned, this is my first time trying my hand at editing audio...extra points to the listeners who say they can't tell when I'm out of breath (and stay tuned for the 'Getting Started with Audacity' class in the Digital Media Lab, someday!). As always, if you have any feedback or questions, contact a librarian or leave a comment below. Thanks for listening! 

map of pest house walk
Speaking of listening, the music I used is “Jessy Travel Gambler” by Lobo Loco.


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Loved it!

This was such a fun listen! Hope you all make more!

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