In Eastern Iowa, an Extension Agent Works to Revive a Faded City

In Iowa, an Extension Agent Works to Revive a Faded City 1

David Purdy for The Chronicle

Himar Hernández, an Iowa State U. extension specialist responsible for community-development and leadership programs, helps entrepreneurs get loans for start-ups. He spends a lot of time in Ottumwa, one of the region's poorest locales. "When you look at old pictures of Ottumwa, these streets were crowded," he says.

You can read Ottumwa's history so easily in its two main streets—Main and Second—that they might as well be bound between covers and shelved in the domed Carnegie library that faces the city's Central Park. There are solid, confident buildings that recall long-ago wealth—the YMCA and the YWCA (both now closed), the Hotel Ottumwa (which hangs on somehow), and The Ottumwa Courier's polychromed Egyptian Revival temple. There are relics, too, of the final years of