Photos: Harrison Neighborhood walking tour with Mark Stoffer Hunter
Jun 2024

Photos: Harrison Neighborhood walking tour with Mark Stoffer Hunter

Historian Mark Stoffer Hunter speaks outside of Harrison Elementary School during the start of a walking tour hosted by Save CR Heritage on Friday, June 14, 2024, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

By Cindy Hadish/Save CR Heritage

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — As the Cedar Rapids Community School District Board of Education continues to debate the fate of Harrison Elementary School, the public was given a chance to see inside the architecturally significant building and learn about the surrounding neighborhood during two walking tours, sponsored by Save CR Heritage.

Cedar Rapids Historian Mark Stoffer Hunter emphasized not just the history of the irreplaceable school, which opened in 1930, but its importance to the neighborhood and the entire Cedar Rapids community, during the tours on June 14 and June 15, 2024.

“The Harrison building is special in the story of how it was built, what it looks like and what it means symbolically to the neighborhood,” Stoffer Hunter said.

Save CR Heritage board member Joanie McMahon, right, holds the door open for Cedar Rapids Schools Superintendent Tawana Grover before the Harrison neighborhood walking tour on June 14. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

Cedar Rapids Schools Superintendent Tawana Grover, who attended both walking tours, told those in attendance that the decision on whether to update Harrison or demolish it and start anew would likely come down to cost. The district decided to pause demolishing the structurally sound school for one year while it looks at alternatives.

Read more: Costs for new school to replace Harrison soar

The school district allowed Save CR Heritage to start the walking tour inside Harrison, 1310 11th St. NW, giving the public a chance to see the interior, including a significant mural painted by artist William Henning, the art room, featuring diamond-shaped leaded glass windows, and a copy of Time magazine, which featured Harrison Elementary on its cover.

Stoffer Hunter highlighted neighborhood landmarks on the walking tour, including the new Mirrorbox Theatre in the former Chirp’s Brake & Alignment, 1200 Ellis Blvd. NW; the site of the former A&W drive-in restaurant, 1132 Ellis Blvd. NW; Trinity-St. James United Methodist Church, 1430 Ellis Blvd. NW; the Flamingo event center, still in operation at 1211 Ellis Blvd. NW; and the Mother Mosque of America, 1335 Ninth St. NW, which opened in 1934, just a few years after Harrison.

A sign notes more than $1 million that has been spent on Harrison through the district’s Physical Plant and Equipment Levy fund. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

Attendees also learned about the fate of the first Harrison Elementary School, which burned in a fire, destroying not only the school, but a Grant Wood painting inside.

With pleasant temperatures both days before Iowa’s heat wave, about 150 people in total attended the tours, with additional support by Al Pierson of Pierson’s Flower Shop & Greenhouses, 1800 Ellis Blvd. NW.

Proceeds benefit saving the 1905 J.E. Halvorson House, 606 Fifth Ave. SE.

Learn how Iowa City upgraded schools at half the cost of the Cedar Rapids plan and see more photos from the walking tour, below:

Tour-goers listen to historian Mark Stoffer Hunter during the start of a walking tour hosted by Save CR Heritage on Saturday, June 15, 2024, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (photo/Cindy Hadish)


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