Preservation Iowa’s Most Endangered 2018: Gasser Block 918 Court Ave, Chariton (Lucas County)
The Gasser Block constructed in 1875 is the oldest building on the south side of Chariton’s square and one of the largest. It also has the distinction of being one of only two 19th century structures on that part of the square to survive major fires in 1930 and 1965. It has been altered little except for the gray paint that covers its original brickwork. George Frederick Gasser a baker and grocer by trade built the two-story brick building. An article in the December 29, 1875 Chariton Patriot newspaper described the new construction, “The lower story is divided into two store rooms, and the upper into four rooms, three of which will be used for offices and the other and rear room…is designed for a dancing hall, or for other purposes requiring more space than the common office rooms.”
In 1885, Gasser sold the building to Lewis Bonnett, at the time one of Lucas County’s most successful farmers and the post office moved into the building where it remained for some years. The Gasser Block has had many owners in the remaining years and many tenants. Most recently, it housed a bar and pool hall which closed in 2015. The property is located within the nationally recognized Lucas County Courthouse Square Historic District.
The owners in recent years had difficulties in maintaining the property but were unwilling to sell. In May 2017 the bricks collapsed on the lower half of the east wall and in August the front north east corner collapsed. Since then the City has been working to acquire the property.
The City of Chariton has employed a structural engineer to assess the cost of demolition of the property and the City Council has recently voted to proceed. But the Lucas County Preservation Alliance is also meeting with a contractor and the structural engineer to determine if it would be possible to retain and stabilize the remaining 3/4 of the current property. It would be difficult to lose another downtown property and the Chariton square would be forever altered by its loss.
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 2018 Most Endangered Properties includes:
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