Home in Cedar Rapids historic district is latest casualty of demolition by neglect
By Cindy Hadish/Save CR Heritage
CEDAR RAPIDS — A home in one of the Cedar Rapids historic districts was demolished Dec. 5, after years of decline.
Built around 1900 at 1527 Second Ave. SE, the house was an early home to Howard Churchill, an attorney and justice of the peace, and his wife, Hazel.
Howard Churchill was on the planning commission that developed May’s Island, where the Linn County Courthouse and former City Hall are located, and was a Linn County auditor, said his great-granddaughter, Michelle Churchill Bell, who remembers sitting on the home’s screened front porch in her childhood and visiting the nearby Dairy Queen with her father.
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Born in 1875, Howard Churchill died in 1950, and Hazel later married Louis Guider. The couple remained in the house, which was sold years later when Hazel eventually moved to a nursing home.
The house has been vacant for about 20 years, and records show it was acquired by the city in January for $4,318. Because it was considered a safety hazard, it could not be tested and abated for asbestos, said Kevin Ciabatti, director of the city’s Building Services Department.
Ciabatti said the demolition contract, to D.W. Zinser, was $49,700. That includes taking the debris to a landfill in Illinois that accepts potentially contaminated materials.
Demolitions in the city’s historic districts are rare, as they must be approved by the Cedar Rapids Historic Preservation Commission. But buildings deemed dangerous and structurally unsafe can be demolished regardless of the commission’s recommendation.
Preservation advocates have long decried “demolition by neglect,” the term applied when a building is allowed to deteriorate to the point where it becomes a safety hazard. While some cities have ordinances that specifically address demolition by neglect, Cedar Rapids has no specific provisions.
See other photos of the Churchill home before and during demolition, below, and watch a video of the demolition on the Save CR HeritageFacebookpage.