Endangered: Wade & Donohoe Buildings, Cherokee

Preservation Iowa’s 2017 Most Endangered Buildings: Wade & Donohoe Buildings, Mental Health Institute (Cherokee County)

The Wade and Donohoe “cottages” are ancillary buildings to the “Cherokee State Hospital,” now known as the Cherokee Mental Health Institute (CMHI). Completed in 1902, the CMHI was the last of four regional mental health facilities in Iowa and was constructed on the “Kirkbride Plan” – a 19th century plan for psychiatric hospitals. The Cherokee facility reached a peak population of 1,729 patients in December 1945. Both buildings are located along a continuous loop on the nearly 200 acre site at the west edge of Cherokee.

Wade Building Exterior – 2017 Preservation Iowa “Most Endangered Buildings” list

Both the Wade building constructed in 1929 and the Donohoe building constructed in the 1931 are examples of Neo-Classical institutional designs adapted to the needs of the growing hospital. Their symmetrical floor plans and elevations each contain a 2½-story central front gable section with massive 2-story colonnaded porticos and 2-story side-gabled wings. The Wade Building’s portico has a semi-circular shape with paired full-height columns along the perimeter and turned spindles along the second level deck and roof level balustrades. The Donohoe Building has a rectilinear plan with paired columns set across the front-gable section and the spindled balustrade only present on the second level; the porch roof balustrade has been removed. Both porticos have wide cornices lined with dentils and the front-gables have returning cornices and a semi-circular fan light in the gable peaks. Multi-light windows on the attic levels flank a centered access door. The peaks of the side-gabled wings have ocular windows with keystones.

Donohoe Building, Cherokee Mental Health Institute – Historic photograph

Both buildings have hollow-tile walls with reddish-brown brick veneer laid in running bond with cast stone or limestone used for the raised water table and windowsills. Jack arches are also made of stone for the center section windows and rendered in brick elsewhere. Fenestration for both buildings includes a combination single and paired multi-light casement sashes with transoms present on the lower level. Casement configuration includes 12-light and 18-light sashes with 18-light transoms. Windows are arranged symmetrically with ten single or pairs of sashes set in five bays in each wing on each level. The flat-roofed 2-story solarium wings on each building end have single sashes set in continuous rows wrapping each level. The roof on each building is clad in red terra cotta tile – likely the original roof coverings.

The Wade building has been vacant since 1976 and has had deferred or no maintenance for 40 years.  The Donohoe building was last used in 2002 and has had all utilities and maintenance ended in the last two years. Roofs provide evidence of missing tiles on both the slopes and the ridges. Gutters and downspouts are missing in some areas. Windows have missing lights but retain original sash and window openings. Entrance portico concrete steps, columns, and balustrades are in deteriorating condition with the gallery deck of the entrance portico collapsing on the Wade Building.

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 2017 Most Endangered Properties includes: