Summit tours shine spotlight on historic buildings
CEDAR RAPIDS – Repurposed historic buildings, award-winning restoration work, chic upper-level apartments and other architectural gems will be highlighted in eight tours during the Preserve Iowa Summit.
Bus and walking tours will take participants through downtown Cedar Rapids, to Main Street districts in Czech Village/New Bohemia, Marion, Mount Vernon and more.
Jennifer Pruden, executive director of the Czech Village/New Bohemia Main Street District, pointed to the new Geonetric Building as one of the more unusual sites.
The three-story brick building was recently completed at 415 12th Ave. SE and will house employees of the health care software company, along with Vault, a coworking space, and the Iowa Startup Accelerator.
“It’s rare for a Main Street to have a high-tech startup,” Pruden said of the building, constructed on a former brownfield site of the Iowa Steel industrial plant.
Geonetric CEO Eric Engelmann, who chose to move to the Main Street district because it fits his company’s creativity, said the building evokes the design of Star Wagon Works, a 19th-century company previously at the site, and includes several nods to Iowa Steel, including a replica steel bucket hanging in the lobby.
More typical are buildings that date back a century or so and have been repurposed as bars, restaurants and shops in the active Czech Village/New Bohemia Main Street District.
The district was formed in 2009 to breathe economic life into the historic area of Cedar Rapids. Established by Czech immigrants, neighborhoods on both sides of the Cedar River sustained major damage during record flooding in 2008, but have increasingly returned, often in different incarnations.
Lion Bridge Brewing Company, for example, opened earlier this spring in the former Fritz’s Food Market, 59 16th Ave. SW, a 1938 building previously used as a flooring store, among other purposes.
“We could have gone outside the city and built a sheet-metal building,” owner Quinton McClain said. “But I think this building proved to be the best location for a brewery. It has a lot of character.”
The site might have become a major hole in the district had it not been for intervention from the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, which purchased the building after the flood to save it from demolition.
More than 1,200 buildings that went through the city’s buy-out program were razed after the flood.
Other tour highlights include the Paramount Theatre, a flood-damaged property recently awarded one of the 2014 American Public Works Association’s “Public Works Projects of the Year,” and buildings in the newly designated Kingston Village, including a Louis Sullivan-designed bank-turned-restaurant.
Tour 1: Paramount Theatre,123 Third Ave. SE; walking, with guide John Ryan; 10:40-11:50 a.m., Aug. 21; 60 visitors max.
Built in 1927-1928, the theatre was returned to its opening-day opulence during a two-year restoration project after floodwaters in 2008 submerged the basement and reached 8-feet-high inside. Work included the removal and repair of each mirror in the Hall of Mirrors entryway. Surprising items found during the building’s restoration and other behind-the-scenes details will be discussed.
Tour 2: Czech Village/New Bohemia Main Street District, Cedar Rapids; motorcoach, with guides Jan Stoffer and Mark Stoffer Hunter; noon to 2:30 p.m. Aug. 21; 44 people max.
Learn about the history of the district as a former Czech and Slovak immigrant community and how it has transformed into a destination, with arts, theater, shopping, dining and nightlife.
Tour 3: Preservation progress in four quadrants of Cedar Rapids; motorcoach, with guide Mark Stoffer Hunter; 2:50-4 p.m. Aug. 21; 44 people max.
The tour will cover downtown; Mother Mosque of America and flood-recovering areas of northwest Cedar Rapids; New Bohemia in the southeast quadrant and Czech Village in the southwest and a firehouse Coe College is renovating for student living in the northeast quadrant.
Tour 4: Downtown architectural history, Cedar Rapids; walking, with guide Mark Stoffer Hunter; 9:40-10:50 a.m. Aug. 22; 40 people max.
The tour will cover the former Federal Courthouse-turned-City Hall; the 1895 Witwer Building, now a successful restaurant/bar and other architectural gems. Mark Stoffer Hunter is the Cedar Rapids historian and member of the city’s Historic Preservation Commission and Save Cedar Rapids Heritage.
Tour 5: Marion Main Street; motorcoach with guides Nick Glew and Judy Hall; 11 a.m. to 12:25 p.m. Aug. 22; 44 people max.
The tour will review what Main Street Iowa has done for Uptown Marion in just one year; view recently completed second-floor housing projects; tour a Main Street Iowa Challenge Grant project underway in historic Memorial Hall; discuss Uptown Marion’s recent ArtPlace America grant and view conceptual renderings to be implemented in Uptown alleys; discuss planning involved in implementing a major streetscape project through a historic business district (planned for 2016) and review historic façade renovations planned on 15 properties for 2015.
Tour 6: West Side Preservation, Cedar Rapids; motorcoach with guide Mark Stoffer Hunter; 2:30-3:40 p.m. Aug. 22; 44 people max.
The tour will cover a hilltop Victorian home that has been painstakingly restored, the Louis Sullivan designed bank, now a restaurant, at 101 Third Ave. SW, and other preservation efforts on the city’s west side.
Tour 7: Lincoln Highway/Mount Vernon Main Street; motorcoach; 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Aug. 23; 44 people max.
Mount Vernon-Lisbon Community Development Group volunteers will direct visitors along a self-guided walking tour of Uptown Mount Vernon. Tour will include stops at upper-story renovated residential apartments (look for the balloons,) shops, restaurants and the 1925 Elliott building, a former middle school that has been converted into a business incubator and active community center. Volunteers will plan to greet the bus at Second Avenue with a gift bag, detailed map and brochure. Two other tours will be led by members of the city’s Historic Preservation Commission: one of the commercial district and one of the Cornell College campus. Both are on the National Register of Historic Places.
Tour 8: Bonus event, Brucemore Garden and Art Show, 2160 Linden Dr. SE, Cedar Rapids, self-guided; 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 23. Present complimentary ticket included in the Summit Welcome Bag for free admission. The first floor of the 19th-century mansion will be open for free tours during the show; over 60 artists and garden vendors from across the Midwest will share their expertise by showcasing unique products; and speakers on various topics from Brucemore’s historic landscape to Iowa grottos will take the Main Stage.