End of the line for another historic building in Cedar Rapids
Jul 2018

End of the line for another historic building in Cedar Rapids

This fourplex at 1408 First Ave. NE, built in the 1890s, is scheduled to be demolished in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

By Cindy Hadish/Save CR Heritage

Efforts to save a historic building on the Grant Wood Walking Tour in Cedar Rapids have ended.

Most recently rented as a four-plex, the 1890s building at 1408 First Ave. NE was originally a duplex and home to Dr. Richard Lord, who kept chickens, horses and cows behind the house.

A young Grant Wood, Iowa’s renowned artist of “American Gothic” fame, grew up in the neighborhood and helped Lord with the animals.

Historian Mark Stoffer Hunter said when Wood left church services to tend the livestock he would quip that he’s going to “milk the Lord’s cows.” The home is on the Mound View Neighborhood’s Grant Wood Walking Tour, which is being chipped away and losing an important element; one that tells a story that should be important to Cedar Rapids, but will no longer exist.

Related: Historic building will be demolished without help from Cedar Rapids

Original doors are among the features retained inside the building. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

Plans call for demolishing the building in coming weeks to make way for a Jimmy John’s and Scooter’s Coffee, with residential above the mixed-use building.

Save CR Heritage led efforts to save the building, with Coe College offering to move the structure to a neighboring lot the college owns nearby. Developer Brent Votroubek of H and V Development LLC was willing to have the building relocated, and offered what would be the cost of demolition toward the move.

The city of Cedar Rapids had offered financial assistance, as well, but decided not to consider anything at its City Council meeting Tuesday, July 24, leaving supporters scrambling to come up with funding mechanisms for the move, which was scheduled to begin next week.

Citing the uncertainty of that funding, however, Votroubek said further delays would result in cost overruns for the project, so the building will instead be demolished.

Advocates spoke out in favor of saving the building at Tuesday’s council meeting.

College student Austin Wu cited the building’s historic character and sustainability of moving vs. demolition, in keeping construction materials out of the landfill, among other reasons to save the structure.

Sylvia Popelka is shown outside 1408 First Ave. NE with her father in this 1940s image. (photo courtesy Sylvia Popelka)

Sylvia Popelka, who lived in the home as an infant, reminded the City Council about the decision decades ago to tear down the elegant Union Station in downtown Cedar Rapids and replace it with a parking ramp.

“I have yet to meet a person… who will say ‘I’m so glad they tore that depot down,'” Popelka said. “All I’m saying is, as a community… we can look at certain things and say, ‘this is worth saving.'”

The building’s high level of architectural integrity alone would have made it eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, with fish scale siding, ornate cornice moldings, original porch and windows.

While financial subsidies for developers, in the form of tax increment financing, have become standard for projects in Cedar Rapids, it is rare that incentives are offered to preserve historic buildings, other than state and federal historic tax credits. The city, for example, agreed to $1.1 million in tax increment financing for the $6 million development project, but in the end offered nothing towards preserving the historic building.

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!

Learn about other historic buildings demolished in Cedar Rapids over the past several months:

Bever Building and others in the Downtown Historic District

Josselyn & Taylor mansion and Auto Row

Original architectural features remain on the rear of the building at 1408 First Ave. NE. (photo/Cindy Hadish)
Sylvia Popelka is shown with her parents, who moved into the former duplex after World War II. (photo courtesy Sylvia Popelka)


Julie Wilson

So sad, Cedar Rapids will later be commenting on why were we in such a hurry to destroy such an historical building! They are still kicking themselves about destroying the Depot!

    Cindy Hadish

    Thanks for your comment, Julie! You’re right. We still hear from residents upset about the depot.

    Joseph Daugherty

    I sure would like to get the city to let me purchase this beautiful historic home and return it to its former glory. I have rehabbed 207 homes. Most were over 3,000 sq. ft. I am good it and I would welcome any help others would have in helping to convince the city to let me save this home returning it to a single family dwelling. I specialize in Victorian, Colonial and Mansion style properties.

    Contact J. Daugherty at or by phone at (319) 55O-2OO5 ( landline… so no texts.)

      Cindy Hadish

      Thank you for your note, Joseph! Unfortunately, the developer decided not to wait to see whether or not the city would provide funding and it will soon be demolished. The difficulty often is finding a spot to move a building. In this case, Coe College would have used their own land, but because they own all of the vacant lots surrounding this building, there was no option for anyone else interested in moving it nearby. We often are called upon to save buildings, but generally when there is a limited amount of time. If we know that you would be interested in future moves, we would love to be in contact with you!

      Joseph Daugherty

      Thank you for your speedy reply Cindy… and yes, I would appreciate being informed of future properties.

Lori Westphal


Jeff Allen

When was the parking ramp on 1st street, between 2nd & 3rd Aves built? Also what year did they tear it down?

    Cindy Hadish

    The spiral ramp? That was built in 1961 and demolished after the 2008 flood.

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