Pox in the park

by on May 26th, 2017

pesthouseThere are many reasons to take some time and visit Hickory Hill Park: have a picnic in the shelter at the Bloomington St. entrance, take a leisurely stroll and see some native wildflowers, go for a run and get a good workout on the hill up to Pappy Dickens’ Preserve, or go and have a nice, quiet sit at one of the many benches that have been installed recently. But hey, maybe you prefer a little disease and/or history when you’re in the park? If so, then I’ve got a walk for you…we’re going to visit the pest house in Hickory Hill Park!

Pest houses were used for a number of years to provide quarantine of patients who were infected with communicable diseases such as small pox and tuberculosis; this was the solution during a time when many hospitals did not have isolation wards and vaccinations had not been implemented to such a degree that the disease was wiped out. It may seem incredibly antiquated, but even Iowa City had a number of pest houses during the years of 1881-1920s; the one in Hickory Hill was the last. While there is very little to see there, we will be able to fill in the picture a bit with information from old Press Citizen articles and a few pictures from Margaret Beck, Assistant Professor in the UI Anthropology Department, who did a mapping project of the site in 2011. If you can’t make the walk with us, but are interested in learning more, stop by the Info Desk at the Library to use our databases, microfilm, and other historical resources.

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