Save CR Heritage project wins prestigious preservation award
Save CR Heritage has been honored with the Judith A. McClure Preservation Project of Merit Award for its Frankie House/Kuba House project.
The statewide award was announced at the Virtual Preserve Iowa Summit on Thursday, June 4, 2020, by the State Historical Society, a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs. See the video from the team at SHPO.
Preservation Project of Merit Awards recognize projects that exemplify the best practices of historic preservation, meet the U.S. Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation of Historic Buildings, and use the State Historic Preservation and Cultural and Entertainment District Tax Credit Program.
The Judith A. McClure Award recognizes outstanding preservation of a residential property.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Preserve Iowa Summit, June 4-6, shifted online this year. The summit is Iowa’s premier statewide annual conference for historic preservation professionals and volunteers, featuring a mix of sessions, virtual tours and an online awards ceremony to celebrate outstanding preservation projects across Iowa.
In 2008, unprecedented floods devastated Cedar Rapids, leading to the demolition of more than 1,200 homes and 200 commercial buildings in the city’s core historic working-class neighborhoods.
Several years later, Save CR Heritage board members took action when they learned a Bohemian immigrant home, untouched by floodwaters, was scheduled to be demolished.
While the home didn’t have the grandeur of a mansion, it was remarkably intact, individually eligible for the National Register and represents an era of the community’s development that, between the flood’s destruction and economic neglect of older neighborhoods, has been largely erased.
Character-defining features include its traditional cottage form, wood lap siding, two historic porches and Victorian-era trimwork and gable shingling.
Formally known as the John and Josephine Kuba House, the home was built in 1894 by John Kuba, a Bohemian immigrant and railroad employee, for tenants Dr. Frank and Josephine Woitishek. In March 1898, the couple’s three-year-old daughter Frankie died, and Save CR Heritage named the home “Frankie House” in memory of the little girl.
The house later was acquired by a neighboring church, which lacked funds for its upkeep and planned to demolish it. Save CR Heritage stepped in to keep the home in the historic Wellington Heights neighborhood, rehabilitate it, and sell it as affordable housing.
The Wellington Heights Neighborhood Association donated a lot, swapped with a smaller lot provided by the Affordable Housing Network, which allowed the home to be moved. State Historic Tax Credits were used, along with cash, in-kind donations and the City’s ROOTS housing program, to fund the rehabilitation.
Board members and countless others volunteered their labor, including local contractors that upgraded the home’s infrastructure while retaining extant historic elements.
This project gave Save CR Heritage the opportunity to go beyond advocacy to active stewardship. It set an example for several subsequent historic building relocations and showed the value of existing structures as cities approach urban infill within the context of historic neighborhoods.
The project shined a spotlight on historic preservation through press conferences, media coverage and social media and galvanized a multitude of organizations and volunteers.
Hundreds of hours of volunteer rehab work were an opportunity to demonstrate historic masonry and teach window repair, along with the guiding preservation philosophy.
More than 130 individuals donated to the effort, which was also supported by the City, our contractor, Morrow Residential Construction, the Wellington Heights Neighborhood Association, Affordable Housing Network, AmeriCorps, board member Emily Meyer of New Leaf Redevelopment Consulting, and numerous local businesses.
This was a true community effort.
Save CR Heritage organized a tour of this and other Cedar Rapids historic tax credit projects to draw attention to the enormous impact of the program in our community.
The home was sold to provide affordable housing for a young family. Save CR Heritage has since advocated for the successful move of two threatened historic buildings in the New Bohemia neighborhood, and are still trying to help facilitate the moves of two homes in northwest Cedar Rapids.