Sunday, February 06, 2011

Derelict places



The east front of the derelict Van Buren County house.

This is a house I'd like to know more about, including why such a fine brick building was allowed to become derelict. These photos date from October of 2005, but I know no more about it now than I did then. It's in Van Buren County and I'm in Lucas --- and every time I'm down thataway it seems like there's something else more pressing that I want to look up.



Looking at the house from the northeast.

The house is located just south of Highway No. 2 a couple of miles west of the Keosauqua turnoff. Many years ago, Highway 2 made a sharp turn south here, then turned west to Cantril. The highway has been straightened now to make a broad curve down into the creek valley before coming up alongside that other little Van Buren County town.


From the southeast.

When these photos were taken, it was possible to turn off onto the old pavement, drive by the house and then take old road west. The Wakefield Round Barn --- on the National Register of Historic Places, was just around the corner. The old pavement was in awful shape, however --- cracked, buckled and sunken --- and the last few times I've driven by, the entrance to the road was gated.


And from the west.

Although the brick walls above a limestone basement appear to be in as good a shape now as when the house was built, it has been badly vandalized --- windows broken, the front door missing, the stair rail stolen. I have this thing about trespassing, so I didn't go in --- although I easly could have. The cornice has fallen away in several places and the old front porch is missing entirely.


The cornice brackets are intact on the east and north fronts, but fallen on the south and west.

I'm not sure how old the house is --- perhaps about 150 years. Its arched windows and form make it almost certainly a cousin to the Isaiah Meek house facing the Des Moines River at the west edge of Bonaparte, a few miles northeast. The Meek house reportedly was built between 1848 and 1853, so the date on this house may be similar. I'd guess they had the same builder.


And most, if not all, of the windows were broken.

Van Buren County's villages have done an exemplary job of conserving their historic buildings and capitalizing on their history. This old house in the country, however, apparently fell though the cracks.

3 comments:

Ed said...

I'm about 80% sure I've been in that building when we had a play cast party from my high school days and my high school English teacher lived there. If it is the one I'm thinking of, there is a pond downhill and across the road(to the east) from the driveway to this house that her car ended up in once along with her grade books that probably increased a solid B to an A- on my report card. I had no idea that it was a county courthouse.

Ed said...

Correction, I re-read and saw that you didn't say courthouse. That was my brain adding words.

Anonymous said...

I've recently been in the old house as recently as November.
I have an interest in historic homes and an abandoned Italinate structure was an irrestible opportunity. An actual inspection of the property was disappointing. I wish I had pictures of the way it looked in its day, it must have been impressive.

The current land owner lives out of state and uses it the land as CRP/investment income and hunting for himself and friends. The owner seems to fancy restoring this house. He even left the electricity wires hooked up from the utility poles to the house and the propane tank is still standing.

IMO, restoration would be basically the same effect as building a new structure and transplanting the brick onto it. The foundation is original limestone and the basement is in pitiful shape. The foundation would need to be shored up by lifting the structure and pouring new foundation walls.

The interior needs to be gutted. The roof is close to completely caving in. There is a large hole in the flat portion of the roof. The elements have rotten large sections of the flooring. Its quite a shame since the flooring was completely original hardwood. Before the roof failed, this would have been salvageable. In a few years, the floor will be very unsafe to walk on.

The front door has been boarded up along with the broken windows. All that remains in the house is an old, but worthless piano, pedal organ and 1970s vintage console television.

There was also some mattresses on the floor of an upstairs BR and what looked to be the worthless possessions of a squatter. From the mold and dust, it looked like they had abadoned this hide-out years ago.

According to a long-time sheriff deputy, this home was occupied as recently as 1996. However, it was in rundown shape by then. The family gutted the house before the farm sale. All the interior doors, interior trim and countertops were salvaged and sold separately.