116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — 'This home has seen a lot of Cedar Rapids history go by its front door.'
Those were the words of Mark Stoffer Hunter, historian at The History Center, during a presentation Wednesday to officially unveil the restored 'Frankie House' in the Wellington Heights neighborhood in the city's southeast quadrant.
'This home is a tremendous piece of Cedar Rapids history ... and it has been lovingly restored.'
The 1,462-square-foot, two-story home was built for $1,500 in the mid-1890s at 1257 Third Ave. SE, likely by John Kuba, a Bohemian immigrant and railroad employee. The three-bedroom, one-and-a-half bathroom home was rented to tenants until 1911, when Kuba and his family moved in.
More than 120 years later, the house remains thanks to the efforts of Save Cedar Rapids Heritage, which rescued the property from demolition and moved the home in September 2015 to 1425 Fifth Ave. SE.
Since the move, Save CR Heritage members, volunteers and contractors hired by the group have worked to restore the home's vintage gable trim, fish-scale siding and original interior doors and woodwork. New heating and air conditioning, electrical wiring and plumbing have been installed and the home has a new roof. The new foundation is faced with masonry work reflecting the time period when the house was built.
'It's very exciting for us; this is a day we've been looking forward to for about two years,' said Save CR Heritage President Bethany Jordan during Wednesday's unveiling. 'It's great to see our vision come to fruition.'
The public can get a look inside the historic home during an open house scheduled from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday. The event doubles as a showing, of sorts, as the home is now up for sale with a list price of $100,000.
The home is eligible for the city's Rebuilding Ownership Opportunities Together — or ROOTs — program, which offers down-payment assistance of up to 25 percent of the purchase price to income-qualified applicants. The buyer also receives a property tax abatement for four years with a gradual increase in assessment over years five through eight, explained Emily Meyer, a board member for Save CR Heritage and the project manager for renovations of the Frankie House, which are expected to top $175,000.
'It's an abatement on the increase in value, which will be substantial,' Meyer said.
Kay Baty, a board member for Save CR Heritage who is helping sell the house, said several families already have expressed interest in the property, but no showings have taken place as renovations continued right up until Wednesday's unveiling.
'Don't touch the banister,' joked Jordan. 'It's still wet.'
The balustrade, as it turns out, is actually one of the only pieces of the home that is not original, Stoffer Hunter said. It came from a home in Iowa City after the original was stolen before Save CR Heritage took ownership.
The interior remains much as it did when constructed, with no apparent alteration of the floor plan on either the first or the second floor.
'There are not a lot of homes from this time with the original details still preserved,' Stoffer Hunter said, noting an octagonal window you pass when heading up the stairs and a 'doctor's door' that leads into the living room of the home.
Save CR Heritage members dubbed the house 'Frankie' after the daughter of Dr. Frank J. and Josephine Woitishek, who lived in the home from 1895 to 1898. Frankie died in 1898 at the age of three, perhaps prompting the family to move out that summer.
A longtime machinist, John Kuba died in 1922 at the age of 57 and was buried at the Czech National Cemetery in Cedar Rapids with his first wife, Anna, who died in 1902. His second wife, also named Josephine, remained in the home until her death in the mid-1960s. The property was left to her children, who lived there until about 1970.
The home was eventually purchased by Westminster Presbyterian Church, but when church officials realized they no longer could afford upkeep, they moved to bring in the wrecking ball.
That's when Save CR Heritage stepped in, agreeing to purchase the home for $10 and move it to a new location.
The move was supported by the Wellington Heights Neighborhood Association, which owned the Fifth Avenue location, then the site of a community garden. The association agreed to move the garden to a nearby lot owned by the Affordable Housing Network, which agreed to transfer the title of that lot to the association. The neighborhood association in turn transferred its lot to Save CR Heritage.
Among those at Wednesday's unveiling was Alex Jackson, 16, of Cedar Rapids, who recruited more than 25 members of his Boy Scout Troop 766 to help paint the home's interior.
The Kennedy High School sophomore is going to earn his Eagle Scout rank for the project, which he said took about 160 hours to complete.
'I like history and I saw an opportunity to get involved,' Jackson said. 'The house looks very nice.'
IF YOU GO
What: Public Open House
When: 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday
Where: Frankie House, 1425 Fifth Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids