Built in 1894 by John Kuba, a Bohemian immigrant and railroad employee, the house had been used most recently as a rental by the neighboring church, whose members decided they no longer had the funds for its upkeep and took out a demolition permit to clear the site for green space.
Save CR Heritage worked to spread the word about the house and search for a potential buyer. When no one stepped forward, board members voted to take on the project to move and rehabilitate the home, a first for the group, which was founded in 2012 in response to the demolition of two historic churches in Cedar Rapids.
Kuba’s first tenants, Dr. Frank and Josephine Woitishek, lived there from 1895 to 1898. In March 1898, the couple’s three-year-old daughter Frankie died, perhaps prompting the couple’s decision to move that summer. Members of Save CR Heritage named the home “Frankie House” in memory of the little girl.
The church agreed to sell the house to Save CR Heritage for $10 and the project was announced at a press conference in May 2015. That September, the home was moved approximately four blocks to its new location.
Save CR Heritage took out a bank loan to finance the cost of the move, along with building a new foundation, faced with masonry work reflecting the time period in which the house was built, and other needed repairs.
Board members spent hundreds of hours volunteering on weekends to scrape the exterior paint – under lead-safe paint practices – and prime and paint the house, as well as begin interior work. The board recruited other volunteers, including AmeriCorps NCC members, to help with the rehab, and reached out to contractors who donated a new roof, heating and cooling system, and other needed amenities.
The home is being offered for sale as affordable housing. Save CR Heritage hopes to use the experience as a model for other projects, with the Frankie House serving as a point of pride and inspiration for the Wellington Heights neighborhood and a home for a new family for generations to come.