116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
James Lorenzo 'Ren' Bever Jr. was born in 1874 in the family home at Iowa Avenue and Madison Street in Cedar Rapids (now First Avenue and Fifth Street SE).
In 1922, Bever, by then president of the Bever & Co. investment firm and Park Avenue Realty Co., decided to build a modern office building at that location.
Until then, all business offices were on the west side of the railroad tracks (Fourth Street) in the downtown area commonly referred to as 'the loop.'
The new Bever Building, at 417 First Ave. SE, was technically 'out of the loop' when it was built in 1923.
Because it was the first commercial business structure east of the tracks, it was considered an important milestone in the city's expansion.
It also was an extension of the prominent family's footprint in Cedar Rapids. It was Sampson Bever, Ren's grandfather and the family's patriarch, donated land for the park that bears the family's name in southeast Cedar Rapids, just off Bever Avenue.
The Bever Building was designed by architect Barry E. Hunter and financed by Bever's Park Avenue Realty Co. Charles Harris was superintendent of construction.
The building was 48-by-128 feet, with two stories above a ground level. Reinforced concrete was used in most of the building. The front was brick with Bedford-cut stone trim.
The main hall and stairway were marble. Terrazzo was used in the rest of the hallways. On the second floor, a metal ceiling was suspended from the concrete roof. Fireproof Pryobar walls were used as office partitions.
Each room was trimmed in mahogany, and wires were concealed in the cornices. Tenants were each issued a single key that provided entrance to the building, their office and the washrooms.
The ground floor had six rooms with full-length windows. There were 14 rooms on the first floor, including one suite. The second floor, with three office suites and 15 rooms, was where Bever & Co. and Park Avenue Realty set up office.
A loading platform at the rear of the building accommodated distributing businesses.
The Bever Building cost about $65,000 to build. Before construction was completed on May 1, 1923, 16 of the 35 offices had been leased.
Businesses that reserved suites were Iowa Novelty Co. and Burroughs Adding Machine Co.
Bernice Ladd, who traveled with the Red Path Lyceum Chautauqua, opened a 'studio of expression and dramatic art' on the second floor.
Another original tenant was the Howard R. Green engineering consulting firm, which originally shared a suite with architect W.J. Brown. The two firms eventually merged.
The Bever Building changed hands in July 1924 when the Local Council 909 of the Knights of Columbus paid $100,000 for the nearly new building on the organization's 20th anniversary. The Knights had been trying to locate to a building of their own for a year. They took possession immediately and assured the tenants they could stay.
The Knights had plans to add a third story that included club rooms, a dance hall and gymnasium, as well as more offices. Until then, a 36-by-46-foot room in the basement served as a club room.
The lodge, however, couldn't keep up payments when many of the tenants moved out, and the building ownership reverted to Bever.
The Iowa-originated Bishop-Stoddard Cafeteria Co.'s general offices moved in 1927.
By 1935, the local office of the Iowa State Employment Service was leasing space in the building. When it moved out five years later, it was replaced by five new tenants: George L. Westcot Co., A-B Register Co., highway contractor G.H. Lowe, Dan Christensen Construction Co. and Pioneer Litho Co.
In the 1930s and '40s, various chapters of the Beta Sigma Phi sorority met in the sorority room at the Bever Building.
Ren Bever died in February 1957. The Howard R. Green Co. bought the building from the Bever estate on Jan. 1, 1959, and began a gradual upgrade.
The $100,000 renovation included an air-conditioning system powered by city steam, acoustical ceilings and vinyl tile flooring. Private offices were carpeted.
The first-floor corner office that had once belonged to Ren Bever became Howard R. Green's office.
Bishop-Stoddard moved to a 10-office suite on the top floor, and all the offices were redecorated.
The basement was converted to the Green conference and drafting rooms, library, laboratory and blueprint filing.
The building was soon referred to as the Green Engineering Building, with the company occupying almost two-thirds of the space.
Green sold the building in 1978 to attorney Michael H. Irvine and in 1979 moved to its new building on Glass Road NE. Irvine promptly renamed the building the Irvine Building and located his legal firm, Irvine & Robbins, there.
Back to Bever
In 2001, the building was back to being listed as the Bever Building in Heritage Property Management advertisements.
Skogman Partnership bought the building for $564,500 in September 2016.
In January, The Gazette quoted Skogman president Drew Skogman as saying the Bever Building had 'some significant challenges with capital expenditure requirements' and did not meet accessibility requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The 94-year-old building, with two lion statues out front, is now vacant.
The building figures in the plans for the boutique casino proposed by developer Steve Emerson, though the initial plan calls for it to be razed and its footprint turned into a park. Historic preservationists would like to see the building renovated and retained.
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