Time Machine

Time Machine: Mead Flats go from thoroughly modern to eyesore and back again

Liz Martin/The Gazette

Liz Mathis of Four Oaks (left) and Renie Neuberger of the Affordable Housing Network and walk through an apartment in the rehabbed Mead Flats in advance of its grand opening on Sept. 29, 2015. The Cedar Rapids apartment building, completed in 1920, was formerly known as the Rose Apartments and the site of dozens of police calls. The building’s original floors, woodwork and windows were salvaged when possible. Some of the building’s 12 units offered porches converted to bedrooms (at left) with new energy-efficient windows.
Liz Martin/The Gazette Liz Mathis of Four Oaks (left) and Renie Neuberger of the Affordable Housing Network and walk through an apartment in the rehabbed Mead Flats in advance of its grand opening on Sept. 29, 2015. The Cedar Rapids apartment building, completed in 1920, was formerly known as the Rose Apartments and the site of dozens of police calls. The building’s original floors, woodwork and windows were salvaged when possible. Some of the building’s 12 units offered porches converted to bedrooms (at left) with new energy-efficient windows.
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John J. Mead was distribution superintendent for the Cedar Rapids Gas Light Co. in 1913 when he decided to build a modern apartment building on the east-side Cedar Rapids corner where three streets intersected: Third Avenue, 14th Street and Bever Avenue SE.

Mead, a Monticello native and a former agent for the Cedar Rapids & Chicago Railway, hired architect R.R. Mayberry to design a building to fit the unusual triangular lot, and the Guarantee Construction Co. of Cedar Rapids began excavation for the $28.000 structure on Aug. 12, 1913.

Five-and-a-half months later, on Feb. 1, 1914, the three-story building named Mead Flats was finished. It was 76-by-73 feet with a basement and originally had six five-room apartments and three four-room apartments. All the apartments had been leased before the building was completed.

It was built of Dennison load-bearing tile, and each apartment was separated by a fire wall. The porches were made of concrete. The bathrooms and kitchens had Flexotile floors made at the Cedar River Flexotile Company in Cedar Rapids.

Flexotile was an ornamental flooring, made with manganese. It was a half-inch thick, could be troweled over wood, iron, concrete, tile or brick, and came in 42 colors. The Killian’s Department Store in downtown Cedar Rapids used it in their entrance in 1913.

Rent, at $40 to $45 per month, included a gas range, refrigerator and stationary vacuum cleaner. That rent would be equivalent to $965 to $1,086 today.

THE FIRST TENANTS

Mead and his wife, Alice, and daughter, Mildred, were among the first to move in. Alice was active in the PEO society and the Daughters of the American Revolution before her death in April 1918.

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According to The Gazette, one of the first tenants of Mead Flats was R.H. McKenzie, manager of the local Kresge’s store. He and his bride lived at the Allison Hotel until the apartments were finished.

Mrs. William G. Young, newly widowed, sold her Bever Avenue home and moved into the Flats. Her late husband had been the managing editor of The Evening Gazette. Her daughter, Gladys, who was first assistant in the circulation department of the New York City Public Library, spent her vacation that year in her mother’s new apartment.

John and Jennie Berry liked to entertain guests in their Mead Flats apartment. John, a traveling salesman for the Warfield-Pratt-Howell wholesale grocery company, was often overshadowed by his wife.

Jennie Iowa Berry was active in Cedar Rapids community affairs, including the Red Cross, the Women’s Relief Corps, the Woman’s Club, and the Ashley Chapter of the DAR. She also was involved in founding the Jane Boyd Community House. The Berrys left Cedar Rapids for Los Angeles in 1925.

PROPERTY SOLD

Before John Mead died in 1927, he was declared incompetent by his attorney, Herbert C. Ring, and Mead Flats was sold to Marion railroad man George Barnoske.

Mead Flats resident Flora Mills Kaupke became the building’s new owner in 1938.

Flora was the widow of Edward R. Kaupke, who was an officer in his father’s business, the Kaupke Coffee Co. in Cedar Rapids, when he died in 1931.

An apartment was available in 1954, and Flora’s son, Mason, and his family moved in until their new home at 175 Thompson Dr. SE was finished.

After Flora died in 1962, the building was sold to Mr. and Mrs. John C. Ricci of the Iowa City area as an investment. By then the Mead had been remodeled into 12 apartment units ranging from two to six rooms.

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ROSE APARTMENTS

The Riccis sold the Mead in 1974 to Gordon and Rosemary Ingram, who renamed it the Rose Apartments in 1977. Gordon was a chemist at Iowa Electric Light & Power.

The apartments went from being advertised as “clean, comfortable and quiet” to a place known more for crime and police calls.

Steven DeMeulenaere bought the building in April 2008. Even though the property had problems, he saw a beautiful building.

“It’s got huge apartments and beautiful woodwork,” he said, but added he was not fully aware of the scope of the building’s difficulties.

According to a November 2008 Gazette story, police were called to the apartments 121 times in one year.

In March 2009, building inspectors found 77 code violations.

After dealing with the Rose for less than a year, DeMeulenaere wanted to sell. By 2012, all but two of the tenants had vacated the apartments.

TO THE RESCUE

The Affordable Housing Network bought the building and began rehabbing the apartments, applying for federal and state tax credits for historic properties.

Rehabbed as part of TotalChild Wellington Heights Initiative, in collaboration with Four Oaks, the 12-unit building reverted to its original Mead Flats name in 2015.

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The $1.5 million renovation was paid with funds from the Iowa Finance Authority, Bankers Trust, Community Development Block Grants and Affordable Housing Network.

The apartments now rent to low-income tenants for $400 to $750 a month.

l Comments: (319) 398-8338; d.fannonlangton@gmail.com

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