116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
For all the historic preservation won and lost over the years in the metro area, with too many defeated by prohibitive costs, a desire for new development and even the need for parking lots, the victories are particularly sweet. The latest one is in Marion.
The First Methodist Episcopal Church is among the most iconic buildings in Marion’s Uptown district. Its spires and gables tower over the neighborhood and above its striking architecture.
But the church was on its last leg. It was heavily damaged by the derecho. It’s bell had fallen from the church tower into the basement. Crews were preparing for demolition.
But Marion Mayor Nick AbuAssaly, the church, Uptown Main Street, the Chamber of Commerce didn’t give up. They found an “eleventh hour” buyer to save the day, at least for now.
Conlon Construction of Dubuque will take on the ambitious rehabilitation project and a community steering committee will attempt to chart the church’s future uses. It would be a unique performance venue, a restaurant, or a mix of uses. The opportunities are many, if they can be tapped.
Along with potentially saving an endangered, historic landmark, the saga underscores Marion’s commitment to historic preservation. Too often over the years we’ve seen local leaders throw up their hands at attempts to save our history and say nothing can be done. As Marion shows in this instance, determination can yield results.
AbouAssaly deserves considerable credit for not giving up the fight.
“You lose that building, you lose part of the soul of Marion,” AbouAssaly told The Gazette’s Gage Miskimen. “It's an iconic structure that helps identify Marion. ”Of course, the story isn’t over. The renovations could cost $30 million. Then there’s the matter of finding a suitable use. But no matter what, the community won’t regret not doing enough to save it.
“I’ve always felt that history should lead our economic development in this historic district,” AbouAssaly said. “Marion is the oldest town in Linn County and our history is what gives the community flavor.”
And for now, the flavor is a sweet victory for preservation.
(319) 398-8262; firstname.lastname@example.org