A new post office building for Waterloo was originally improved in 1969, as U.S. Postal Service officials looked to move from an aging three-story facility, which has since been renovated and repurposed as the Waterloo Public Library. The original plan was to renovate a former department store building, which was purchased by the Postal Service in 1971 for $1.1 million. By 1974, those plans were abandoned as officials determined remodeling costs would be much higher than anticipated.
The contract to construct a new, $2.8 million post office building in Waterloo’s downtown district was officially approved in June 1977. The 105,000-square-foot modern facility opened its doors less than two years later; the Waterloo Post Office remains in the same location today.
Yesterday, the West Carnegie Library Building in the Black Hawk County seat of Waterloo was featured as the Iowa Backroads Daily Photo. Of the 99 cities to receive Carnegie library grants, Waterloo was the only city to receive funds for two full separate buildings. The east library was located in this building from 1906 to 1979; it now houses city offices.
Established in 1896, the Waterloo Public Library began in two rented rooms, one on each side of the Cedar River. Controversy followed Andrew Carnegie’s $30,000 donation for a new library facility, as residents on each side of the river wanted the new facility. Carnegie learned of the feud, and increased his donation to $40,000, enough to allow separate libraries to be constructed. The separate libraries operated for seventy years before moving to a new single location in 1979. The pictured west side location has been well-maintained and is now home to a local law firm.
For the first eighty years following the Waterloo Public Library’s organization in 1896, two separate libraries served the community, with locations on each side of the Cedar River. In 1977, voters in Waterloo approved a $3.6 million bond issue to renovate the former post office and federal building into a new, single library. The project preserved the architectural characteristics of the 1938 building, renovated the interior space to better suit a library, and improve energy efficiency. Visitors will enjoy the two WPA-era murals inside the library, painted in 1940 by Edgar Britton, a student of Grant Wood.
In 1855, the Black Hawk County Board of Commissioners opted to move the county seat from Cedar Falls to Waterloo. The first county courthouse was constructed shortly after, and a second courthouse was constructed in 1902. As the second courthouse aged, according to a 1960 Waterloo Courier article, concerns grew over falling plaster and sagging floors, plus inefficient water and electrical systems.
That year, Black Hawk County voters approved a bond issue for construction of a third courthouse at a cost of $2 million. The vote was passed by a razor-thin margin, receiving 60.35% approval, just a fraction more than the 60% required to approve a bond issue under Iowa law. It was the second time residents voted on a courthouse proposal in less than two years; the first proposal failed due to a controversy over the planned location.
The modern red and black polished stone courthouse was completed in 1964. Offices were moved to the courthouse beginning in late July, and an open house was held October 11.