Historic preservation takes center stage in new Kirkwood program
CEDAR RAPIDS – Even in working for one of the most iconic historic sites in Iowa, Taylor Manley knows there is always something new to learn about historic preservation.
“It’s one of those fields where there is a lot of potential, but there’s not a lot of people doing it,” said Manley, buildings and grounds specialist at Brucemore, a 26-acre estate centered around a 19th-century mansion in the heart of Cedar Rapids.
A new program offered by Kirkwood Community College could fill some of that void.
Kirkwood’s new Historic Preservation course series offers certificates in both exterior and interior historic preservation. The college notes that historical structure repair and preservation is a growing industry with workers in construction firms, local, state, and federal government positions, museums and preservation agencies.
Program Developer Carlton Goodwin said the courses are offered through Kirkwood’s Continuing Education program. Certificates provide an addition to a resume, Goodwin said, and students can receive discounted tuition for taking certificate programs as a series, rather than individually.
Classes that begin in January include preservation basics and weatherizing historic structures; followed by historic masonry; maintaining the exterior of historic buildings and repairing historic plaster walls and ceilings.
Costs and the number of sessions vary. For example, the weatherization class has two sessions, one of which is a hands-on full day, with a $195 course fee. The plaster class has four sessions with a $425 fee. More classes are planned for the summer.
The way the program came into existence differs from the college’s usual method, Goodwin noted.
Typically, Kirkwood responds to requests from people interested in pursuing particular classes, he said. In this case, the city of Cedar Rapids partnered with Kirkwood to create the classes as part of a mitigation project through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Because Cedar Rapids used federal funds to demolish historic structures after the 2008 flood, the classes were developed as part of the effort to help restore and preserve the city’s heritage.
The city originally agreed to nominate Automobile Row, from Sixth to 10th streets SE between Second and Third avenues, to the National Register of Historic Places after federal funds were used in 2011 to raze the flood-damaged First Street Parkade, which had been deemed historic.
When representatives of the nearby Cedar Rapids medical district opposed the idea of the Automobile Row historic district, the funding was switched to the new Kirkwood program.
Goodwin said the courses were offered in the fall, but not enough students signed up to hold the sessions. He hopes that increased awareness will attract more students to the classes, which are offered at night.
Historic preservation efforts seem to fluctuate with the economy, said Ryan Prochaska, who will teach some of the Kirkwood classes.
When the economy is on the upswing, people appear more interested in investing in historic buildings, even though the cost-benefits are greater than building new, in any economic climate, Prochaska said.
Prochaska worked as a contractor for 12 years and for the National Park Service at the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site in West Branch, where he helped maintain many of the historic structures on the site.
While he enjoys the hands-on craftsmanship involved in historic preservation, Prochaska also will teach classes on historic preservation basics and other research-based courses as part of the Kirkwood series.
The four-part basics session will help students learn how to identify and prioritize historic preservation techniques to use on a range of properties and provide an understanding of historic preservation on the local, state and national levels in terms of history, incentives, standards and application.
Prochaska said contractors, housing inspectors, real estate agents and other professionals could benefit from the courses, in addition to owners of older homes.
Brucemore’s Manley said he hopes to learn more about his trade by taking the Kirkwood classes.
Brucemore hires outside experts, as needed, for projects such as rehabilitating the historic Lord & Burnham Greenhouse and conservation of the mansion’s Grant Wood porch, but in-house experts like Manley have worked on windows and other projects throughout the estate.
Manley has gone out-of-state to preservation seminars and has participated in half-day workshops in the area, but said he was attracted to the idea of a certificate program.
“I’m always looking to improve,” he said. “Everyone does things differently and even if I come away learning one thing, it will be a good experience.”
Historic Preservation Basics begins Jan. 6 at Kirkwood in Cedar Rapids. For more information, see www.kirkwood.edu or call: 1-800-332-8833 or 319-398-1022.