The Time Check neighborhood traces its beginnings to the early 1870’s, shortly after property along the west side of the Cedar River was annexed into Cedar Rapids. The oldest sections developed north of what is now A Avenue NW along the river and extending several blocks beyond the old Chicago and Northwestern double track railroad bridge. In 1875 an iron and wood bridge was constructed over the river, connecting F Avenue NW with B Avenue NE just north of Downtown Cedar Rapids.
By the late 19th Century, a growing Commercial District evolved along F Avenue NW in the area where the Swiss Valley Plant and Cooper’s Mill Hotel and Restaurant stand today. Eventually commercial businesses extended into E Avenue NW. By the early 20th century, Time Check had expanded west to and beyond the road we now know as Ellis Boulevard NW. Restaurants and businesses increasingly mixed with the existing residential component of Ellis Boulevard.
In the earliest days of Time Check, a great majority of residents worked across the river at the railroad yards north of Downtown. The name “Time Check” is said to have evolved from this relationship — the railroads were often short on payroll, and would regularly provide the workers post-dated paychecks. Under credit arrangements with local banks, workers would be allowed to bank these checks in advance of noted dates to cover expenses, and the banks would delay the railroad’s obligation. These checks become known in local parlance as “time checks”, and over time the term grew to be used to describe the neighborhood as a whole. The relationship between local residents and the railroad continued for many years, and when the railroads faded, the Quaker Oats plant provided many residents with new jobs and the ability to remain in the neighborhood.
The tightly-knit, blue-collar nature of the Time Check neighborhood played an important role in its long-term development. Over time, the stable workforce attracted additional industry to the heart of the city, providing stable jobs and opportunities. Its central location near downtown, proximity to the city’s major parks and attractions, pedestrian-based traffic, and location along the river provided the many family businesses and restaurants in the neighborhood not only a local, but city-wide, customer base. Though the neighborhood was experiencing basic industrial decline, an aging infrastructure and residential base, and other challenges faced by the typical historic district prior to the floods, residents and businesses had already long been working with the city to lead downtown urban renewal, attract new residents, and preserve its historic elements. Time Check’s stable balance of commerce, affordable housing, ample jobs and multi-generational residents made it an important anchor in city-wide planning and Cedar Rapid’s long-term urban renewal vision.