End of the line for another historic building in Cedar Rapids
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.
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, 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: