Saving an early 1900s home: Photos from the J.E. Halvorson House dedication
By Cindy Hadish/Save CR Heritage
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Building “saves” have become increasingly rare in Cedar Rapids, but Save CR Heritage and the community celebrated saving one home from demolition this weekend.
Thanks to a unique agreement with Mercy Medical Center, the early 1900s house at 606 Fifth Ave. SE has become the new headquarters for Save CR Heritage, a nonprofit dedicated to raising awareness about the value of older buildings.
The home was dedicated Oct. 15, 2021, as the J.E. Halvorson House, in memory of beloved board member John Erik Halvorson, 32, who was killed last year when his car was struck as he drove to work.
Save CR Heritage will use the home for meetings, workshops on window rehab and other skills for homeowners, and a site to offer high-quality, low-cost vintage doors, windows, wood trim, sinks, clawfoot tubs, metal heat registers and more that volunteers have salvaged from buildings destined for demolition with homeowners looking for such items.
While the group is grateful for being able to keep these unique materials out of the landfill, the first priority is reusing or repurposing buildings, or moving them if they can’t be retained in place.
Board members have worked with individuals, businesses and organizations to try to save numerous buildings since the nonprofit started in 2012, so it was fitting to celebrate this “save” and honor the life of John Erik Halvorson during the two-day dedication.
Tim Charles, President & CEO of Mercy Medical Center; Abigail Huff, Chair of the Cedar Rapids Historic Preservation Commission; Michael LeClere, Vice-chair of the Linn County Historic Preservation Commission; the Rev. Brian Middleswarth, stepfather of John Erik Halvorson and Cedar Rapids Historian Mark Stoffer Hunter gave remarks at the dedication.
Nikki Halvorson, President of Save CR Heritage, and Vice President Therese Smith also spoke at the event, attended by more than 50 people outside of the house on a cool, sunny autumn day.
Dozens more toured the home — built around 1905 and featuring a grand staircase, pocket doors, leaded glass windows and servants quarters — and went on neighborhood walking tours led by Mark Stoffer Hunter.
“Erik is deeply missed by me, our family, our friends, and our organization in all the ways you can imagine someone so wonderful and talented could be missed,” Nikki Halvorson, Erik’s widow, said during the dedication. “I feel so honored to have this rescued house named after him, this place that will aim to teach our community about the value of rescued, redeemed, and restored historical properties; that will serve as a place where curious, creative people (like my Erik) may learn skills to keep our still-useful historical assets from being taken away from future generations and filling up our local landfill at a peak time in the climate change battle, and when affordable housing is so vitally important.”
“Waste not, want not. Erik says so. He is cheering us on and helping us out from above now,” she said.
The J.E. Halvorson House will eventually need to be moved, as Mercy, which sold the house to Save CR Heritage for $1, still owns the land on which it sits. The group has funded its own repairs for the house — including a new roof, ductwork, plumbing, a furnace, plaster repair and more — during the past months through grants, salvage sales and donations.
Much more will be needed to fund the cost of the move. Save CR Heritage also is seeking donations for window screens, gutter work and paint, and volunteers to continue progress on the home.
Follow Save CR Heritage on Facebook for updates on volunteer opportunities and see more photos from the dedication of the J.E. Halvorson House, below: