The early day developers of Grand Junction had lofty ambitions when they planned a town on the low-lying wetlands on the Iowa prairie. So ambitious, in fact, they platted whole sections of town that could now well be classified as the “lost streets” of Grand Junction.
E. B. Stillman, author of the 1907 “Past and Present of Greene County, Iowa,” described the developers of Original Grand Junction as “two railroad officials, Howe, a division superintendent, and Eastbrook, roadmaster.”
Original GJ is a large rectangle west of the railroad tracks in the north part of town, roughly a 20-block section. While the other three sections were laid out with east-west streets having names and north-south streets having numbers, Howe and Eastbrook took an entirely different tack for Original GJ. There, numbered “streets” ran east-west, and numbered “avenues” ran north-south.
To complicate things a bit more, Howe and Eastbrook made their blocks in Original GJ long and rectangular, while those of the other three platted sections of Grand Junction were square.
What were they thinking?
The earliest histories of Grand Junction make note of a proposed rail line to run from Grand Junction to Sioux City. Being railroad officials themselves, perhaps Howe and Eastbrook gave Original Grand Junction its unique street configuration and rectangular blocks to stand out to prospective developers of that railroad.
By the mid-1890s, it was clear no additional rail line was coming.
No more than a dozen homes were ever built on this proposed 20-block street grid. Then, as now, it was mostly farmland but still within the city limits. So most of the “streets” that had been mapped were never developed, and “avenues” were forgotten, too — Hatton, Scovill, Hill, Park, Grove and North All were north of the present U.S. Highway 30.
Similarly, all the avenues disappeared in Central Grand Junction and became farmland, with today’s North 18th as the only surviving street.
Most of what we know today as the town of Grand Junction developed in the areas originally platted as Central Grand Junction and South Grand Junction, with little development in West Grand Junction. The town never grew beyond the boundaries imagined by those original developers.
The author of this story, Alan Robinson, is a member of the Greene County Historical Society board of directors and is a native of Grand Junction. You can write him at email@example.com.