Coralville History

Development of Coralville
The development of the Johnson county community that we now know as Coralville began after the construction in 1843 of what was then the largest dam in Iowa along the Iowa River and the mills that eventually made use of the dam’s power. By the time of its incorporation in 1873, Coralville’s population had grown to almost 300 and it boasted a blacksmith shop, wagon shop, meat market, lumberyard, dry good store, and four saloons.
Coral Mills.jpg
The town was christened Coralville in 1866 shortly after Louis Agassiz, a Harvard zoologist, spoke at the University of Iowa about the “Coral Reefs of Iowa city” and was impressed by the samples of fossilized coral that he found in the limestone around the mills along the Iowa River.

Decline and Growth: 1900 - World War II
By 1900, all of the mills had closed and the Iowa city Electric Company had acquired all the waterpower of the dam. Coralville’s economy was so dependent on the mills that their closing spelled decline for the little town.

Coralville began to grow again in the late 1920s and boomed after World War II, largely due to the number of students, mostly veterans, who were arriving to attend the University of Iowa. Coralville was an attractive place to live because of its inexpensive housing, lower taxes, and proximity to the University campus.

Building of the Coralville Dam
The population of Coralville grew from 433 in 1940 to 977 in 1950. Automobile travel and tourism became common, and the "Coralville Strip" became well-populated with retail shops, service stations, discount stores, restaurants, and motels.

During the same period, the Coralville Dam was built 4 miles upstream from the city. Authorized in 1938 by Congress, begun in 1949, and completed in 1958 by the US Corps of Engineers, it has been successful in preventing serious flooding except for the exceptional years of 1993 and 2008.

Construction Commercial & Housing Development & the Interstate
By 1960, Coralville’s population had reached 2,357, and tripled that by 1970. Construction of the portion of Interstate 80, which was at the time north of Coralville, began in 1963.

Commercial and housing development continued throughout the second half of the 20th century, along with growth in city services. The former power station, which had been shut down in 1968, reopened in 1972 as a riverside restaurant.

1990s - Present
By the 1990s, Highway 6, known as "the strip," was ready for a makeover, complete with decorative street lighting and plantings. A city center was developed around the city campus and former post office.

In 1996, work began on Coral Ridge Mall, the state’s second-largest indoor shopping center, at the intersection of Interstate 80 and Highways 6 and 965.

As of the 2010 Census, Coralville’s population reached 18,907; Coralville is one of the top 50 fastest growing cities in Iowa.