SIOUX CITY | Look closely at the new collectible series of historic Sioux City buildings and you'll spot a tiny black cat somewhere on each one.
They literally are The Cat’s Meow.
That's the name of the Wooster, Ohio, manufacturer that's making the Historic Preservation Commission’s new keepsake collectibles. I have seen The Cat’s Meow villages in retail stores. They're popular items to sell on eBay and even have a collectors club.
Commission Chairman Jim Jung said the members wanted to showcase historic buildings as a way to educate the public about Sioux City history and to raise money for projects. The group, which does not receive city or state funds, plans to use the proceeds to help finance publication of historical books and send members to conferences.
The first set of keepsakes, which cost $24 apiece, showcases the Badgerow Building, Central High School, the Peirce Mansion and Woodbury County Courthouse. The commission partnered with G.R. Lindblade & Co., which came up with the idea and then did the legwork.
“We’re always looking for new Sioux City things to sell in our store,” George Lindblade said of Sioux City Gifts, at 1922 Pierce St. “Jim is in here all the time, and we started brainstorming.”
George, his wife, Lou Ann, and Christine McAvoy, the company’s creative director, had seen similar wooden keepsakes. They contacted The Cat’s Meow and arranged to take the photographs on which the keepsakes would be based -- a challenging undertaking, as it turned out.
Most of The Cat's Meow's collectible wooden blocks show a building from the front. The local group decided to make the Badgerow and Peirce Mansion mementos more interesting by photographing them at an angle. Finding a pleasing view that wasn't obstructed by power lines and other buildings proved difficult, McAvoy said.
The preservation commission had started with a list of 16 buildings before narrowing it to four.
“Picking the Castle on the Hill (the former Central High) seemed obvious because of the number of Central graduates around town,” George Lindblade said of the school that closed in 1972. “The Woodbury County Courthouse remains popular,” he said, noting a book of photographs the Lindblades produced has sold out.
The group selected the Badgerow because if its Art Deco ornamentation, with American Indian silhouettes along the roof line. The Pierce Mansion, built in 1891 at 2901 Jackson St., represents a Victorian home that served as the public museum until the new one opened downtown. It is now used for special events.
Each building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The keepsake replicas are numbered and feature a history of the building on the back.
Plans are under way to select the next buildings to be featured. In the running are the Grandview Park Bandshell and a structure that represents the Sioux City Stockyards.
The commission will receive between $5 to $7 apiece for the first lot of 192 collectibles, for a total of $960 to $1,344. The Lindblades will take a small portion to pay for expenses but are donating their time to the project. The rest of the sales price goes to the manufacturer.
The Lindblades said the keepsakes already are flying off the shelf.
“Nothing illustrates more about who we are than these buildings,” Jung said.