Preservation Iowa’s Most Endangered 2018: Wilson High School, Cherokee (Cherokee County)
This two-story former high School building at 100 E. Willow Street was constructed between 1915 and 1917. Built of brick and Bedford limestone in the Simplified Classical Revival Style, the structure was designed by Proudfoot, Bird, and Rawson of Des Moines who were well known for their sports facilities and school designs. The large gymnasium was built as a part of the original school design as an ell off the rear side of the building. Wilson High School had a strong wrestling program from the 1920s to the 1940s and produced sixteen state individual champions and were the State Championship team in 1939. Well-known graduates include Air Force Chief of Staff, General John D. Ryan. After a new high school was built in 1953, the school became a junior high school. When a new junior high school was built in 2001, the school closed and the building was sold. It served as a woodworking business and private residence from 2001-2007 but has been vacant for the last 10 years.
Lack of proper maintenance has allowed the building’s condition to severely deteriorate. While the side walls are in good condition, the roof is failing and several windows are broken leaving the building open to the elements and wildlife. After numerous unsuccessful requests by the City of Cherokee for owners to address maintenance needs, the City is now in the process of acquiring the property with plans to demolish a portion of the building.
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 the area including in Sutherland and Spencer.
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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