The Hedge Building at 401 Jefferson is one of Burlington's most instantly recognizable landmarks and one of the most distinctive Victorian confections in Iowa. Designed by Charles Dunham, Burlington's premier 19th century architect, its carved limestone front facade and details, decorative brickwork, eight foot tall windows, polychromatic face tiles, and picturesque spires are one of a kind. It is a key contributing structure in the West Jefferson National Register Historic District. The Hedge Building has been featured in a National Trust calendar, the National Main Street Center's Organization Committee handbook, and the National Trust's architectural guidebook The Buildings of Main Street, as well as on the original logo of Burlington Main Street. Prominently sited at a key downtown intersection, the building was designed to be a showplace.
The Hedge Building was erected in 1881 and originally housed Elliott's Business College. The three-story, 8900 square foot building was later home to a furniture business, a second floor dress shop, and a men's clothing store. The first floor was last used as a takeout Chinese restaurant in the early 2000s, while the upper floors had been left vacant and deteriorating for decades.
Concerned that the building was in danger if not restored and put back into use, and knowing it was too important to lose, local businesswoman and preservationist Becky Anderson purchased the Hedge Building in March 2008. She set about planning a complete interior restoration, including the creation of two new apartments each on the second and third floors. Three were funded with a HUD upper story grant. Anderson made use of all the incentives available, including historic rehab tax credits, upper story grants, and HRDP grants. She saw it as her mission not only to learn how to use these tools but also to encourage others to take advantage of them.
Since the Hedge Building used historic rehab tax credits and HRDP grants, the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation were used meticulously throughout the project. Anderson worked closely with the State Historic Preservation Office, which has taken a keen interest in the building due to its striking architecture and quality restoration.
The lavish detail of the Hedge Building's front facade called for a recreation of the missing storefront. An unfortunate 1960s remodeling had replaced the elaborate carved stone storefront with a flying saucer-like display case at the prominent corner. After the more modern materials were removed, structural issues were addressed. The Burlington architectural firm of Metzger Johnson designed a new storefront and entry consisting of 23 separate pieces of cast stone. They faithfully echo the original appearance. Brickwork was repointed, and leaky roof and gutters were repaired as needed.
Inside, the extensive woodwork was stripped and refinished. So as not to intrude on the appearance of the large windows, special magnetic interior storm windows were used. Original ceiling heights were retained. New interior walls do not reach the ceiling; they are trimmed out with custom replicated woodwork, slightly scaled down. The original doors were also restored, with special clear ceramic glass used in the apartment entry doors for fire code reasons, rather than going with new solid doors. The tin ceiling was cleaned and painted, and the hardwood floors and windows were restored where possible.
Anderson and her partners moved their financial services firm to the restored first floor in February 2009. The first apartment tenants moved into the building in April 2010, and a second commercial tenant moved into the newly rehabbed office space at the rear of the first floor in June 2011. Absolutely committed to the vision of a revitalized downtown, Becky Anderson has rescued a Burlington jewel and crafted a standout mixed use restoration, inspiring other building owners to follow her lead. The Hedge Building is once again a proud landmark admired by local citizens and visitors alike.
Sources of Funding
- Historic Resource Development Program (HRDP)
- Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
- Iowa Finance Authority
- City Incentives
- Commercial Financing
- State Historic Tax Credits