Community

Save CR Heritage gets first headquarters in deal with Mercy Medical

Group names historic house after late board member John Erik Halvorson

CEDAR RAPIDS — A nonprofit organization dedicated to honoring older buildings in the city has found a historic home base near the MedQuarter District.

Save CR Heritage, a not-for-profit that seeks to raise awareness about the value of older buildings, has entered into an agreement with Mercy Medical Center to sell the house at 606 Fifth Ave. SE, which has been vacant for two years but was most recently the Teacher Store. The house will be a first-time headquarters for the group, which formed less than 10 years ago.

Mercy officials agreed to sell the house for $1 with a three-year lease on the land, as Save CR Heritage members wanted to save the house — built around 1905 as a single-family home — from demolition.

Once the three-year deal ends, the organization hopes to move the house to a vacant lot in Wellington Heights, a historic neighborhood and one of the city’s oldest, Save CR Heritage board member Cindy Hadish said. But those talks are ongoing.

“We’re excited. We know the challenges because we’ve been through it before with moving a different house,” Hadish said, referring to the “Frankie House,” a late-1800s home in Wellington Heights that previously was moved to 1257 Third Ave. SE and eventually sold to a family as affordable housing. “But we are excited to get started and make this into a usable building again.”

In honor of John Erik Halvorson, a 32-year-old Save CR Heritage board member who died in a car crash while on his way to work in March, the home will be known as the J.E. Halvorson House.

“That was a huge loss for us personally and as an organization,” Hadish said. “He was an expert electrician and we miss those skills but we miss him as a person even more so, and that’s why we wanted to honor him by naming the building after him.”

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The organization’s board members and volunteers will make repairs on the home before using it as their headquarters, primarily replacing the roof and repairing the sagging porch. It also needs paint, plumbing and a heating system.

Repairs are expected to cost about $40,000, Hadish said. Save CR Heritage will seek in-kind and monetary donations for the roof, heating system, plumbing, paint and other needs. Updates will be posted to the group’s Facebook page.

The home is full of historic character — boasting antique woodwork and paneling, original door hardware and lath and plaster walls, to name a few features — with a modern blast of boldly painted walls and vibrant designs.

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.

“Saving 606 Fifth Ave. SE is so important when you consider it is one of only three houses that still survive on Fifth Avenue SE,” historian Mark Stoffer Hunter said in a news release.

According to his research, this same five-block stretch of the avenue between the train tracks and 10th Street SE had 60 houses in 1925. Hadish said the other remaining houses are privately owned.

Once the property is fixed up, the nonprofit will hold meetings, workshops and sales of items the group has saved from other buildings destined for demolition. It already has a wheelchair ramp, so the events will be accessible for all.

The workshops will help teach people how to fix up their aging properties, instructing them on things such as restoring their windows and floors, especially for residents of Wellington Heights.

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Summer would be the ideal time to begin using the space regularly and to host open houses and neighborhood walking tours, Hadish said, but plans may have to wait until fall depending on the pace of COVID-19 vaccine distribution.

“We think it will be an asset for the neighborhood and for the people who live in this area,” Hadish said. “(We) hope to provide some knowledge and just an appreciation of older homes.”

Comments: (319) 398-8494; marissa.payne@thegazette.com

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