Community

Cherished historian Mark Stoffer Hunter resigning from History Center

He is known as the go-to authority on Linn County's history

Mark Stoffer Hunter (center), research historian for The History Center, leads a walking tour group May 21. 2015, outside of Mount Calvary Cemetery in Cedar Rapids. Stoffer Hunter, who has led history tours for years, is known in the community as a “walking archive” — able to lead tours without notes, reciting history from memory. (The Gazette)
Mark Stoffer Hunter (center), research historian for The History Center, leads a walking tour group May 21. 2015, outside of Mount Calvary Cemetery in Cedar Rapids. Stoffer Hunter, who has led history tours for years, is known in the community as a “walking archive” — able to lead tours without notes, reciting history from memory. (The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Often serving as an emissary telling the community’s story to local and national audiences, the area’s foremost historian — nicknamed “Mr. History” — is resigning later this month from The History Center, the organization’s executive director said Tuesday.

Mark Stoffer Hunter submitted a letter of resignation last week saying his final day at the center is April 30, Executive Director Jason Wright said.

Stoffer Hunter was hired in 2000 and has worked for the organization off and on in various capacities ever since.

“We wish him all the best,” Wright said. “Hopefully some day, maybe if our paths cross, we can work together again.”

Stoffer Hunter, whose family relocated to the Quad Cities area in recent years, has been commuting ever since. He did not immediately return messages Tuesday seeking comment.

Stoffer Hunter said earlier this week he still hopes to stay involved in Cedar Rapids in some capacity despite the resignation.

His title is research historian, but he is well-known beyond the organization as the go-to authority on all things historical in the Linn County area.

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Wright called Stoffer Hunter an “extraordinary historian” who has served The History Center well in presenting outstanding programs. He said the organization is weighing its options for filling the position.

“Mark Stoffer Hunter has been a leader when you think about history and historic preservation,” said Jill Wilkins, president of The History Center board of directors. “His commitment to learning about the community and understanding the history of our city and area is amazing.”

Like Wright, she said she hopes additional opportunities arise in the future to work again with Stoffer Hunter.

He has become the voice of the nonprofit center — the name used by the Linn County Historical Society — in making presentations to groups, conducting walking tours and being featured on national broadcasts.

The Travel Channel, for instance, interviewed Stoffer Hunter for a documentary about the infamous Cherry Sisters of Marion — “the world’s worst vaudeville act.”

C-SPAN turned to him for a keynote address when the public affairs channel last month featured Cedar Rapids as part of its Cities Tour.

He leads regular history walking and bus tours where he shares from memory little-known stories about the area’s forefathers and oldest buildings. He co-authored three books and writes a history-related column in The Gazette.

“People always say, ‘Call Mark, he’ll know,’” said Beth DeBoom, founder of Save CR Heritage. “Without that resource, we are going to lose a ton of community knowledge and a wealth of knowledge. I am really sad. Every community, if they’re lucky, has a person like Mark. We’ve been lucky to have him as long as we have.”

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Stoffer Hunter is a board member of Friends of Cedar Rapids Historic Preservation. Developers contemplating work on older buildings or pieces of property — such as the renovation of the downtown Guaranty Bank Building — turn to him as a resource in forming preservation plans.

Stoffer Hunter, who is in his 50s, has been documenting older buildings since he was a teenager, and continues to conduct photo documentation of older buildings before demolition for the city’s Historic Preservation Commission, for which he serves as chairman.

It was unclear Tuesday if and how his role in any of these capacities will change after his departure from the center.

l Comments: (319) 398-8310; brian.morelli@thegazette.com

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