Time Machine

Time Machine: Perkins House loses some frills as it becomes apartments

W.H. Stark

Bought the Perkins house (Gazette clipping)
W.H. Stark Bought the Perkins house (Gazette clipping)
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(Second of two parts. Read Part 1 here.)

Charles Perkins lived about five years in the palatial house he built in 1897 at 1228 Third Ave. SE in Cedar Rapids before he moved to California.

He’d turned over the deed to his home to Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. in an effort to repay the estimated $80,000 he’d embezzled from the company. That’s about $2 million in today’s dollars.

The home was quickly sold in October 1902 to William H. Stark, a successful merchant from Conrad, near Waterloo. The Lyman Bros. millinery firm, which produced women’s hats, had recruited Stark to become its company treasurer.

Within a year, Lyman Bros. formed a stock company, with capital of $75,000, and appointed O.W. Lyman and F.A. Lyman as president and vice president/secretary and Stark as treasurer. The Lymans spent a lot of time traveling on business, leaving Stark in Iowa to mind the store.

Within six years, Stark was a trusted partner in the company. When the fast-growing business needed more space, Stark and F.A. Lyman bought the corner lot at Fourth Avenue and Third Street SE so they could build a manufacturing-retail facility.

Death and collapse

Two unforeseen events intervened.

In March 1912, Stark’s wife, Julia Rodwell Stark, suffered a heart attack and, surrounded by her husband and three of their five children, died at age 54 in the Stark home.

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And then, on Nov. 14, 1913, eight construction workers were killed when the south end of the new Lyman building collapsed while it was being built in downtown Cedar Rapids.

Stark, as the company spokesman, told reporters he and F.A. Lyman had gone over the building the previous afternoon and that the inspecting engineer pronounced it “strong enough for a locomotive and train of cars to pass across the floors.”

Lawsuits filed by the families of those killed against the company — and by Stark and Lyman against the contractors — wound their way through the courts for years.

The building was redesigned and built and its name changed in May 1914 from Stark-Lyman to the Iowa Building, its name to this day. The Iowa Building Co. was incorporated in August 1914, with W.H. Stark as president and treasurer and F.A. Lyman as vice president and secretary.

A wedding

Life went on.

In July 1919, Stark’s daughter, Martha Marie, married to James Killian, secretary-treasurer of the Killian Co., a major department store in downtown Cedar Rapids.

“The lovely home was decorated with marguerite (daisies) and asparagus ferns forming a background in the living room where the ceremony was said by the Rev. S. Turner Foster, pastor of the Westminster Presbyterian Church,” The Gazette reported.

After 24 years in the home, Stark, with his children grown and living elsewhere, decided to sell the house and move to something smaller.

He put an ad in the Nov. 3, 1927, Gazette that read: “On account of moving in smaller house, I will sell at private sale, Friday and Saturday, Nov. 4 and 5, at my home, 1228 3rd Ave., surplus of rugs, furniture and pictures. W.H. Stark.”

Apartments

He sold the home to Mrs. R.W. (Maude) Coffman, a widow with four children, who moved there from 1920 Grande Ave. SE. Her husband had been the owner of the Iowa Novelty Co. until his death in 1925.

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Coffman’s first order of business after moving in was to begin turning the home into an apartment building with eight units. When she died in November 1939, the Coffman heirs sold the apartment building to Mrs. Charles (Dessa) Kidd for $15,000.

Kidd, of 405 Forest Dr. SE, continued the renovations before moving into the ground-floor apartment. She also added a four-stall garage to the property.

Originally, the Kidd apartment had “high-ceilinged rooms with quartersawed oak woodwork and dark cherry overhead beams, and sliding doors between the rooms. It had two fireplaces, one of them massive and dark with lots of fancy woodwork. There was a conservatory, too,” according to a Gazette account.

All of that disappeared with Kidd’s remodel. The sliding doors became arches, the conservatory was torn down, the dark rooms were lightened with pastel colors, and the fireplace lost its gingerbread.

Kidd chose to turn the former bay-window living room into a bedroom; the fireplace was turned into a closet.

Other uses

The Kidds sold the apartment building to Leo Spacek in June 1945 on the condition they be allowed to live there for another two years. Spacek moved into one of the smaller apartments.

The building was owned by several people over the next two decades, including Lester Jacobs and Alford Hanson, before it was taken over by a private teen treatment center operated by FAMCO Inc. in 1975. It became the New Dimensions Group Home in 1976 and the Wendell House group home for Indochinese refugees in 1981, one of two in Iowa.

By 2002, the Queen Anne-style house, designed by architect Charles Dieman, was owned by Richard Dodge, who started proceedings to have it listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It made the Register that year.

Eric Gutschmidt bought the house in 2017 from Ken and Jackie Fowlkes and plans to rehab the badly rundown house, retaining the apartments. He and Friends of Cedar Rapids Historic Preservation are asking the Cedar Rapids City Council to designate the home a local historic landmark.

• Comments: (319) 398-8338; d.fannonlangton@gmail.com

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