Endangered: Sanxay-Gilmore House, Iowa City

Preservation Iowa’s Most Endangered 2018:  Sanxay-Gilmore House, Iowa City (Johnson County)

Endangered: Sanxay-Gilmore House, Iowa City

Long believed to have been built in the late 1850s, recent research has revealed that the Sanxay-Gilmore House at 109 E. Market St. was built by 1843, making it likely the oldest remaining house within Iowa City’s original city limits. The two-story Greek Revival house was built by Theodore and Hettie Sanxay shortly after their marriage. An Italianate west wing added to the brick home was followed by two more additions which were in place by 1879. The large blocks of limestone which compose the foundation of the original house are thought to be left over from the construction of the Old Capitol.

Theodore Sanxay came to Iowa City with his father Frederic and opened a store in the town’s first two-story brick commercial structure on July 4, 1840, the same day the cornerstone of Old Capitol was laid. The Sanxay Store eventually moved to a brick building which still stands downtown on the corner of Clinton and Washington Streets. In addition, Sanxay was a trustee of First Presbyterian Church and a director, vice president, and acting president of the Johnson County Savings Bank. He also helped push local man¬ufacturing, plan a high school, and promote the town’s first railroad.

The Sanxay Family owned the property for all but three years until 1920. In 1946 Eugene and Blanche Gilmore bought the house. Eugene Gilmore served as University of Iowa president from 1934 to 1940 (and before that, as vice governor-general of the Philippine Islands, and then professor and dean of the UI law school). Gloria Dei Lutheran Church located next to the house has owned the house in recent decades and has been a good steward.

Now, however, the church is selling the lot to the University of Iowa and proposing to move the house (with university assistance) to a historic courtyard at 130 E. Jefferson Street located in the nationally designated Jefferson Street Historic District. This proposed move would compromise not only the historic orientation and significance of the Sanxay-Gilmore House but also threaten the National Register status of the St. Agatha Seminary/Park House Hotel building to which the courtyard is associated and the national designation of the Jefferson Street Historic District. Other nearby sites have been offered as an alternative if the house must be moved but, unfortunately, the historic courtyard continues to top the list of new locations

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: