Vine Tavern building in Iowa City seeks historic designation

Public hearing on the request to be held March 1

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A building that houses a beloved Iowa City restaurant could become a historic landmark.

The owner the Vine Tavern & Eatery wants the century-old building at 529 S. Gilbert St. to be designated an Iowa City Historic Landmark. The owner, officially going by JMK Holdings LC, also is in the process of trying to get the building on the National Register of Historic Places, according to a letter from local architect John Shaw to the Iowa City Historic Preservation Commission.

The commission will hold a public hearing on the request at a March 1 meeting. The city’s Planning and Zoning Commission will discuss it March 7. Those two commissions will make recommendations to the City Council, which has the final say.

Bob Miklo, the city's senior planner and point person on historic preservation, is recommending approval of the request. He said the building, which is believed to have been built in 1905, meets three criteria for the local designation related to its historical significance and design.

He also said it’s one of the rare industrial-type buildings in Iowa City that still looks as it did in the early 1900s.

“The exterior has not changed significantly over the past 100-some years,” he said.

The three-story brick structure is referred to as the Hawthorne Glove & Novelty Co. / Schrader Drug Co. Building in the application materials submitted to the city. The glove company was the first occupant, and the drug company had moved it by 1912, according to the documents.

This was in the heart of Iowa City’s original railroad and industrial corridor, according to the applicants.

The building had a variety of other tenants over the next several decades until the Vine Tavern & Eatery, known for its Buffalo wings, moved into the basement level in 1983, according to the documents. Starting in 1980, however, Iowa City phone books list the Vine as being at 330 E. Prentiss St., according to the Iowa City Public Library. That’s the address the restaurant still uses, and Prentiss and Gilbert streets intersect at the Vine’s location. The Iowa City Assessor’s Office lists 529 Gilbert St. as the building’s address.

Regardless. the restaurant, owned by Joe Kennedy, is still there and is immediately recognizable in warm-weather months by the green vines covering much of the brick on the outside of the building.

Being designated a local historic landmark would mean that the Historic Preservation Commission would have to give its approval for the any significant alterations to the building or its removal. The criteria for demolition are tough to meet, Miklo said.

Iowa City has 58 individual landmarks that have received the local designation, Miklo said, although there are several hundred buildings in historic districts.

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