Preservation Iowa 2020 “Preservation at Its Best” Awards

Preservation Iowa bestowed its highest honors during the 2020 “virtual” Preserve Iowa Summit.

“It’s thrilling to see owners, architects, contractors and communities work together not only to save Iowa’s historic treasures but to make them focal points to attract new investment into Iowa communities,” Preservation Iowa President Bruce Perry said. “Preservation is a unique way of using our collective history to prepare for Iowa’s bright future.”

2020 Preservation at Its Best Awards

Presented by Preservation Iowa

711 High Street, Des Moines
Best Sustainability Project
Architectural Record magazine named Principal Financial Group’s massive Art Deco building the best building of the decade when it opened in 1939 on an entire city block in downtown Des Moines. Eighty years later, the company gutted and updated the building’s mechanical systems while preserving its historic character.

Brucemore, Cedar Rapids
Best Community Effort
More than 500 individual and corporate donors pitched in to the “Pride and Preservation” fundraising campaign to preserve the roof, doors, windows and other exterior elements of this 19th century mansion museum, the state’s only National Trust Historic Site. The $4.5 million restoration also received state grants from the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs and the Iowa Economic Development Authority.

Coffee on the River, Lansing
Best Small Commercial Project
An 1868 grain elevator overlooking the Mississippi River is now a unique coffee shop. The owners, sisters Wendi Eiden and Diana Wilson-Thompson, pulled off the transformation in about three months with a $52,000 business loan and roughly 1,500 hours of their own hard work.

The Forge, Jefferson
Best Large Commercial Project
A former Odd Fellows meeting hall near the Jefferson square is now a high-tech hub for software developers and students from 39 surrounding communities. Funded with local, county, state and federal support, the 6,000-square-foot space has attracted praise from the State Capitol to Silicon Valley.

Graceland Cemetery Chapel, Avoca
Best Rural Preservation Project
Members of the Newton-Avoca Historical Society teamed up with the City of Avoca to save a tiny octagonal chapel in the local cemetery. Built around 1875, the 320-square-foot chapel now has a refurbished chimney, restored arched windows and new cedar shingles that pay tribute to the original design.

Hotel Maytag, Newton
Best Multi-Residential Preservation Project
This five-story hotel on the northeast corner of the Newton square anchored local social life since it opened, in 1927, until the mid-1960s, when it was divided into apartments, offices and shops. The building gradually declined until the City of Newton bought it and guided its top-to-bottom rehabilitation, complete with 45 modern apartments, a movie theater and a ballroom. The project received a mix of local, state and federal grants, loans and tax credits.

Lauridsen Opera Center, Indianola
Best Adaptive Use
The Des Moines Metro Opera restored and expanded its offices in Indianola’s former Carnegie Library with a 4,000-square-foot addition. The $3.5 million project updated workspaces, enhanced accessibility and added room for rehearsals and receptions, all while preserving the original brick library’s character.

“Le Mars, Iowa: A Pictorial History, 1869-2019,” Le Mars
Best Special Project
The Le Mars Sesquicentennial Book Committee celebrated the community’s 150th anniversary with a hefty 680-page book that includes more than 1,800 images and related narratives gathered from residents. It’s a big hit: The group has sold more than 1,000 copies in the town of 10,000.

Simmons House, Ottumwa
Best Personal Residential Preservation Project
Built in 1899 and 1900, this house in Ottumwa’s Fifth Street Bluff Historic District had been converted into five apartments and abandoned for more than a year before its current owners, David Nino-Liu and Dennis Willhoit, purchased it in 2017. Since then, they have fixed the home’s structural damage, upgraded its mechanical and electrical systems, reconstructed its decorative elements and evicted a colony of bats.

Winneshiek County Courthouse, Decorah
Best Public Project
Recent repairs and upgrades to the 1904 courthouse include a new roof, colored LED exterior lighting, and a new lightning-protection system to replace one that no longer worked. The project’s leaders also created a comprehensive plan to help county officials maintain the building in the future.