Rich History. Bright Future.
Celebrating 150 Years
On October 3, 1873, Coralville officially became incorporated as a town in Johnson County, Iowa. From October 2022 through October 2023, Coralville will be marking our sesquicentennial (our 150th anniversary) to honor our past, celebrate the present, and look toward the future.
To commemorate this historic milestone, we'll roll out free, special celebrations over the next year to help mark 150 years, including:
- Activities and events to pay tribute to Coralville's history
- Festivals and traditions which make Coralville "home," and
- Special events that recognize and celebrate the diversity in our community
Join us as we celebrate 150 years of community in Coralville!
Larger-than-life historical Coralville photos will be wheat-pasted onto buildings in June. Student volunteers are needed in May and June. Read on...
Shop a selection of classic Coralville adult sweatshirts and vintage-inspired long-sleeve tees, retro t-shirts for kids, and cozy stocking caps Read on...
Coralville 150 honors our past, celebrates the present, and looks toward the future. Free, family-friendly events planned now through October 2023. Read on...
Deadline to Submit a Recipe is August 31
Food brings people together! What better way to celebrate our city's diversity and commemorate Coralville's sesquicentennial than with a one-of-a-kind community cookbook with recipes from the community? Learn more about the cookbook
- Public Art
Wheat Pasting Projects for Coralville's 150th
Wheat-pasted murals were installed around Coralville in June 2023 to celebrate the city's rich history and bright future! The Coralville Public Library is overseeing this larger-than-life public art project led by artist Isaac Campbell as part of the Inside Out Project. The project includes wheat-pasting historical Coralville photos onto buildings to celebrate Coralville’s past.
Larger-than-life student portraits were also wheat-pasted on the Northwest Junior High, Kirkwood Elementary, and Coralville Central Elementary buildings to celebrate Coralville's future. Learn more about the wheat pasting projects
Buy Coralville Swag
Shop in Person
Vintage-inspired Coralville t-shirts for adults, a retro sunset shirt, a Coralville 150th anniversary shirt, racerback tanks, adult sweatshirts, long-sleeve t-shirts, children's t-shirts, winter stocking caps, and trucker hats are available to buy in person (while supplies last) at the following locations:
- Coralville City Hall (1512 7th Street): Weekdays, 7:30 am-5:00 pm
- Coralville Recreation Center (1506 8th Street): Weekdays 9:00 am-9:00 pm; Saturdays 8:00 am-7:00 pm
All sales are final; no returns or exchanges.
Commemorative Coin, $10 each
Sold at City Hall & the Coralville Recreation Center
Get a limited edition Coralville sesquicentennial coin! Created in honor of our 150th anniversary, these coins are 1.75", 3 mm, with sandblasted recessed metal and polished gold plating. Only one hundred were created.
Other Local Swag
T-Shirts From Our Friends at Think Iowa City
Merchandise is available from our friends at Think Iowa City (our area Convention and Visitors Bureau). We recommend the classic Coralville t-shirt or the Simple Places t-shirt! Shop
Share Your Story
Do you have a photo or story about Coralville's history that you would like to share? Would you like to tell us how Coralville became your home? Share your story or photos with us! You can either:
- Contribute to the Coralville Digital History Library, or
- Email your story to the Coralville 150th Anniversary Committee
Community participation makes every great event possible! We'll have opportunities throughout the year to assist with events for a variety of skills and abilities.
Sign up to volunteer
Ideas, Questions, and Comments
We welcome your questions, ideas, and comments!
Who to Contact
Coralville 150th Celebration Executive Committee Co-Chairs
Stacey Houseman, Think Iowa City
Laurie Goodrich, Coralville City Council
Email us at email@example.com.
About This Land: Coralville was built upon the homeland of many Indigenous People. Our community exists on land that was home to the Native American Nations of the Iowa, Meskwaki, and Sauk. The Indigenous People faced violence, oppression, and colonialism. Today, we have a shared responsibility to recognize and honor the history, culture, and contributions of the Indigenous People in Iowa and nationwide.
Mid-1800s: The development of Coralville began after the construction in 1843 of what was then the largest dam in Iowa along the Iowa River, and the mills that used the dam’s power. In the early days, the small settlement was known as "Clarksville."
Namesake: The town was christened "Coralville" in 1866 after Louis Agassiz, a Harvard zoologist, spoke at the University of Iowa about the samples of fossilized coral that he found in the limestone around the mills along the Iowa River. Local merchant Ezekial Clark renamed his mill to "Coral Mills," and the small town became known as Coralville. For more information, read, "Louis Agassiz and the Fossil Reefs of Iowa" by Charles Monson (PDF).
1873 to World War II: By the time of its incorporation in 1873, Coralville’s population had grown to almost 300. It boasted a blacksmith shop, wagon shop, meat market, lumberyard, dry good store, and four saloons. The Coralville Schoolhouse was built in 1876 on 5th Street, and Old Town Hall was erected on 2nd Avenue in the late 1880s (it was later moved twice). Both the 1876 Schoolhouse and Old Town Hall still stand today on 5th Street.
By 1900, the mills closed and the Iowa City Electric Company had acquired all the waterpower of the dam. Coralville’s economy was so dependent on the mills that their closing spelled decline for the little town.
Coralville began to grow again in the late 1920s and boomed after World War II. Coralville was an attractive place to live because of its inexpensive housing, lower taxes, and proximity to the University campus.
1940s & 1950s: The population of Coralville grew from 433 in 1940, to 977 in 1950. Automobile travel and tourism became common, and the "Coralville Strip" became well-populated with retail shops, service stations, discount stores, restaurants, and motels.
During the same period, the Coralville Dam was built four miles upstream from the city. Authorized in 1938 by Congress, begun in 1949, and completed in 1958 by the US Corps of Engineers, it has prevented serious flooding except for the exceptional years of 1993 and 2008.
1960s-1980s: By 1960, Coralville’s population had reached 2,357, and tripled that by 1970. Construction of the portion of Interstate 80, which was at the time north of Coralville, began in 1963.
Commercial and housing development continued throughout the second half of the 20th century, along with growth in city services. The former power station, which had been shut down in 1968, reopened in 1972 as a riverside restaurant. Coralville's 4th of July festival, 4thFest, began in 1983.
1990s: By the 1990s, Highway 6, known as "the strip," was ready for a makeover, complete with decorative street lighting and plantings. A city center was developed around the city campus and former post office.
In 1996, work began on Coral Ridge Mall, the state’s second-largest indoor shopping center, at the intersection of Interstate 80 and Highways 6 and 965.
Late 1990s to Present: In the late 1990s, local visionaries began efforts to revitalize an industrial park along the Iowa River and Interstate 80. This launched over 30 years of work with the EPA to transform the area from brownfields into the vibrant community gateway, known today as the Iowa River Landing.
In 2008, Coralville experienced historic flooding. Over 200 businesses and more than 400 households were directly impacted, and the City's infrastructure sustained over $7 million in damages. The City swiftly put together a comprehensive flood mitigation plan with permanent and removable flood walls, earthen berms, raising streets and bridges, storm sewer and stormwater pump station improvements, and raising and fortifying a railroad embankment. By 2018, it had completed permanent mitigation measures to protect low-lying areas surrounding Biscuit Creek, Clear Creek, and the Iowa River to a level of one foot above the 2008 flood levels.
As of the 2020 Census, Coralville’s population reached 22,318. Coralville is one of the top 50 fastest-growing cities in Iowa.
We've opened up our video vault and dusted off our Coralville history videos from the past two decades. Enjoy!
History of the Coralville Fire Department
Original air date: May 9, 2019
Coralville historian Rex Brandstatter shared the history of the Coralville Fire Department in May 2019, when the Fire Department celebrated its 90th anniversary. Play Fire Department history video
Coralville Bygone Days (Episode 1): Restaurants of Yesteryear
Original air date: 2012
Coralville historian Rex Brandstatter talks about some of the restaurants that were a part of Coralville's history. Play Restaurants of Yesteryear video
Coralville Bygone Days (Episode 2): The Case of Old Town Hall
Original air date: 2012
Coralville historian Rex Brandstatter tells a story that dates back to 1871 about Coralville's history. Play The Case of Old Town Hall video
Eye on Coralville: History of Coralville
Original air date: September 2006
Coralville historian Rex Brandstatter, resident Gary Anderson, and then-Council member Tom Gill talk about the history of Coralville. Play History of Coralville video
Down at the Mills: Historic Coralville Mills
Original air date: June 25, 2003
Near the Iowa River Power Company Restaurant in Coralville, 19th century entrepreneurs constructed a series of mills which bore witness to the creation of early Iowa's political system, a horrific industrial accident, and the beginnings of Iowa's electrical system. Bill Whittaker, Office of the State Archaeologist, discussed the history of the water-powered mills, and businesses that relied on the Iowa River and the dam in Coralville. Play Historic Coralville Mills video
A Day in the One Room School
Original air date: May 7, 2003
A class of Coralville Central fifth graders spent a day in Coralville's 1876 schoolhouse and learned like students in the past. This day was made possible by Coralville Central Elementary School and the Johnson County Historical Society. Play A Day in the One Room School video
Digital History Archive
The Coralville Public Library has a Coralville Digital History Library. Check out the images, documents, and histories in this digital archive!
Kids can explore Coralville's history through coloring pages! Look for coloring pages at events that celebrate Coralville's 150th anniversary, or download and color at home!
- Coral in the upper left corner represents our city's namesake. The town was christened "Coralville" for the fossilized corals found in natural rock exposures along the Iowa River, including where the foundation was dug for mills along the river in the 1800s.
- The wheel in the lower left corner represents Coralville's biking and recreational trails, as well as the river-powered mills of Coralville's early days. It also represents the Mormon pioneers who stayed in Coralville in 1856 and 1857, preparing for a 1,300 mile journey from the Midwest to Utah, towing their belongings in handcarts.
- The tree symbolizes Coralville's many parks and open spaces, and the growth of our community.
- Fireworks in the upper right corner represent our community's festivals and celebrations, including Coralville's 4thFest fireworks.
- The iconic 1876 schoolhouse in the lower right corner, with its native limestone foundation and cast iron star claps, was where generations of children in Coralville went to school; it is on the National Register of Historic Places and still sits on 5th Street.
- The vibrant colors of the logo represent the diversity of our community and Coralville's bright future.