Tornado Spurs McGregor City Hall Facade Restoration

Contributed by Duane Boelman, Deputy City Clerk and Economic Development Director at the City of McGregor. 

The McGregor City Hall was constructed in 1917 as a Christian Science Church.  After the church closed in the 1970s, it served as a private residence, doctor’s office, and a Masonic Lodge before becoming the McGregor City Hall in the 1990s. In its centennial year, on the evening of July 19th, the building was heavily damaged when a category EF-1 tornado struck McGregor. In a few minutes, the entrance door, the fanlight over the entrance, a column, lamp posts, flagpole and the roof were all damaged.

LEFT: First Church of Christ, Scientist Church (now McGregor City Hall), c. 1917. CENTER: McGregor City Hall the morning of July 20, 2017. RIGHT: Restored McGregor City Hall on November 13, 2017

Shortly after the storm, city administration and McGregor’s Historic Preservation Commission made the decision that repairs, when possible, would be made in a historically sensitive manner. The fallen column and its base were removed for safe storage, historic photos of the building were located, and because of their experience in historic restoration, Wadsworth Construction of Decorah was contacted regarding the repair of the fanlight and replacing the damaged non-historic steel entrance door.

Because of a forward-looking individual, the original double multi-paned entrance doors had been stored in the building’s basement. Wadsworth Construction provided an estimate for restoration of the fanlight and reinstalling the historic double doors. With restoration costs close to that of modern replacements, the city’s insurance company approved the work.

With a historic photo as a guide, a local contractor rebuilt the roof. A volunteer repaired the decayed base of the toppled column, and another contractor carefully put both back in place.  The lamp posts could not be saved, but replacements fitted with round shades appear much like the originals.

Wadsworth removed the fanlight and transported it along with the double doors to their workshop. There, the window glass was replaced where needed, and it was stripped, reglazed, primed and painted.  The double doors were also cleaned, sanded, primed and painted. With some minor adjustments, weather stripping and a new lock, the century-old doors and fanlight are once again welcoming visitors to the building.