The return this week of three windows to the second level of the south half of Betty Hansen's east-side Iowa Realty building may seem like a minor milestone, but these tall glazed panels are another sign that something pretty exciting is happening on the square.
Betty's double-front building is one of three that are part of an upper-level housing initiative financed in large part through CDBG funds that will bring 10 more up-to-date and affordable apartments into the Main Street District this fall. Construction has been in progress for much of the year upstairs at the Iowa Realty building (four apartments), the Piper's Grocery building just across the intersection (2 apartments) and the Demichelis --- built as Smyth --- building on the northwest corner of the square (4 apartments).
Part of that project involves reopening windows blinded many years ago upstairs at the Iowa Realty and Demichelis buildings (most of the windows at Piper's remained open) and ensuring that the glazing that will allow light to flood into the new apartments is historically appropriate.
Wait another year, when the construction phase of the Main Street District's facade improvement project begins, and more blinded windows will open elsewhere in Chariton's business district.
You'll have an opportunity to visit some of the apartments in progress, a completed and occupied apartment in the Hotel Charitone and other upper-level spaces with potential during an Upper Story Housing Tour from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. this Saturday, Oct. 4. More details later, but $5 tickets are available now at the Chariton Area Chamber/Main Street office and will be available on the day of the tour, too. Proceeds will help fund the work of the Chamber/Main Street Design Division.
Be warned --- visitors will have to climb stairs to reach many of these upper-level spaces --- so the tour won't work for everyone.
The move to block upper-level windows and put the spaces behind them into mothballs began perhaps 40 years ago. Until then, these areas had been filled with apartments and professional offices. Then, the Southgate and Autumn Park senior housing apartment buildings as well as the East Ilion, Woodlawn and other affordable housing complexes were built and many of the upstairs tenants moved out. Professional offices increasingly were relocated to street level to accommodate clients.
The current upper-level housing initiative and other future projects are aimed at reclaiming these spaces and returning them to use.
Here's how the Iowa Realty Building looked a couple of years ago with all of its upper level windows blinded. The leaning tower of lightpole has now been straightened, too. And the shingled arcade at street level of the Iowa Realty building is expected to vanish, too, as work on this building continues.
And here's how the same area looked near the turn of the century. What now appears to be one double-front building actually consists of the 1879 Gibbon Drug Store building and the north half of the 1880 Mallory & Law Block. Sadly, the cast metal cornices on both buildings have been lost.