C.R. Resurgence Tour to mark 10th anniversary of epic flood
NOTE: TheC.R. Resurgence Tour will be Saturday, June 16, 2018, from 2-5:30 p.m., with a social hour from 5:30-6:30 p.m. Arrive at the first stop by 4 p.m. and tour sites at your own pace.Admission is free. See the event invitation on Facebook.
In 2008, incessant rains pounded Cedar Rapids from June 11-13. Combined with high water levels flowing downstream from elsewhere in the Cedar River basin, the city and surrounding areas were submerged in unprecedented flooding.
A record crest of 31.12 feet created a surge of water that ravaged the city’s core, inundating homes and businesses in neighborhoods where flooding from the river had previously never reached.
Downtown Cedar Rapids, Czech Village, New Bohemia, Rompot, the Flats, and the Ellis and Time Check neighborhoods were among the hardest hit.
The flood displaced an estimated 10,000 residents of Cedar Rapids, forever changing many lives. In the aftermath, more than 1,200 homes and 200 commercial buildings were demolished, while some sites that flooded were rebuilt and came back to new life.
Iconic buildings such as CSPS Hall in New Bohemia and the Paramount Theatre in downtown Cedar Rapids received support and investment, but smaller buildings also were reinvigorated, sometimes with only the owners who made the choice to rebuild providing labor and money.
In recognition of the 10th anniversary of the epic flood, Save CR Heritage, in partnership with the city of Cedar Rapids and the Czech Village/New Bohemia Main Street District, will highlight several of those sites that not only survived the flood, but thrived, with some completely repurposed.
Warehouses converted to housing, houses converted to businesses, a theater brought back to life and even a historic garden will be showcased during the C.R. Resurgence Tour, from 2-5:30 p.m. Saturday, June 16, 2018.
The free tour offers a rare look inside historical buildings and sites in Cedar Rapids that made a comeback after the record flood.
Arrive at the Mott Lofts, 42 Seventh Ave. SW, for a map and information anytime between 2-4 p.m. and go to each stop at your own pace through 5:30 p.m., followed by a social hour at Lion Bridge Brewing, with food and drink available for purchase.
Hosts will be available on-site to provide information on the history of each of the following locations:
Start: Mott Lofts, 42 Seventh Ave. SW
The Iowa Wind Mill & Pump Company office and warehouse was built ca. 1900-1902 as part of an industrial district on the west side of the Cedar River that emerged after the west-bank town of Kingston became part of Cedar Rapids in 1870-1871. It was a manufacturing facility for a tremendous supply of windmills and water tanks serving the agricultural economy of the region and points west.
Throughout the Great Depression, the company survived by reducing its workload to one day a week. During World War II, the plant was converted to war production, manufacturing pumps, tracer shells, and fuel cell casings and rubber patterns for the military. In 1951, the company ceased producing windmills, with the Mott building gradually became the only remaining one of the original complex.
Linn County purchased the building in 1995 with the intent to demolish it and construct a new county building. The basement and first floor were damaged in the 2008 flood, after which the building was cleaned. The county had it listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2012. In 2015, the building was sold to Hobart Historic, which converted the warehouse to residential units, now known as the Mott Lofts. It is one of the last remaining riverfront warehouses in Cedar Rapids.
The interior contains large, expansive spaces with heavy timber and exposed brick. The original freight elevator was removed in the 1950s, but the remains still existed in the form of wooden braces and large metal gears and pulleys. The existing stairwell was retained and restored and the historic plaster and tin ceiling from the first floor office space was retained.
All of the historic windows were repaired and reused on the first floor and a historic vault was retained, while the original freight elevator shaft remains visible on each floor.
The architect/builder is unknown. Prolific contractor and builder, Amos H. Connor, was responsible for the construction of at least one of the pre-1901 buildings at the Iowa Wind Mill and Pump Company, but it’s not certain that he built this particular structure. Connor became mayor of Cedar Rapids, but died in 1906 while inspecting another construction project.
After ceasing production of windmills, the company became a dealer for Quonset huts for a time, but ultimately focused on plumbing and pipe supply. Through acquisitions, the business named changed over time. J.D. Mott was one of those owners. Mott painted his name over a series of other names on the building: the Thrall pipe supply name, which had replaced the Iowa Pipe and Supply name, which replaced the old Iowa Windmill name. The Mott name stuck.
Rowell Hardware/Dash Coffee Roasters, 120 Third Ave. SW. Built in 1909 for local civil engineer Thomas Warriner, the building is notable for its fireproof construction of reinforced concrete. Warriner was the Cedar Rapids city engineer between 1906 and 1908, and Rowell Hardware was the first tenant of his building.
The Third Avenue facade is of red ironspot brick above a limestone base, with a recessed entrance at the west side, a pressed brick front, and a storefront of plate and prism glass. Brick bandcourses above the transom set off a continuous stone sill at the second story, where the window openings with stone lintels are flanked by brick and stone piers. A stone frieze rises to a projecting metal cornice.
Rowell Hardware billed itself as the “Oldest West Side Hardware Store,” and remained in the building until 1933, with the second floor originally used as office space for doctors and other professionals. Martin’s Grocery replaced the hardware store and remained in the building until 1960, even as national supermarket chains opened nearby.
The building is a contributing structure in the West Side Third Avenue SW Commercial Historic District, recognized on the National Register of Historic Places for its association with the history and development of Cedar Rapids in the area of commerce.
The district’s buildings, oriented on two blocks of Third Avenue SW, reflect the commercial vitality of the West Side/Kingston neighborhood during the first half of the twentieth century. Third Avenue SW had begun to serve as the main commercial street of the neighborhood in the 1880s, as well as linking to the downtown commercial district on the east side of the river.
The 11 buildings of the historic district – eight of which are contributing – were designed for a variety of business enterprises, including a bank, retail and wholesale stores, and professional offices. The architecture of the district reflects a range of styles characteristic of urban towns and cities in the Upper Midwest. One building, the former People’s Savings Bank, was designed by the nationally renowned architect Louis H. Sullivan, and two buildings were designed by the noted local architects Charles A. Dieman and Bert Rugh.
Rowell Hardware is the oldest surviving building in the district, which was hit hard by the 2008 flood.
The building was purchased by the City as a commercial buyout after the flood and was potentially headed towards demolition, along with other Third Avenue SW structures such as the Gatto building, Matthew 25/old Acme Graphics at 201 Third Ave. SW and Kieck’s/old A & P/former Barron’s at 222 Third Ave. SW. At the urging of preservationists, Rowell and the others were instead offered for redevelopment.
Developers brought back the history and character of the 7,500-square-foot Rowell Hardware building, which now houses Dash Coffee Roasters on the ground floor and two apartments above. Express Employment Professionals is located in the one-story addition.
Ellis Urban Lofts, 605 G Ave. NW, was built as a warehouse for the Cedar Rapids Pump Company and completed in 1901. The Cedar Rapids contractor was A.H. Connor, with sub-contracting completed by Loomis Bros. and Doherty Construction.
The work of A.H. Connor is well-known in Cedar Rapids, having been credited with many of the city’s industrial buildings located west of the river, including the Douglas Starch Factory. Connor died of a sudden heart attack in 1906 while serving as mayor of Cedar Rapids.
The Cedar Rapids Pump Company was established in 1881, as Theodore C. Munger came to Cedar Rapids, and began distributing pumps for the manufacturing facility of James LaTourette, located in St. Louis, Missouri. The pair operated under the business name of the Cedar Rapids Pump Company.
Munger was quickly successful, with train-car loads of pumps being shipped from the St. Louis facility
In May of 1884, the local newspaper reported that a new manufacturing plant would open in Cedar Rapids, with an announcement by James LaTourette of St. Louis that he intended to open an “immense” pump factory on the city’s west side using a site donated for that purpose by local property owners, “Messrs. Ogden, Brown, Mansfield, King, and Hull.” Despite his initial preference for Des Moines, LaTourette chose Cedar Rapids due to the city’s extensive railroad facilities and the donated site.
The addition of the two-story warehouse allowed the company to stock ready-made wood windmills, which they shipped across the Midwest.
By 1901, the Cedar Rapids Pump Company employed a force of 40-50 skilled workmen, producing their “famous line of wooden pumps, with metal buckets and brass valve seats.” They also manufactured windmill tanks and various other iron goods including pumps, iron pipe and miscellaneous well fittings.
Company officers were James LaTourette, president; W.C. LaTourette (son of James), vice-president; T.C. Munger, secretary and treasurer; A.E. Mulford, assistant secretary; and L.M. Rich, superintendent.
At T.C. Munger’s retirement in 1902, the company was described as one of the city’s largest manufacturing and jobbing companies, with over 100 employees. In 1920, its name was changed to the Cedar Rapids Pump & Supply Company.
In 1928, the Central Steel Products Company of Clinton acquired the plant. After dissolving, the business was resurrected in 1949 by the Cohn family. Originally in the salvage business (E. Cohn and Sons), the family had branched out as owners of the Dearborn Brass, Inc. and then the resurrected Cedar Rapids Pump & Supply Company, which, through the 1950s, was the wholesale distributor for American Standard bathroom fixture.
In 1969, the company was acquired by Armstan Supply, a division of American-Standard.
The Cedar Rapids Pump Company was then occupied by the Cedar Rapids School District beginning in 1974, which utilized both the neighboring factory building and the warehouse for general storage.
The interior was damaged by the flood of 2008 when water rose in the building beyond the floor of the first story, necessitating the removal of the majority of the flooring at that level. The floor structure was carefully treated and remains fully intact.
After the flood of 2008, the warehouse sat vacant, but in 2016 was renovated by developer Steve Emerson to become Ellis Urban Lofts. The current condition of the building interior, with the structural system more exposed than typical, underscores the significance of that element of the building, which is both physically and aesthetically impressive. The use of full, hewn timbers connected by mortise-and-tenon joints is highly valued as an example of a vanishing, historical construction technique.
Shakespeare Garden in Ellis Park, 2000 Ellis Blvd. NW.
In 1895, a small group of women desiring to engage in the serious study of Shakespeare’s plays and poems founded the Wednesday Shakespeare Club of Cedar Rapids, under the leadership of Mrs. Jenny Sailor, herself a serious student of the works of Shakespeare. Founding of such a club was not unusual at the end of the nineteenth century. Iowa had at least 19. What is unusual is that the Wednesday Shakespeare Club is still alive and well in Cedar Rapids and will begin its 123rd year of serious study.
The club had been established for 31 years when Mrs. Sailor requested that a Mrs. J.J. Hall prepare and present a book report on the book, “The Shakespeare Garden” by Esther Singleton. Mrs. Hall’s report was so inspirational that members of the club were filled with the desire to create a Shakespeare Garden not just for their own enjoyment, but one that would be for the whole community to enjoy.
In 1926, the garden committee of the club approached the city council with their proposal and found the council to be supportive of their idea. An original site was changed to the present site in Ellis Park which amounted to 1.4 acres and club members felt the Ellis site was even better than the first, though the first site was not identified in the records.
Club members spent a great deal of time corresponding with experts across the U.S. and England about this project and worked closely with city government and the Cedar Rapids community to move the project forward. The club had a very limited budget, but they found interesting ways to fundraise, such as a “silver offering” which raised a total of $19.05. Garden showers were also held where gardeners would divide their own plants or dig up bulbs to share. An article in the Gazette urged residents to participate by donating appropriate plants to the garden. At that time only plants that were mentioned in Shakespeare’s writings were to be planted. Coincidentally, at the time, the Cedar Rapids Park Board already employed a gardener from England who was trained in caring for English style gardens. His name was Mr. Wood, though not Grant Wood, who became involved a bit later.
After approval by the city in 1926, plans were drawn up by Mrs. Hall’s son, a student of landscape architecture at the University of Illinois, and approved by both the club and the Park Board, but in1928, the club employed Professor Elwood, head of the landscape and architectural department at then Iowa State College to make plans closer to the original garden at Stratford. Artists Grant Wood, Marvin Cone and Edward Rowan also served as consultants.
While the club and the city spent most of 1926-1927 planning and garnering resources, on Arbor Day in 1927, ground was broken and a mulberry tree of the same species as that in Shakespeare’s own garden was planted during a ceremony that included members of the club and representatives of the city. The club’s goals included such features as: a rustic bridge of the little stream they call the Little Avon, a rustic shelter as the entrance, Titania’s Bower, a sun dial, a pleached alley (garden path with walls of living branches,) a hedge and a bust of Shakespeare.
The original entrance was designed by Grant Wood and Marvin Cone to resemble the thatched roofed entrance to the cottage of Shakespeare’s wife, Anne Hathaway. It also included rustic benches, giving visitors a place to rest.
In 1931, the club achieved one of its original goals, a bust of Shakespeare. It took several years to accumulate the $425 necessary to purchase the bronze bust by the French sculptor, Roubiliac. Mr. George Wilhelm of the Castone Product donated the pedestal of Bedford stone and the brass inscription plate. The octagonal cement base weighing two tons was donated by the city. The bust was the first piece of public statuary to be placed in Cedar Rapids. During this year the city also installed a sprinkler system.
The city and club members continued to work to support the garden, both financially and with their own labor, with notes such as these: “In the fall of 1933, four bushels of daffodils were planted on the banks of the ‘Little Avon,’ and in the spring of 1934, twenty rose bushes were planted.”
A sundial was added in 1937. By 1950, the entrance needed to be replaced, so the current entrance pillars were designed and installed. The city provided the stone wall running across the front of the garden from each pillar, matching stone work from other parts of Ellis Park.
The garden and Ellis Park itself were severely damaged in the 2008 flood, which uprooted bushes and washed away flower bulbs. Peony bushes were among the sole survivors.
Fundraising and volunteer efforts, along with city resources, resulted in new plantings when the group celebrated the 85th anniversary of the garden in 2012. Rudbeckia, coreopsis and iris that are mentioned in Shakespeare’s works were among the flowers planted. While the entrance has been replaced, the stone fence remains at the Shakespeare Garden, along with a replica of the original bust of the bard.
Renovation work is still underway this year, as volunteers have been weeding and planting natives, such as milkweed, to attract butterflies.
Theatre Cedar Rapids, 102 Third St. SE. The Iowa Theatre first opened its doors on June 6, 1928, as a vaudeville and movie house for the Orpheum vaudeville chain, and then became part of the RKO motion picture studio chain.
It was designed in a Neo-Classical Revival style by Omaha architect George L. Fisher.
The building incorporates shops and office space, as well as the theater auditorium and backstage facilities. The exterior is adorned with garlands depicting corn and other Iowa produce in decorative panels.
The original 1,800-plus seat theater (later reduced to 1,500) was beautifully furnished with ornate antiques and offered one of the first crying rooms for mothers with fussy babies. A Rhinestone Barton theatre organ dominates the orchestra pit and is the only one of its type still in operation today. Live acts were performed in front of the silent movie screen to the accompaniment of the organ.
A year after it opened, vaudeville acts took a backseat to the more popular moving pictures. For the next 50 years, the Iowa Theatre was one of Cedar Rapids’ largest and most popular movie houses.
Shortly after closing its doors as a movie theater on April 24, 1983, the Iowa Theatre became the new home to the Cedar Rapids Community Theatre.
Over $2.5 million was raised in two capital campaigns to re-adapt the facility to a 513-seat, handicapped-accessible, proscenium-stage theatre. Rehearsal space, dressing rooms, a new green room and administrative offices were added. Much of the original grandeur was retained, while adding state-of-the-art lighting, sound and stage rigging systems.
Early in 2008, Theatre Cedar Rapids announced “The Next Act” capital campaign to refurbish the Iowa Theater Building, but flooding devastated the building in June of that year, displacing TCR from its home. The organization renewed its commitment to the building and the campaign, and the Grand Reopening was held on February 26, 2010, opening night of The Producers.
The refurbished Iowa Theater Building now contained not only an auditorium stage, but the new black box space, the Grandon Studio. Previously space used for storage, the basement space developed into a wonderful incubator to new, fresh works including becoming the home of the Underground New Play Festival, an important staple in TCR programming.
Today, the Iowa Theatre Building is still home to Theatre Cedar Rapids, which is among Iowa’s largest community theatres. The theater, founded in 1929, first performed in Killian’s Tea Room.
Kurik House, 1024 Second St. SE, houses Baby Time Family Boutique on the lower level, with residential above.
The 1910-era house, named for original owners Wesley and Elizabeth Kurik, was owned by former City Council member Jerry McGrane when it was flooded in 2008. Rather than demolish it, as many homes and businesses in the district were, the city offered the Kurik House for redevelopment.
Don Barrigar, president of 3rd Ward Development, moved the home one lot from 1018 Second St. SE, to the corner of 11th Avenue and Second Street SE in August 2014, where it was restored, with commercial space on the lower level and an apartment on the second floor.
That residential/commercial mix renews a tradition of living close to, or over, a family business, as many Bohemian immigrants did in building this area of Cedar Rapids.
Todd Sabin, who worked on restoration of the house, noted that the porch railings are authentic, and made with old growth redwood. The crown on the lower cross member was designed to shed water. The doors that face Second Street are original designs, original cores and original trim that were reworked to take out rot and delamination.
Sabin disassembled and reworked the original door hardware, but because of building codes may not be there anymore. He also took apart every double hung window, reglazed with flow glass, replaced weights, ropes, pulleys, and restopped and replicated hardware.
The porch columns were on three pallets in staves. He matched pieces, “dutchman’d in” rotted pieces, lathed new bases to match the rotted bases and caps and reinstalled after building the new front porch and pedestals. Sabin recognized Barrigar for taking the time and money to not only save the home, but to restore it to National Register standards.
Herda House, 1113 Third St. SE. Possibly built as early as the 1850s by Albert and Anna Herda, the house was one of the first homes constructed in the neighborhood, now known as New Bohemia.
While the actual construction date is unknown, Cedar Rapids historian Mark Stoffer Hunter said when the initial National Register of Historic Places report was written by Marlys Svedsen in 2002, the Herda House was listed as “circa 1880” as the house was covered in newer siding and the older interior brick walls – possibly mud brick – were not known to exist at that time. Reveals that occurred after the 2008 flood seem to indicate that the house is much older than 1880.
Stoffer Hunter said the building is likely the oldest surviving structure in New Bohemia. The older brick walls discovered under the wood siding suggest the building dates to the early 1870s, when the neighborhood was first developing, or even 1860s or 1850s. Its position close to the middle of the block between 11th and 12th Avenues SE on Third Street SE might indicate it was originally there by itself for a while, Stoffer Hunter said. It could even have been a home outside the city limits for a while, predating the entire current neighborhood.
Development of the block picked up after the 1872 opening of the Sinclair Packinghouse three blocks to the south. By 1890, many more job sources arrived in the neighborhood, including the JG Cherry dairy Packaging Company and the Whiting Foundry at 400 12th Ave. SE.
The single-story house is a contributing structure in the Bohemian Commercial Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and is one of the few residences in the district to survive the 2008 flood, which inundated the tiny structure. Jon Jelinek, owner of Parlor City Pub & Eatery, purchased the house after the 2008 flood, restored it, and the building is now available for overnight guests through Airbnb.
The Herda House received an honorable mention for Renovated Residential from 1,000 Friends of Iowa, an organization that recognizes various renovation projects, “The transformational project made an indelible impression on our jurors, who believe that this little house could have been demolished after the flood and commended the passion and commitment it took to restore the house and preserve Cedar Rapids’ culture and history,” the group noted.
End: Lion Bridge Brewing Co., 59 16th Ave. SW, for social hour.
When Frank Janko opened the Fritz Food Market in January 1939, the store was Cedar Rapids’ first modern supermarket, with customer self-service, shopping carts, and a parking lot for 100 cars. Before supermarkets, clerks fetched items from customers’ shopping lists. “Fritz” was apparently Janko’s nickname.
“Everyone at Fritz’s Food Market is able to speak both English and Bohemian,” according to a newspaper article on the store’s grand opening.
The store carried the Fritz name for just three years. By 1942, it was the second location of Weaver Witwer’s Me Too Food Stores, a local chain that maintained a wholesale warehouse on the same block. It was a Me Too store until 1971, when Joens Brothers Interiors took over the building and operated there until the 2008 flood.
Nearing its 50-year anniversary, the flooring business survived the flood, even as waters from the Cedar River inundated the building to the ceiling. Known as Kuncl Mall, the site also housed Maria’s Tea Room, which specialized in authentic Czech foods, and Merle Norman Cosmetic Studio, which later moved to a new location in Czech Village at 81 16th Ave. SW.
Owner George Joens eventually decided to close Joens Bros. and the tea room and contemplated putting the building in the city’s commercial flood buyout program when the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library stepped in.
At the time, museum President and CEO Gail Naughton said the building, with 70-linear feet of storefront, could have been demolished had it gone through the city’s flood buyout program, with an uncertain chance of rebuilding on the site. The museum held onto the building until new owners stepped in.
“We could have gone outside the city and built a sheet-metal building,” Quinton McClain, co-owner of Lion Bridge Brewing Co., said. “But I think this building proved to be the best location for a brewery. It has a lot of character.”
Lion Bridge opened in March 2014 after extensive restoration work, which included removing layers of pink paint from 4,000-square-feet of walls to expose the fire-glazed brick, and taking out the drop ceilings to restore rooms to their original 12-foot height.
Old photos in the entry vestibule show the grocery store’s original globes that are still on the overhead ceiling light fixtures at Lion Bridge.
Information compiled by Cindy Hadish, Nikki Halvorson, Shanel Slater, Sylvia Popelka and Steve Gravelle.