Preservation at its Best 2017, Preservationists of the Year: Newton Historic Preservation Commission (Newton)
For most Iowans, Newton was most known as the headquarters for the Maytag Corporation and the washing machine capital of the world. For years, the city benefited from having this large and successful company in their town. When Maytag left about a decade ago, the town of Newton didn’t take a defeatist attitude; Rather, they just updated their economic development plan and that plan included historic preservation as a central component.
In 2008, Newton established a historic preservation commission. Shortly after being established by the Newton City Council, the Newton Historic Preservation Commission became a Certified Local Government. As a CLG, the commission has received four CLG grants to date supporting projects that have given them the platform to promote historic preservation, further preservation policy, and educate citizens about local history, architecture and preservation approaches.
Collaboration is one of the strategic approaches to growing preservation in the community. The Newton Historic Preservation Commission routinely partners with Newton Main Street, the Newton Public Library, Jasper County Historical Museum, Newton Housing Development Corporation, high-school National Honor Society students, and Jasper County.
The Newton Historic Preservation Commission has donated thousands of volunteer hours resulting in the establishment of two new National Register of Historic Places districts- Maytag Park and the Newton Downtown. The Newton Downtown Historic District is the first district in Iowa to recognize the midcentury modern style of architecture. Their work gained national recognition. Their focus on the architecture of the recent past is an exciting development for preservation efforts in the State of Iowa.
Other efforts include hosting various programs throughout the years. For example, in 2016 alone, the commission sponsored a Historic Churches Walking Tour, developed an adult coloring book and hosted an adult coloring event during Newton Fest, was featured on the local radio show “Proud to Know Newton,” and sponsored a coffee house presentation about the Lyric Theatre, historically located within building where the coffee house is now found.
Preservation Iowa’s two most visible programs are Iowa’s Most Endangered and Preservation at Its Best. These two programs work well together because being listed as Most Endangered often times leads to awareness, a preservation effort, and a high-quality, award winning project.
The full list of Preservation Iowa’s 2017 Preservation at its Best award winners include: