Last of The Flats: Bohemian home awaits rescue in Cedar Rapids
By Cindy Hadish/Save CR Heritage
CEDAR RAPIDS — A once-thriving neighborhood in southeast Cedar Rapids could lose the last of its homes soon.
During its Feb. 23 meeting, the city’s Historic Preservation Commission put a 60-day hold on a Bohemian home at 909 16th Ave. SE, one of the last houses standing in The Flats neighborhood.
Cargill, which purchased the home, would give the house away for free, and is considering offering the cost of demolition to be put towards moving the house, though that decision has not been finalized.
Jon Yungtum, of Weitz Industrial, which is serving as general contractor on the site, said residents had restored the home after the 2008 flood and had only recently moved.
If anyone does want the house, they would have to act quickly, as commission members said they would consider lifting the 60-day hold as soon as their next meeting on March 9.
Commission member Mark Stoffer Hunter said the home was likely built in the 1870s and epitomizes the Bohemian style of worker house constructed in the neighborhood.
A side entrance, rather than a front door, allowed two homes to sit on a single lot as a cost-saving measure for the frugal Czechs who may have worked at the nearby Sinclair meatpacking plant, within walking distance.
“It’s a very Bohemian characteristic,” said Stoffer Hunter, who is also a board member of Save CR Heritage.
Just 35 years ago, more than 120 homes were located in The Flats, named for the low-lying topography next to the Cedar River, with some of the houses dating to pre-Civil War times when the area was still outside the city limits.
“This was a good location,” Stoffer Hunter said, citing not only the meatpacking plant, but the river, railroad tracks, and other amenities that followed, including taverns, a grocery store and St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church, all nearby.
Even before the 2008 flood, the neighborhood had been shrinking as Cargill bought up many of the modest homes for expansion of its grain processing plant.
Now, just three homes remain standing, with two slated for demolition and Stoffer Hunter hoping that someone will step forward to have the Bohemian home moved.
Two additions were built to expand the home, but the original portion remains historically intact, he said, including the wood under the siding. Its small size — just 1,000-square-feet — and solid frame would make it an ideal candidate to be moved, perhaps nearby to an empty lot in New Bohemia, Stoffer Hunter added.
Many homes in New Bohemia, centered along Third Street SE, were demolished after the flood, but the area is seeing a resurgence, with a nostalgia for history.
“These represent the last houses of The Flats neighborhood,” Stoffer Hunter said. “We’re seeing the end of the story for this neighborhood and this home tells part of that story.”