Time Machine

Time Machine: As we relocate, a look back at The Gazette building through the years

Newspaper moves to fifth downtown Cedar Rapids location

When The Gazette published its first newspaper in 1883, its office was at 309 First Ave. SE. Two years later, the newspaper moved to “The Gazette block” on First Avenue near Third Street NE. Three years after that, in 1888, it moved to 83-37 First Ave. SE, where City Hall now sits in the former federal courthouse.

In 1924, the newspaper’s owners decided to build a new newspaper building — touted as one of the modern such buildings in the Midwest — on Third Avenue at Fifth Street SE. It was The Gazette’s base for the next 95 years, until Aug. 31 of this year, when the newspaper moved to 116 Third St. SE, the former offices of Fusionfarm, a former marketing firm affiliated with Folience, The Gazette’s parent company.

The Evening Gazette’s building was designed by architect Bert Rugh. Excavation had just begun when he was killed in a car accident east of Dubuque. Another architect in Rugh’s office, Benjamin Sadler, took over. A.J. “Bert” Smith was the building contractor, and his sons — carpenter Leland, bricklayer Amos and estimator Carleton — supervised the construction.

The building was completed in 1925.

One of its unusual features was a public address system used to announce sports events, including the 1925 World Series between Washington Senators and Pittsburgh Pirates. Crowds gathered outside the new building as details of the games were displayed on a “Playograph” on the balcony overlooking Fifth Street SE, while the games were broadcast on WJAM radio.

“Complete accounts of the games will be received over the Associated Press wire direct from the field. The Gazette’s AP room is directly in the rear of the big Playograph. Quick transposition of the plays from the wire to the board is assured,” The Gazette reported.

A mechanical wing was added in 1951 to house a new “composing room,” where the paper was put together.

The balcony was still part of the building in 1956 when the paper’s old four-unit Duplex press, bought when the building was new, was pulled out of the basement through the sidewalk on Fifth Street. The Gazette replaced it with a six-unit Goss Headliner press that could print 96 pages — up from 64 — in a single run and that could print color.


Remodel, additions

In 1960, a new two-story entrance — built from black reconstituted granite, aluminum and glass — was added to the Fifth Street side of the building, The former entrance on Third Avenue SE was removed.

The interior also was remodeled, with office spaces rearranged, plumbing replaced and the heating system renovated. Fluorescent lighting replaced conventional bulbs, and acoustic ceiling tiles were added. A dumbwaiter was added to carry materials to and from the proof/dispatch room to the composing room.

The Gazette’s business and executive offices were on first floor with the circulation and advertising departments. The mailroom was in the back.

The newsroom on the second floor spanned the length of the building in the front, with the composing room and stereotype departments in the back. Tucked into their own niches were the photo department, darkroom, the teletype room and the proofroom.

The basement housed the press, storage for newsprint and 5,000-gallon tanks of ink.

In 1983, a story about the city’s private wells revealed one was under The Gazette building. It was 1,495 feet deep and provided water for cooling machinery and supplying the air conditioning system.

A three-story addition was built along Third Avenue in 1985.

Another state-of-the-art press had been installed in 1977, only to be removed through a hole in the alley side of the building in 2000. That press was no longer needed after The Gazette moved its printing operations to a new printing plant at 4700 Bowling St. SW, where it installed a new Goss Universal 70 press.

Signs changed, too

The sign on The Gazette’s roof also had its updates.

The first sign in 1925 was simply the company logo fastened to an easel-shaped structure on the roof. It carried the words “Eastern Iowa’s Family Newspaper” underneath. Those words were replaced in 1942, during World War II, with an illuminated sign reading, “for Victory, buy war bonds.”

In 1974, a revolving time-temperature sign was installed on the roof. It was replaced in 2007.

The Gazette building was sold in 2012 to Cedar Rapids developer Steve Emerson. In 2013, the building’s additions were razed, creating room for parking. Only the 1925 structure remained.

l Comments: d.fannonlangton@gmail.com

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