Walking tours uncover hidden homes in Cedar Rapids
Jun 2023

Walking tours uncover hidden homes in Cedar Rapids

Cedar Rapids historian Mark Stoffer Hunter stands by the door at the Stewart-Baxter Funeral Home, a surprise stop along one of the Hidden Homes tours on June 16, 2023. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

By Cindy Hadish/Save CR Heritage

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Tour-goers learned about the history of homes “hidden” behind storefronts along First Avenue, as well as apartments and commercial buildings along this stretch of east Cedar Rapids, as Save CR Heritage reprised its popular Hidden Homes Walking Tour.

More than 30 people attended each tour, led by Cedar Rapids historian Mark Stoffer Hunter, on June 16 and 17, 2023, with relatively mild temperatures; perfect for a walk.

Dunkin’ Donuts, the new owner of the Western Fraternal Life Association office building at 1900 First Ave. NE, allowed Save CR Heritage to start the tour at the 1960’s former Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints building – later Odd Fellows hall — included on its property at 124 19th St. NE.

And Marilyn Lodge, a friend of Save CR Heritage, let tour-goers inside to see her Charles Dieman-designed 1910 American Four Square/Craftsman home at the end of both tours.

While trying to summarize any of Stoffer Hunter’s tours is an impossibility, see photos and some of the highlights along the tour.

Dunshee family home/Stewart Baxter, 1844 First Ave. NE: Built in 1908 as a home for the Dunshee family, by the 1950s Alma Steggall operated The Good Samaritan nursing home there, with patients upstairs. It was converted to a funeral home in 1958, now called Stewart Baxter Funeral & Memorial Services. It still retains original woodwork, including pocket doors, ornate newel post and staircase. (photo/Cindy Hadish)
First Avenue Apartments, 1834 First Ave. NE: This spot was originally the home of dentist L.J. Walter and his wife Delilah, from about 1886-1937. It was replaced by the now 20-unit apartment building in 1938. The building retains its original interior design, including hardwood floors. (photo/Cindy Hadish)
Brownstone Building/Lumore Apartments, 1630 First Ave. NE: Original owner Lucius Sheppard decided if Brucemore could feature part of George Bruce Douglas’ name, then his building should feature part of his name, so this was called the “Lumore” Apartments for years. Built in 1922, its first residents included Anna & Lucius E. Sheppard, president of the Order of Railway Conductors of America; Mrs. Minnie M. Shinkle; Laura & Sidney P. Moore, president and general manager, Builders Material Company; Emma P. & James H. Noble, office manager, Rich Bros.; Jane & Rush S. Damuth, sales, Cherry Co. and Isadore M. & Laura Lobenstein, real estate, the Hedges Company. (photo/Cindy Hadish)
Van Tassel home, 1539 First Ave. SE: First inhabitants of this home, circa 1906, were George and Jennie Van Tassel. George worked as a conductor for the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway. The retail space was added in 1934 and now houses The Spot Barber Shop and Pizza Daddy. (photo/Cindy Hadish)
Besler family home/apartments, 1543 First Ave. SE: This brick home was built in 1901 for Henry Besler. An immigrant at age 18 who escaped Prussian militarism from Posner, Germany, Besler helped build the downtown Grand Hotel and Waterhouse building, later becoming a street contractor who laid the first brick streets in Cedar Rapids. The family started a local brick-making business after tiring of waiting for Purington bricks to be shipped from Illinois. Besler died at home in 1921 and the house is currently privately owned and occupied. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

See more photos from both tours, below:


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