Cedar Rapids' own copy of Earth being moved again

Now set for Kirkwood, 6-foot globe was used in airport, bus terminal

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CEDAR RAPIDS — The “world” that floated away during the Floods of 2008 is slated to find a new home in 2013, 60 years after its original installation and five years after the flood.

The 6-foot aluminum globe was originally installed in 1953 at the new Cedar Rapids Airport terminal as an anonymous gift. (Local philanthropist Howard Hall was later identified as the donor.)

It was eventually removed during remodeling, and in 1983 it found a new home on the main level of the Ground Transportation Center — where it sat until floodwaters upended it.

“It did float,” said Jim Kern, chairman of the city’s Visual Arts Commission. “Apparently, it was out of its base and was bobbing along in the waters.”

Rescued after the flood, the 200-pound globe has been stored with its base at the Ground Transportation Center, awaiting its fate. It will reappear next year at the remodeled Linn Hall on the Kirkwood Community College campus in southwest Cedar Rapids.

“We wanted it to be in a highly visible place,” Kern said. “After seeing the plans and doing a site visit, the commission, with informal input from City Council members, chose Linn Hall for its visibility.”

The remodeling of Linn Hall will include new windows around the entryway, so the globe will be visible from both the sidewalk and the parking lot in front of the building, he added.

As it was originally installed, the globe turned slowly on its axis above a 5-foot mirror and a base marked with clocks for each of the world’s 24 time zones. The base was surrounded by a bronze railing that displayed the 12 signs of the zodiac.

The time zone section representing Cedar Rapids specified the original placement of the globe — 868.08 feet above sea level; longitude 91 degrees, 42 minutes and 40 seconds west; and latitude 41 degrees, 53 minutes and 26 seconds north.

According to a 2005 Gazette story, the globe was displayed at the airport until 1974, when three “Earth movers” (workmen) struggled with the heavy sphere to remove it for updating. One source said the globe was updated again in 1978, while another said it remained in storage until being installed at the Ground Transportation Center in 1983. At that time, a conscious decision was made not to update the globe again because it was viewed as a historical artifact.

Kern said refurbishment of the globe, with the aid of Federal Emergency Management Agency funds, will probably cost several thousand dollars. It will be moved to the former Midland Forge building now owned by Kirkwood, and bids will be sought for a general contractor to oversee work on it, including removing a significant dent, repainting the surface, and rebuilding or replacing the motors and electronics.

Kern said Linn Hall, which is a center for international students, should be ready for the globe early this summer, so he hopes work on it can be completed by then.

“It’s considered a part of the city’s art collection,” Kern said, “but really it’s a historical artifact.”

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