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Wilson Middle listed as 2023 Iowa endangered property
Historic buildings in Mount Vernon, Vinton and North Liberty also make the list
CEDAR RAPIDS — Wilson Middle School in Cedar Rapids has been added to the list of the most endangered properties in Iowa by a statewide historic preservation group.
A facilities planning committee for the Cedar Rapids Community School District is studying whether to demolish Wilson and build a new middle school in its place — which is what initially was proposed — or to renovate the building. The initial cost estimate to build a 600-student school on the Wilson site is $60.8 million, according to board documents.
The plan hinges on district voters approving a $312 million bond referendum, possibly in a September vote, for a school facility master plan. Renovation or construction on the Wilson site would begin spring 2027 and be completed by late summer 2029, according to an anticipated timeline.
The school is one of six properties designated by Preservation Iowa as the 2023 Most Endangered. The group brings to the public’s attention the risks to a designated historic property and advocates for preservation. Other Eastern Iowa properties on the list are William Fletcher King Memorial Chapel in Mount Vernon, Iowa Canning Company Seed House in Vinton and George House in North Liberty.
Wilson was “built to last for generations,” according to Preservation Iowa. It was constructed in 1924 and is the last of four iconic junior high schools built in Cedar Rapids in the 1920s.
Preservation Iowa has designated over 200 homes, churches, archaeological sites, landscapes, commercial buildings and a variety of other properties as most endangered properties in the last 25 years. The Cedar Rapids district’s elementary schools were on the list last year. There are 16 elementary schools in the Cedar Rapids district, all but one of which are over 50 years old.
The historic 1882 King Chapel — on the campus of Cornell College in Mount Vernon — was closed after the 2020 derecho caused considerable damage to the structure. The roof was damaged, four main support trusses were fractured by the winds and the west wall was pushed out an estimated 8 inches, according to Preservation Iowa.
Cornell was forced to close the chapel and is seeking financial resources for repairs. Preservation specialists are investigating the damage and working to map out a plan.
The college has been strongly committed to the maintenance and preservation of the chapel. Most recently, a tower reconstruction process was completed in 2018, including restoring the original clock.
Seed House — built in 1927 — was condemned by the city of Vinton and currently is in danger of being demolished, according to Preservation Iowa. The current owners have worked to cover unprotected windows, close ground-level openings and removed failed roofing and beams.
Seed House was of Iowa’s earliest and largest canning operations from the late 1800s through the mid-1900s, processing mostly sweet corn, and was a huge economic contributor to Vinton. At its peak, it employed 250 and produced more than 3 million cans each year. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2012.
George House in North Liberty also is in danger of being demolished, according to Preservation Iowa. Built in 1892, it is one of the few houses built in the 1800s remaining in North Liberty.
The 1.5 acres of land has been rezoned as a multiunit residence district. The current owner plans to demolish the home before building on the site, the group says, unless someone expresses an interest in moving the historic structure. The house retains many of its original features, including a wraparound porch and turret on the exterior as well as wood flooring, a staircase and pocket doors.
Other properties designated by Preservation Iowa as the most endangered this year are the Hastie Farmhouse in Carlisle and a house at 207 Lafayette St. in Waterloo.
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