The topography in the Clinton area dictated the pattern of development in the city for many years.  The most important natural feature of the area is the Mississippi River, which has been the focus of development throughout the city’s history.  A dominant land feature is the steep bluff which rises on the north and west side of Bluff Boulevard and North4th Street.  It has sharply inclined slopes with a large plateau at its summit and extends to the west, where it is relatively flat.  A low flood plain area lies between the bluff and the river and extends north along the riverbank to the central business area.  The Mississippi River provides excellent amenities of transportation, recreation, and scenic beauty.  The topographic features along the river offer a wide variety of scenic homesites and a sound balance of land suitable for industrial and commercial activity. 


            The past urban development of Clinton has produced a narrow, elongated growth pattern.  The generalized pattern is similar to that found in cities located along a river, with the early industrial areas and central business district responding to the influence of the river.  The elongated pattern was caused originally by the establishment of the separated towns and areas along the river.  Lyons, Clinton, Ringwood, and Chancy were platted as separate towns and subsequent growth linked them.  Later annexation completed their incorporation into Clinton as one city.  Camanche Avenue and North 2nd Street, which are basic north-south arterial streets in the existing street pattern, originally served as the connectors between the separate towns.

            When the railroad came to Clinton in the 1850’s and 1860’s, the sawmills increased in number and productivity.  The sawmills located along the riverfront and necessitated parallel rail access.  This combination formed the river-edge railroad pattern of today.  The railroads essentially parallel the river and combine with the river to define industrial "corridors".

            The early growth of the sawmill industry and its characteristic location along the river forced grouping of residential development to the west of the riverside commercial, railroad, and industrial areas.  Thus, residential uses were concentrated between the river corridor and the bluff.

            With the exception of some of Clinton’s early exclusive estates, only sporadic development took place west of the bluff until the middle 1850’s when the Galbraith Acres Addition and adjoining area was started.  Recently, a trend toward residential and supportive services has begun to develop on the plateau to the west, while many of the estates and mansions on the bluff have been converted to other uses such as apartments and condominiums.  As the topographic barrier presented by the bluff has now been overcome, the suburbanization land use pattern that had been minimal can now be expected to more closely approach that of the typical American city with suburban sprawl.

            The service/commercial development along Camanche Avenue began in the early 1900’s and progressed in a linear pattern to South 14th Street.  Recent strip commercial development has extended this growth to the southwest.

            Major concentrations of commercial development in Clinton have historically occurred in two areas: the central business district (CBD) and the business district along Main Street in the Lyons area.  As in most American cities, long strips of commercial development have taken place along main traffic arteries providing access to the central business district.  In Clinton, these are located along South 4th Street and Camanche Avenue and north along 2nd Street for a distance of approximately eight blocks from the core area.  Smaller areas of commercial development are located along North 2nd street and the Lyons district.  However, new outlying strip developments with expected expansions are hurting these traditional commercial spines.


            Unlike many American cities of similar size, Clinton still retains a viable downtown and does not have a major, suburban-type shopping mall.  The geography and layout of Clinton in a linear fashion with major arterials passing through or near the downtown have probably worked in favor of the downtown and against outlying shopping centers.  However, the assets of the CBD need to be protected to assure its continued vitality.  The city has plans to preserve and upgrade the downtown core.

            A flood protection dike, costing millions of dollars, recently was completed to protect Clinton the devastating floods of the Mississippi River.  Since much of the city if on flood plain, this was an important project to assure safety and protect investments.  However, the new levee does remove visibility of the river from the city.  While Clinton spread-eagles over six miles along the Mississippi, one seldom sees or is conscious of the river, except from atop the levee.

SOURCE: Department of Community Development, City of Clinton, Clinton, Iowa, An Architectural Heritage (1980)







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I would be more than happy to share any centennial memories, stories or photos you may have in your collection--just drop me a line.  Thanks so much to Jan and the Clinton Co. Historical Society for sharing this with us.





Clinton County History Books

Many books have been written that include information about Clinton County; indeed, they are still being published today.  Below are some that we have info from online: