Third Street, Burlington, Iowa

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Starting at the top of Third Street in downtown Burlington, Iowa, I walked down the hill into the heart of the city’s business district. Like most Iowa towns along the Mississippi River, there are steep hills and bluffs rising up from the riverfront, and Burlington is no different.

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I was amazed at the wide variety of building stock, from before the Civil War to the mid-Twentieth Century.

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Burlington was built by the railroads, whose connections seem to be primarily with Chicago and not St. Louis, and the wealth the railroads brought in is evident in its grand buildings.

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The most impressive building, and surprisingly tall, was the Farmers and Merchants Bank and Trust Building. The bank was founded in 1916, and judging from the style of the building, it grew in prominence and assets rapidly.

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The bank is still very much in business and there were renovations going on when I walked by.

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Interestingly, while the upper floors are in a more Chicago School style, the lower floors look to be more Modernist. It is common for such renovations to occur mid-century.

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The bank building forms a giant block of buildings, dominating the skyline of downtown with this neighboring building.

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This amazing Art-Deco theater seems to still be in business; I haven’t seen such a colorful building in this style ever.

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This building looks shorn of its cornice; I would imagine it was a much more ornate building at some point.

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Finally, at the bottom of the hill, the railyards accommodate several large warehouses with curves in their walls to allow railroad tracks to snake around them.

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. Tom Maher-Kirkwood says:

    I cannot tell from the photo: Is that gorgeous theater front Vitrolite or glazed tile?

    1. Chris Naffziger says:

      Not sure, the sun was shining in my eyes and I didn’t cross the street, unfortunately.

  2. The 1937 Capitol Theater was designed by the Des Moines firm of Wetherell & Harrison, Shuttered in 1977, it was restored and reopened in June 2012. The exterior is terra cotta. See

    The building with the “shorn cornice” was originally three stories. The fourth floor added in the 1920s, with a much smaller cornice.

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