Thursday, January 19, 2012

Iowa's most endangered

Lucas County's former law enforcement center, built during 1916 as a combined sheriff's residence and county jail, was named this week to Preservation Iowa's list of 10 most endangered buildings for 2012. That annual list is intended to draw attention to buildings of architectural, cultural or historic importance under active threat, but the designation carries with it no promise of actual aid.

Of buildings on the list, the old jail is one of the most endangered. Although in use until last fall, when a new Law Enforcement Center opened, the building's roof is deteriorating and county supervisors haven't been able to come up with a practical use that would justify spending tax dollars to repair and refit it. Recycling a jail is problematic in the first place; finding a private use for a building alongside Iowa's businest railroad tracks is an additional complication.

The jail was nominated for the list by the Chariton Historic Preservation Commission. More photos and additional information about the jail may be found here, under "Jailhouse Blues."  And here's a look at the other nine buildings on the list:

Northwood (Worth County): The Stromstein Building. Located within Northwood's Central Avenue Historic District, the commercial structure is described as the most distinctive "bridge" linking the Shell Rock River, along which Northwood was built, and the city's commercial core. It is noted especially for its distinctive facade and roof and has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 2006. The building is structurally unsound, much window glass is missing and water infiltration has damaged the interior.

Independence (Buchanan County): Wapsipinicon Mill Museum. One of the largest historic mills in the Midwest, built 1867-70, the building was damaged in 2008 flooding, but repaired, and it is described in general as being in "very good" condition. The roof, however, has begin to deteriorate dramatically causing interior damage and the half million dollars in funding needed to repair it is not available, although fund-raising is under way.

Cedar Rapids (Linn County): People's Bank and Trust Co. One of architect Louis Sullivan's "jewel box" banks, the building was designed during 1909 and feature's Sullivan's signature elements --- sytlized prairie school lines, 15 shades of brick and terra cotta detailing. Four intact interior murals depict life in the Midwest. The building has not been used since severe flooding in 2008 although it is in an area designated for future protection against floods.

Decorah (Winneshiek County): County home superintendent's residence. An American Foursquare structure executed in brick during 1915, this house on remaining county farm property near Decorah contains most of its original detail. Although in excellent structural condition, freeze damage to the heating system in 2006/2007 has not been repaired and the rent it once generated for the county no longer is forthcoming casting doubt on its long-term survival.

Mason City (Cerro Gordo County).  Egloff House. Constructed during 1939 to an "International Style" or "Streamline Moderne" design by architect Earle R. Cone. Heavily damaged during 2008 flooding and partially restored, the home was purchased during 2010 by the city as part of a FEMA-funded acquisition and demolition program designed to clear the Winnebago River's flood plain. The building is available for $1, but must be moved from its current location.

Osage (Mitchell County). County Courthouse. Built in four phases commencing in 1858, the courthouse is a rare example (in Iowa) of Greek Revival courthouse design. The North Lee County courthouse in Fort Madison is comparable, but lacks the cupelo. The building has a variety of structural issues that need attention and its relatively small size is a complicating issue. Supervisors are considering demolition of the courthouse and building another space to house county government.

Orient (Adair County). Nelson Brothers Hardware Store. Built in 1902 and occupied variously by grocery stores and then by Nelson Brothers Hardware from 1940 until 1996, the brick building is described as one of only a handful of historic structures in Orient retaining original architectural features.

Manning (Carroll County): Deb's Corner Cafe. Built during the early 1890s as half of the Horse Shoe Bar, which reportedly was the longest bar west of the Mississippi at the time at 120 feet (solid mahogany) served when fully staffed by eight bartenders, the facade is intact but crumbling. The remainder of the building is structurally sound, but the facade is endangered. Water infiltration is a related problem, as is the lack of owner financing.

West Des Moines (Polk County). Log cabin. While there is no clear threat to this privately owned cabin, dating from the 1850s, preservationists are concerned that it may be neglected and underappreciated. According to preservationists, the owner is aware of its significance.

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