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Coralville's 'Old Town Hall' gets thumbs up for historic preservation

Old Town Hall was originally built as Coralville Union Ecclesiastical Church in the early 1880s

A crew from Goodwin House Moving move Coralville's Old Town Hall from its old foundation on Tuesday, May 20, 2014.  The Old Town Hall, built in the 1880s, was moved from 406 2nd Avenue to 407 5th Street. (Liz Martin/The Gazette-KCRG)
A crew from Goodwin House Moving move Coralville's Old Town Hall from its old foundation on Tuesday, May 20, 2014. The Old Town Hall, built in the 1880s, was moved from 406 2nd Avenue to 407 5th Street. (Liz Martin/The Gazette-KCRG)

Coralville’s efforts to preserve the city’s roughly 130-year-old building known as Old Town Hall have not gone unnoticed.

The Johnson County Historic Preservation Commission presented the city Thursday with an award for historic preservation of the building, which sits alongside Biscuit Creek at 407 Fifth St.

Just Tuesday, the Coralville City Council approved a $72,068 contract with Oxford’s Roger Gwinnup Construction to install the building’s utilities and carry out some renovations to the interior and exterior.

Ellen Habel, Coralville’s assistant city administrator, said work will include adding stairs to the front and back of the building, a lift for accessibility and some repairs to the windows and plaster. Age-appropriate doors and air conditioning also will be installed and a later contract will be sought to add parking nearby.

The city has not yet determined the future use of the building, but Habel said the plan is something open to the public.

“It’s something we want to be sure the public has access to, but we haven’t yet decided on a final use,” Habel said. “That’s something we are going to be working on.”

Old Town Hall was originally built as Coralville Union Ecclesiastical Church in the early 1880s and was the second church in the city, built after the first was lost to a fire. In those years the building’s basement was often used for city meetings and gatherings.

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No longer being used as a church in 1921, the building was sold to Coralville for $2,500 and was used as a school before renovations took place in 1953 and it became the official site for city operations.

Looking back, Coralville Mayor John Lundell said the fact that luck played a part in the fact that Old Town Hall still is standing.

“That building has been endangered a couple times,” he said. “Most recently by the flood of 2008 and then through a few other development projects that could have torn it down.”

Nonetheless, Coralville’s roughly 130-year-old town hall building still is standing and, after being moved — for the second time in its life span — this past May about a fifth of a mile to sit across the street from the city’s 1876 Schoolhouse, the two buildings make for an iconic entrance to Coralville’s Old Town District.

“It really creates a nice affect there next to the schoolhouse,” Lundell said. “I think it’s location is perfect.”

The city’s Old Town development includes a mix of townhomes, condos, and mixed use development along Fifth Street. Nearby lighting, landscaping and street reconstruction is also planned for the future.

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