Preservation Iowa’s 2017 Most Endangered Buildings: Apollo School (Burlington High School), Burlington, Des Moines County
The three-story Classic Revival school has 203,235 square feet of space and sits atop the west hill bluff overlooking downtown Burlington. Thousands of Burlingtonians were educated in the structure during its long life as a school first the city’s primary public high school (1910-1970), then as Apollo Middle School (1970-1983) and finally as the alternative high school. The building was also a designated nuclear air raid shelter in 1950s.
Since 2002 several private owners have assumed ownership with little to no work to adaptively reuse the property. One owner did repair the roof at a cost of more than $100,000. It has suffered from neglect over the past decade. The City of Burlington acquired ownership in the fall of 2015 due to failure of the owners to pay back taxes.
The City Council set a one-year timeline in late summer of 2016 for Southeast Iowa Regional Planning to find a viable buyer to adaptively reuse the formidable structure. The building has two intact gymnasiums on the west end of the main floor and a performing arts auditorium on the east end. It would be ideal converted into apartments (Burlington has a need for additional housing, as noted in a recent report) with large windows overlooking the city’s downtown. It sits on 3.69 acres of land. Similar conversions of schools into apartment-style living have been completed in several other cities in the region, including Clinton and Davenport and Hannibal, Mo., so it is possible if the right factors come into play, including historic property tax breaks and viable financing. There is plenty of land to provide parking, and it sits in a residential area with a city park just a black away.
The building is structurally sound and has had asbestos-containing linoleum removed from its hallways.
Preservation Iowa’s Most Endangered Property program was started in 1995 and implemented to educate Iowans about the special buildings and historic sites that are slowly and gradually slipping away from us. In the past 20 years, Preservation Iowa has designated over 140 archaeological sites, churches, landscapes and a variety of other buildings.
The full list of Preservation Iowa’s 2017 Most Endangered Properties includes:
- Endangered: Red Bridge, Monroe
- Endangered: Mt. Moriah Missionary Baptist Church, Waterloo
- Endangered: Hampton Church of Christ, Hampton
- Endangered: Mandalay Mansion, Cedar Falls
- Endangered: Apollo School, Burlington
- Endangered: Exchange Block, Chariton
- Endangered: Stone Schoolhouse, Lansing
- Endangered: Wade & Donohoe Buildings, Cherokee
- Endangered: Iowa State Penitentiary (2nd year)