Historic Czech building set for demolition in New Bo District
CEDAR RAPIDS – A building integral to the history of Czechs in the New Bohemia district will soon be history.
The South Side Civic Club, which later became a Moose Lodge and most recently was Cedar Rapids Tent & Awning, 1207 Second St. SE, will likely be demolished in August.
Cedar Rapids City Council members approved a demolition contract this week.
The building is one of the remaining contributing structures in the historic district, which was hit hard by flooding in 2008.
Opened in 1918, the civic club was built by Czech immigrants in the New Bohemia district, then known as South Side, said city historian Mark Stoffer Hunter, a member of Save CR Heritage.
“It was like their own chamber of commerce,” he said, “to promote the neighborhood and promote the businesses.”
High-quality brickwork, a half-circle window and stately Greek columns marked the front entrance, while inside, a stage was used for theatrical performances and concerts.
The site later became a funeral home before being used by the Moose Lodge beginning in the 1960s, Stoffer Hunter said.
It most recently had been Cedar Rapids Tent & Awning when the district was inundated by the floods of 2008.
Save CR Heritage, along with the Czech Village/New Bohemia Main Street District, lobbied to have the building taken off the city’s demolition list.
Council members agreed to seek redevelopment proposals for the building, along with nine others that were slated to be razed.
The New Bohemia Group submitted a letter of interest, with the intention to use the site as offices and performance space, vice president Greg Stokesberry said.
Stokesberry said the group, however, was unable to come up with funding. A goal of using sand volleyball courts in the district to raise money disintegrated after the city required permanent restrooms and other structures on the leased space, he said.
The building subsequently was one of a dozen Save CR Heritage and Main Street showcased during a tour last September; an effort to capture the interest of potential buyers.
KHB Redevelopment Group toured the building, with hopes of restoring the site, said partner Robert Hach Jr.
Hach, whose ancestors moved to this area in 1852 and were involved in the Civic Club as well as the Moose Lodge, said he had a personal interest in saving the building.
The roof was in poor shape, however, and parking would have to be shared. Also, the city initially had required the building to be moved because of flood plans for the site.
Just behind the building, closer to the Cedar River, the African American Museum of Iowa, 55 12th Ave SE, has no plans to move, Executive Director Michael Kates said.
“It looks like we are set to stay there,” Kates said, adding that the museum has a disaster plan in place, in case of future flooding.
An exact date has not been set for demolition of the Tent & Awning building, but city staff said it could be in early August.
“As much as my family has ties to that, back to its inception, it’s unfortunate,” Hach said. “That building has a lot of rich history.”