Home of influential UI bridge engineer to be restored

The Ashton House, built in 1947, was damaged by the flood of 2008

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A historic Iowa City home is being restored with help from a recent Iowa Department of Natural Resources grant.

The department recently awarded a $154,079 resource enhancement and protection, or REAP grant, to the Iowa City Parks and Recreation Department and the nonprofit Project Green to redevelop and restore landscaping and gardens at the Ned Ashton House.

The Ashton House, at 820 Park Road, was built in 1947 by Edward L. “Ned” Ashton as a private residence. According to city records, Ashton was a professor of civil engineering at the University of Iowa from 1943 to 1957. He designed several bridges over the Mississippi River and was “a pioneer in the design of welded plate girder bridges.”

The house and its grounds, next to the Iowa River, were named to the National Register of Historic Places in 2001. The property was damaged during the 2008 flood.

The city purchased the house in October 2011 to restore it for use as a special events facility. As part of the requirements to purchase the home, the city agreed to develop a plan to preserve the historic nature of the home and prevent it from future flooding.

After the city bought the home, Project Green volunteered to work with the city to rebuild the grounds and gardens. The group agreed to design a new landscaping plan, including gardens that incorporate many plants that survived the flood.

“Some of our work for Project Green will be restoring some of the original plantings,” said Cindy Parsons, Project Green’s co-president. “It’s really quite a unique house and it’s really beautiful with the stone work and it just fits into the natural setting so well. It’s really well done.”

Other planned improvements include a pergola and associated paving, reconstruction of the west terrace, a rain garden, flood plain botanical garden beds, tree markers, interpretive signage and a compost bin.

“The grant’s really going to enhance the attractiveness of the facility for rentals and for folks passing by on the trail or that may be veering off a little ways from City Park and just exploring the river,” said Geoff Fruin, Iowa City’s assistant city manager.

The house can accommodate up to 100 people for meetings, reunions, weddings and other gatherings. The landscape plan will be implemented in phases over ten years.

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