Demolition permits requested for three buildings in downtown historic district
By Cindy Hadish/Save CR Heritage
CEDAR RAPIDS – A company long known for constructing buildings will soon be forever tied to tearing them down.
And not just any buildings.
Skogman Partnership has applied for demolition permits for three buildings in the Downtown National Historic District, including the iconic Bever Building, at 417 First Ave. SE.
Last night – Feb. 8, 2018 – the city’s Historic Preservation Commission put a 60-day hold on all three requests, but other than that, can do nothing to prevent the demolitions.
The designation on the National Register of Historic Places offers tax credits and other incentives for owners to rehabilitate their buildings, but similar to the commission, offers no protection from demolition.
Both the two-story, 5,475-square-foot Bever Building and the one-story Faulkes Building, at 421 First Ave. SE, home to Sub City for decades, are considered “contributing” structures to the downtown historic district, due to the integrity of their architecture. Both were constructed in 1923.
The third building, the Albert Auto site at 427 First Ave. SE, was built in the 1920s with additions in the 1950s, and is considered non-contributing to the district, though underneath exterior siding, the original brick remains.
Ivan Gonzalez, city liaison for the Historic Preservation Commission, said a representative of the State Historic Preservation Office noted that the demolitions of the Bever and Faulkes buildings would weaken that end of the historic district, which was added to the register in 2015.
According to the City Assessor’s Office, Skogman Partnership purchased the Bever Building in September 2016 for $564,500. Notations indicate the building had a new HVAC system, wiring, roof and windows installed in 2013 and cited “good quality offices in average condition.”
Representatives of Skogman Partnership told commission members last night that the building was in poor condition and that changes needed to make the building accessible and with an “open office” concept, rather than individual rooms, would harm the building’s historical character.
“We found we were unable to do the things we needed to do,” Chris Skogman said.
Skogman Partnership purchased the Albert Auto and Faulkes buildings in August 2016 for $550,000, according to the assessor’s site.
Landon Burg, project architect with OPN Architects, said the Bever Building was constructed “site-specific” and therefore was not a good candidate to be moved. “Anything can be moved,” he added, but said the timing might be difficult.
Dennis Jordan, of Mortenson Construction, the builder for the project, said the Skogmans might be open to having the building moved, as long as it could be done in the next 60 days.
Skogman Homes has done work in Cedar Rapids since the 1940s and its current office, next door to the Bever Building, at 411 First Ave. SE, has been purchased by developer Steve Emerson, who plans to restore its historic character. The five-story building, designed by Josselyn and Taylor, was constructed in 1885 as the headquarters of the Burlington, Cedar Rapids and Northern Railway.
Saying the Skogmans recognized the historic significance of the Bever Building, Hunter Skogman said they would try to salvage the sign etched in stone at the front of the building with the Bever name, among the city’s most notable early families.
Bever Park is named in recognition of the family, but the downtown building is the only one remaining with the Bever name.
The building was constructed to house offices of the Bever family’s Park Avenue Realty Co., with a marble staircase and main hall, terrazzo hallways and mahogany trim. The building was purchased in the 1950s by Howard R. Green Co. and was later known as the Irvine Building, after being sold to attorney Michael Irvine.
Sub City was in the historic Faulkes Building, which began as a dry cleaners before becoming a radio equipment shop, and later Zuber’s Sound Around, a stereo shop, city historian Mark Stoffer Hunter said. He noted that the Bever family mansions were located on that block, beginning in the 1850s.
“It’s steeped in family history – that whole site is,” Stoffer Hunter said, adding that the entire block is the only one in downtown Cedar Rapids that hasn’t succumbed to demolitions in more than 50 years. “Especially with the Bever Building, a lot of history will be lost and it can’t be returned.”
Skogman plans to build a three-story office building in the coming year after the demolitions take place.
Save CR Heritage has been raising awareness of at-risk historic properties in Cedar Rapids since 2012. Help continue this important educational and advocacy work by donating here. We can’t do it without you!
My name is Howard Ruggles Green II, one of the Grand children of Howard R.(Hod) Green, who founded and operated the Howard R. Green Engineering Co. in Cedar Rapids for nearly 50 years. Most all of us remember visiting our “Grandpa” at his office in the Bever Building. He was so dedicated to his Company, to the monumental advances in environmental conditions in Iowa and Cedar Rapids that they undertook … that he actually died in his chair in his office in that building.
A building especially a beautiful historic building such as this one, is much more than the brick and mortar..trim and light fixtures…the building represents, is part of, even a witness and participant in essential historic values and memories that help us identify our own character, our own best selves, who we are here today.
Alternative spreadsheets projecting possible future dollar returns to the owners of property constitute a single factor evaluation, of what should happen to such irreplaceable resources. We hope those in control can instead approach the issue to include in their valuation of alternative futures, the rich and irreplaceable representation of community history and character represented by the Bever Building.
Thank you so much for your insightful comment, Howard. What an incredible testament to the value of saving these historic buildings!
My grandmother, Belle Taylor was Mr. Green’s bookkeeper. She passed away unexpectedly in 1937 and Mr. Green served as a pallbearer at her service. As a young girl, my mother would wait for her mother to get off work often sitting on the steps of the building. It was one of mother’s fondest memories. Whenever I go by the building I think about my family’s connection to that historic building and mom’s memories of downtown Cedar Rapids.
What a beautiful story, Marcia! Thank you for sharing this. Those generational connections are among the many reasons why it’s important to save these historic properties.
What a shame. We lost so much in the flood and one of the few remaining bldgs we have left is being threatened. I’ve lived here in CR all my life … it’s so sad that those in power and who have the money don’t value what little history we have left. With all that land on the West side barren, why not use that instead of tearing down yet another piece of our history. Shame on those that keep on taking, it’s pure gluttony and disregard for those of us who don’t have their money or clout. On well, at least we can say that we’ve got the largest toilet-bowl brush.
Thank you for your message, Peg. We couldn’t agree more!
Just this evening I learned that PCI is interested in more land which would require the demolition of yet another “mansion”. Hey, I have an idea … why not tear EVERYTHING down that has any history, beauty or character to it … get rid of it all. If a person wants new and bland … visit the newer federal bldg. If you want character and beauty then KEEP GOING to places like Marion Iowa, Gelena and McGregor.