116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Nikki Halvorson was brought to tears when the historic preservation board she’s president of suggested it name the organization's first-ever headquarters after her late husband and fellow board member.
A house once destined for demolition, at 606 Fifth Ave. SE in the MedQuarter, now is officially named the J.E. Halvorson House, honoring the memory of John Erik Halvorson, 32, who was killed last year when his car was struck in a head-on collision. A dedication took place outside of the house Friday evening.
“It’s really special to my family,” Nikki Halvorson said. “It gives us something to feel pride in and when I told them, then they were brought to tears.”
She said making the house a namesake is a great way to honor her late husband’s memory and activity in the Save CR Heritage organization.
“It’s just an incredible way he can live on actively and tangibly,” Halvorson told The Gazette. “It’s not just a plaque on a bench. It’s a place that’s going to be important I think for the community.”
The two both grew up in Cedar Rapids, meeting at Harding Middle School and becoming best friends while at Kennedy High School. They wouldn’t date until Nikki was in graduate school. Though last year would’ve been 20 years since they met, they had been married only four years when Erik — he went by his middle name — was killed.
The driver charged in the 2020 crash in Walford has yet to go to trial after it has been rescheduled multiple times amid the pandemic.
Save CR Heritage’s mission is to safeguard historic properties by developing strategies to preserve and reuse them. and to raise awareness of the value to the community of historic buildings.
For the J.E. Halvorson House, the organization entered into an agreement with then-property owner Mercy Medical Center to save the early 1900s house, which was going to be demolished. Mercy sold the house to Save CR Heritage for $1 with a three-year lease on the land, which Mercy still owns, with the agreement that the house be relocated in the future. Save CR Heritage hopes to move the house to a vacant lot in Wellington Heights.
According to the organization’s research, Thomas B.F. and Edith L. Leinbaugh were listed in the January 1907 city directory as the home’s first residents through 1920. Thomas worked as a clerk for the Railway Mail Service.
Repairs to the house have cost tens of thousands of dollars, Halvorson said. Board members, volunteers and contractors have spent the past months since moving in earlier this year to repair the building. Repairs have included a new roof, plumbing, HVAC, plaster repair, porch stabilization and electrical work.
The organization will use the new headquarters for meetings, workshops on window restoration and other skills, and to connect homeowners with high-quality, low-cost doors, windows and other items salvaged from buildings slated to be demolished, Halvorson said.
Halvorson said having the house is a game-changer for the organization.
“We’re really hoping next year to have those workshops,” she said. “Having a house is a big deal because we had no place to do all that before. It will help us support our mission of community education and having a physical space will take us a lot further. It’s a whole new level for us.”
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