LE MARS, Iowa | Northwest Iowa is home to four of the seven historic buildings that landed on Preservation Iowa's "Most Endangered Properties" list for 2018.
The properties in Le Mars, Cherokee, Sioux Rapids and Rockwell City were nominated by Preservation Iowa members, Main Street communities, and local historic preservation commissions. A panel of judges considers four criteria in choosing the final list: geographic distribution, historic significance, nature of the threat and variety of building type.
The area endangered properties include:
White House Bathing Palace, Le Mars
Built as a bath house more than a century ago, the White House Bathing Palace was used mostly by travelers. By 1913, with the spread of indoor plumbing making public bath houses less practical, it was converted into a hospital. The building was later vacant for 20 years, until becoming apartments circa 1940.
Today, though the structure is not yet structurally compromised, a leaky roof has damaged the interior. Wood rot has afflicted the window frames and the foundation has suffered water damage. Currently, the building is for sale.
Wilson High School, Cherokee
Built of brick and Bedford limestone in the Simplified Classical Revival Style between 1915 and 1917, the former Wilson High School has been vacant for a decade. After a new high school was built in 1953, the school became a junior high school. When a new junior high school opened in 2001, the school closed and the building was sold. It served as a woodworking business and private residence from 2001-2007.
The building is in serious disrepair, with a deteriorated roof and windows. The city of Cherokee is in the process of buying the structure with plans to demolish part of it. More recently, however, a development company has approached the city about converting the building to apartments/condos, similar to successful conversions of other former school buildings in nearby Sutherland and Spencer.
Carnegie Library, Rockwell City
Built in 1909 as one of the many Carnegie Libraries that once dotted the country, Rockwell City's brick Carnegie Library doubled as a community center for 90 years.
Since the library moved to a new building in 2008, the old library has been used for storage. The structure's temperature has not been controlled and little maintenance has been done during this time, and the city fears the building may become hazardous.
Star Theater, Sioux Rapids
Built in 1913 as a movie theater and offices for the Republican Press newspaper, the building housed a number of businesses and apartments after the theater moved in 1946. The structure, located on a corner in the middle of the downtown district, housed several businesses before eventually being converted into three apartments.
Today, the building's roof is collapsing and many of its windows are broken. If the condition worsens, an adjacent building could be compromised. Because of unpaid property taxes, the city has taken possession of the building. The Sioux Rapids Historical Society and the City Council are developing plans to save the building, but if this proves untenable, it could be demolished.
Other buildings on the 2018 Endangered List include:
Dr. J.W. Smith Building in St. Charles. The three-story structure was built in 1866 by Dr. Joel Washington Smith, an early physician in the eastern Iowa city. Constructed of native limestone taken out of the old Fairgrounds Quarry, the building now suffers from structural integrity issues.
Thomas D. Murphy Co. in Red Oak. The three-story brick factory in the southwest Iowa city once housed the Thomas D. Murphy Co., which produced advertising art calendars. The factory closed in 2002; though the building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2008, it has suffered significant deterioration.
Jackson County Jail. Built in 1871 of locally quarried Niagara limestone, the former jail is all that remains of the days when Andrew was the seat of Jackson County, in two separate periods between 1841 and 1873. The building's condition has deteriorated and the building is no longer usable. The City of Andrew owns it and is working with the Jackson County Historic Preservation Commission to address its preservation, but if this proves too expensive, the jail may be demolished.