The city, which early acquired the title of the “Athens of Iowa,” was described by Andreas in 1875 as having “long enjoyed a reputation abroad for its liberal support for educational institutions and churches, and the high standard of morality maintained by its citizens generally.” 29The community was established on the open high prairie approximately in the center of Henry County, and it thus was selected to be the site for the county courthouse. An informal platting of the site of the future city took place in 1835, but it was not officially surveyed until 1837 when a grid of 35 blocks was recorded. Though the grid was supposedly oriented to the cardinal points of the compass, it was in fact askew, the principal streets running west-northwest and east-southeast. A public square was provided in the center of the grid (it now contains an Art Deco WPA bandstand of 1937). The educational institutions for which the community became known, Iowa Wesleyan University, the Female Seminary, and the German College, were situated at the edges of the town. In 1851, Mount Pleasant was joined to Burlington to the east by a wood plank road. By 1860 the city was connected to the east and west by the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy Railroad.
Mount Pleasant's economy has to a considerable degree been geared toward its educational institutions, supplemented by serving the surrounding rich farmlands. It has retained a large number of original 1850s and 1860s business blocks. The residential architecture boasts three of the state's outstanding examples of the towered Italian Villa mode, and it exhibits a number of excellent examples of the late Queen Anne style. 30Gone now is the original 1855–1865 building for the Iowa Hospital for the Insane, an elongated structure of three and four stories with five pavilions, designed in the Italianate style by Jonathan Preston.
Andreas, Atlas of the State of Iowa, 1875, 488.
Melba Rae Widmen, Victorian Home Architecture, Mt. Pleasant (Mount Pleasant: 1989).
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