Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Around the square: Part 1

This is the last week of Chariton's Main Street Iowa application process --- a very busy time for many people. There seems to be no reason now why the application will not be submitted by deadline; how it will fare in the new year remains to be seen --- but it's been an amazing effort.

My job today is to come up with 25 photos (on CD) taken in the proposed Main Street District (the eight contiuguous blocks surrounding the courthouse plus appended block portions containing First United Methodist Church, First Presbyterian Church and the American Legion building).

So in order to avoid taxing my brain by thinking about anything else, I thought we'd start a little tour of the proposed district featuring some of those photos. Main Street 's goal is economic development within the context of historic preservation, so everything here is of historic relevance to the district, architecturally significant or a contributing "amenity."

1. Northside commercial suite (at the top), intersection of Braden Avenue and North Grand Street. These three buildings, Ben Franklin (historically, Blake), I.O.O.F. (known by many of us as the old Spurgeons) and Piper's, were built between 1888 (Piper's) and 1900, replacing wooden structures. They're significant becamse they basically look as they always have (Piper's has been restored) other than replacement windows and function as they always have --- contiguous retail operations.

2. Hotel Charitone, intersection of Braden Avenue and North Grand Street. Built during 1923 as one of Iowa's first "fireproof" hotels, this poor old thing is on the National Register of Historic Places because of its design, its prominence on the square and the fact it's part of a suite of classic buildings designed by Chariton architect William Perkins. Although structurally sound and a candidate for redevelopment, it has a number of challenges, several obvious, others (including the roof and absentee ownership), not.

3. Chariton Newspapers building, east of the Charitone on Braden. Also on the National Register, in large part because it, too, was designed by William Perkins, it remains sound although the exterior needs to be refreshed.

4. Chariton Free Public Library, built during 1904 at the intersection of Braden and North 8th, also is on the National Register of Historic Places. It was the first Carnegie library built according to what became known as the "Chariton Plan," so there are similar-looking libraries all over the place. Although not evident here, a sympathetic extension to the north, utilizing the same design and materials, has more than doubled its size.

5. First Presbyterian Church, built during 1909, also at the intersection of Braden and North 8th, is one of Chariton's three grandest vintage church buildings (First United Methodist and Sacred Heart Catholic are the others). It is built of brick with pressed cement block (pretending to be stone) veneering over a limestone foundation and appears largely intact, although it has lost the dome that once crowned it. The beautiful stained glass dome liner, however, remains an interior feature.

6. Constitution Park (aka the birthplace of Frank D. Myers as well as a huge number of other native Lucas Countyans), also at the intersection of Braden and North 8th. This small nicely landscpaed park was developed on the site of Yocom Hospital which, until construction of the first part of the current Lucas County Health Center during the 1960s, was Lucas County's only hospital, operated privately by the Yocom family.

7. Gibbon Drug Store building, back on the square at the intersection of Braden Avenue and North Grand Street. Built during 1879 by Dr. William H. Gibbon, this is the oldest remaining building on the east side of the square. Built as a single-front building, the north half of the Mallory & Law Block immediately to the south has been appended to it and because of their similar facades gives it the appearance of a double-front building. Both the Gibbon building and Mallory & Law once had impressive cast metal cornices. And yes, that light pole is leaning in an alarming manner, which seems an absurd thing not to deal with.

8. Eikenberry-Crozier building. intersection of Court Avenue and North Grand Street. Built in 1894 by the Daniel Eikenberry estate for, among others, the J.T. Crozier mercantile firm, this is the best brick example of the the Richardson romanesque style on the square. It remains largely intact and structurally sound, although the windows obviously are not correct and the post-and-shingle arcade in front is out of character, too.

9. Built during 1917 to a restrained classical revival plan, the Chariton Post Office at the intersection of South Grand Street and Linden Avenue is virtually intact and well maintained. The lobby has not been altered either, so a ghost from 1920 who stepped inside would have no trouble recognizing familiar territory. It's looked a little lonely and barren since the big tree to the north came down a couple of years ago. It's never clear to me why trees are not replaced when they come down.

That's it for this morning.

1 comment:

Ken said...

That's an impressive array of historical structures. Looking forward to the sequels.