September 30, 2022

Part 2: Newton’s street names

In part one of our story it became apparent that there was a great deal of unhappiness with the “High-Numbered” street plan and everyone seemed to have an idea of their own.

Nov. 11, 1911 — NUMEROUS PLANS OFFERED IN STREET NAMING PERPLEXITY — Among the more than 900 plans suggested, one called for streets east of the square to start with First Avenue, streets west of the square would start with First Street, streets south of the square would be alphabetical, starting with Arlington Avenue and streets north of the square would be alphabetical starting with Arnold Street.

An alternative plan called for streets running east-west to be named after presidents, with Washington starting at the city limits. North-south streets would be numbers, also starting at one edge of town.

Nov. 13, 1911 — THE DAILY NEWS WOULD LIKE TO SEE A SIMPLE SYSTEM —The newspaper's preference was a combination of numbers and letters, like in Oskaloosa. It even included a two column article called "Some Essentials of Good Street Naming System" supporting its plan.

The streets issue continued to heat up and remained on the front page most days until the Nov. 21 decision.

Nov. 21, 1911 — CITY COUNCIL ADOPTS NUMERICAL SYSTEM OF STREET NAMING — although the controversy lived on.


Dec. 4, 1911 — PEOPLE SHOULD ALLOW NUMBERS TO BE PLACED — The council had contracted with C.H. McClean to add house numbers throughout Newton and he was facing resistance from citizens. The city specifically stated that the numbers would not change no matter what change may be made in the street names.

Feb. 13, 1917 — MANY MEN ASK THAT STREETS BE LEFT ALONE — Council was considering leaving our numbered avenues but changing streets to letters west of First and alphabetical names east of First. It was dropped after 115 signed a petition. The petition was led by Oscar Coon.


When did locals start using the new street names?

There doesn’t seem to be a single time when the transition took place. Most ads continued to refer to “1 block south of square, east of Big Store” etc. Aug. 21, 1912 was the first day the masthead for the Newton Daily News carried its new street name.

As late as April 16, 1913, The Newton Journal ran an article on council actions that referred to new street names in part of the article and used old names in part of it. There doesn’t seem to have been a timeline published for when the transition should take place.

What happened to the Mayor and Aldermen serving in 1911?

In the 1913 election, Mayor Meredith lost in a “landslide” and Bergman was third in an at-large election for two seats. Coon, who was on the original streets committee but was the only alderman who voted against the high-numbered streets, was second in the at-large vote and the only alderman re-elected in 1913. Baldwin, Warner, Harvey and Jackson did not run for re-election.