Rare Bohemian immigrant home will move to new site in Cedar Rapids
By Cindy Hadish/Save CR Heritage
CEDAR RAPIDS – The last Bohemian immigrant house in the “Flats” neighborhood of Cedar Rapids will soon have a new home.
Now at 909 16th Ave. SE, the house is being relocated Friday, April 27, a few blocks away to 1011 Sixth St. SE.
Aylsworth House Movers of Wadena, Iowa, will move the home beginning at 8:30 a.m.; a process expected to take just 45 minutes.
Preservationists advocated for saving the home – likely built in the 1870s by Bohemian immigrants working at the nearby T.M. Sinclair & Co. meatpacking plant – after Cargill took out a demolition application in February 2017.
The company has purchased a majority of properties in the Flats neighborhood, an area of Cedar Rapids named for its low-lying topography next to the Cedar River. Cargill is clearing the land for future expansion of its grain processing plant in southeast Cedar Rapids.
Once a bustling area with taverns, a grocery store and the still-standing St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church, the neighborhood boasted 120 homes as recently as 35 years ago, but only three remained as of last year, with two of those since demolished.
The city Historic Preservation Commission’s 60-day hold on the demolition expired one year ago.
Brian Bares, Cedar Rapids Facility Manager, said Cargill “looks forward to the home finding its new location as soon as possible so this piece of Cedar Rapids history can be enjoyed by more people.”
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“As a company with more than 150 years of rich history, we understand the importance of preserving important items, like this home, that help illuminate the City’s history and create a connection to the past,” Bares said in an email. “Giving an outside party the opportunity to purchase and move the home seemed like a win-win for Cargill, the City, the Cedar Rapids Historic Preservation Commission, and the new owner.”
Cargill sold the home for $1 and is paying for costs associated with the move.
Jason Rogers, of Heartland Investment Real Estate, whose properties include the historic Park Fulton Filling Station (former Red Ball Printing) at 1390 Third St. SE in New Bohemia, estimated the cost of rehabbing the home at $90,000, which includes a new foundation.
Rogers plans to use the house as an Airbnb for short-term rentals.
The city’s Board of Adjustment granted a variance last week to allow the home to be placed on its new lot. At just 16-feet-wide, the house didn’t meet Cedar Rapids single-family residential standards of a minimum 22-feet-wide.
Rogers could have added to the width and bypassed the need for a variance, but that size was among the defining features of the historic home, said Cedar Rapids historian Mark Stoffer Hunter.
The thrifty Czechs who built homes in the neighborhood constructed them with a narrower width and a side entrance, rather than a front door, so two homes could be built on one lot, he said, noting that the home epitomizes the Bohemian style of worker house constructed in the neighborhood.
Two additions built to expand the home have been removed in preparation for the move, Stoffer Hunter said, but the original portion remains historically intact and the home’s original wood was exposed after newer siding was removed.
“This is truly one of the oldest houses in Cedar Rapids,” he told the Board of Adjustment. “It’s rare to have a house this age that has survived.”
Great work to all involved! The entrepreneur who took a chance on this home, and also to Cargill for allowing the needed time and then paying for the move. That’s an impressive commitment to the community. Send your visiting friends and family to the airbnb when it opens for business!
I am 63 years old and live in Cedar Rapids my whole life seeing a lot of things come and go. I’m certainly a history buff. I would like to say thank you very much Cargill for your patience and allowing this move to materialize. Cedar Rapids has so much Rich history that has been systematically destroyed through the years. Seems like a perfect time now to refurbish and reuse. The historic buildings that we have left.
Thanks to Cargill for their patience and commitment to preserving this beautiful old house. I’m 63 years old and who lived in Cedar Rapids my entire life. Send a lot of buildings come and go. And it’s so refreshing to see that some of the buildings have been preserved and restored.