To advocate for incentives to move homes in Cedar Rapids, contact the City Manager’s Office at: 319-286-5080 or firstname.lastname@example.org
By Cindy Hadish/Save CR Heritage
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – Diana Ash remembers storing her crayons in the oak colonnade cabinet handcrafted by her grandfather, and sitting at the built-in desk to draw in her coloring books as a child.
The home, 248 18th St. NW, was in the family since it was constructed by her grandparents around 1927, up until the time her brother, who purchased it from his mother, sold it to a young family many decades later. Hy-Vee bought the home in 2011, along with two neighboring homes, with expansion plans for its Johnson Avenue store.
Diana’s son, Matt, happened past the house in March 2023, as volunteers with Save CR Heritage removed windows, flooring and other items to save them from going to the landfill.
The nonprofit, which advocates to preserve historic properties in Cedar Rapids, had reached out to developers and others to find someone willing to move the house, which was in spectacular condition.
Members of the Cedar Rapids Historic Preservation Commission had voted to not place a demolition hold on the house, and the two homes on either side of it, at a February meeting. Under advice from the city’s assistant attorney, members of the commission are not individually allowed to see the buildings that come up for review in front of the commission and have never visited as a group.
Unless a building is in a local historic district or is locally landmarked, the commission can only place a 60-day hold on a demolition permit, which in itself, is not enough time to move a building, but can sometimes create an opportunity to find alternatives to demolition.
With no 60-day hold, but given the go-ahead from current owner, Hy-Vee, Save CR Heritage had just a short timeframe to find someone to move the home, after seeing its sound condition and intact interior, with not only the original colonnade, but a built-in oak buffet, solid oak doors with original glass doorknobs, French doors and oak flooring.
Many times, the all-volunteer nonprofit finds homes destined for demolition to be structurally sound, and are only removed to make way for parking or “green space,” but rarely are they in such exquisite condition.
Save CR Heritage advocates to keep older buildings in place for their original use as highest priority, or to be repurposed. When that is not possible, the group tries to find someone willing to move the building, and several years ago, moved the Frankie House in southeast Cedar Rapids as an organization and is fundraising to move the J.E. Halvorson House, used as its current headquarters.
As a last resort, the nonprofit’s trained volunteers salvage architectural elements from a building to save those difficult-to-replace items from going to the landfill. The architectural salvage is sold to homeowners and others who can use the items, with proceeds going to the early-1900s J.E. Halvorson House.
In this case, it seemed the house would be a “save” when the nonprofit Matthew 25, whose mission is to transform neighborhoods in Cedar Rapids, stepped forward to move the home, to serve as much-needed affordable housing in the city.
Although initially open to the idea, however, the corporate Hy-Vee office decided against allowing the home to be relocated and moved ahead with demolition plans. Moving a building generally takes months to have a foundation built, obtain permits, be placed on a house-mover’s schedule and coordinate with utility companies and other entities involved in the move. The city of Cedar Rapids currently offers no financial incentives to move a home.
The future purpose of the site has not been given, and while devastated by the news that the home would not be allowed to be moved, Save CR Heritage volunteers worked to save as much as possible from all three buildings, and were grateful for that opportunity. The two other homes appeared to have been damaged, possibly during the 2020 derecho windstorm, and had become dilapidated.
Reaching out to the Cedar Valley Habitat for Humanity ReStore, which has worked with Save CR Heritage in the past, several of the group’s volunteers removed modern kitchen and bathroom cabinets from the 1927 home, along with other items to be sold at ReStore, 350 Sixth Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids.
Additionally, Terry Philips of T.K. Enterprises in Washington, Iowa, saved literally tons of items from going to the landfill, including eight radiators, estimated at 400 pounds each. His crew removed flooring and windows and he also worked with Save CR Heritage volunteers to skillfully remove the built-in colonnade and mirrored buffet.
Diana’s family is the recipient of those latter treasured items, along with the set of French doors, to be kept as family heirlooms for generations to come, a reunion that would not have taken place without her son happening along when Save CR Heritage volunteers were at the site, and providing a silver lining.
Note: Items lovingly saved from all three homes will be among the architectural salvage available from 10-noon Saturday, April 29, at the Save CR Heritage Bloomin’ Salvage Sale.Proceeds benefit the early-1900s J.E. Halvorson House, 606 Fifth Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids, where the sale is held.
See more photos of the 18th Street NW homes, below: