Saved from the Endangered List

March 09, 2017
Architecture Restoration

Once listed on Preservation Iowa’s list of Most Endangered Buildings, the Beyer Building in Grinnell, Iowa, has been saved, restored and is back in circulation for business and commerce.

The original Beyer Block was built in 1883-1884 and was designed by the well-known Cedar Rapids architecture firm of Josselyn & Taylor. However, years of vacancies and neglect had taken their toll on the structure, earning it a place on Preservation Iowa’s 2016 Most Endangered Buildings list. This program/list started in 1995 to educate Iowans about the special buildings and historic sites that are slowly and gradually slipping away and have brought much-needed attention to these fading structures.

This building was one of 12 different buildings in Grinnell that took part in the Downtown Revitalization program included in a Community Development Block Grant, which was awarded in 2014. Funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and administered by the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA), were paired with local matching monies from the city and the building owners, in the effort to erase slum and blight from the neighborhood. A (Re)Building effort such as this helps create new opportunities for long-time neighborhood residents and achieve the triple bottom line of a more equitable community, a stronger economy and a protected environment.

The Beyers Building (listed on the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Grinnell Commercial Historic District) has since been saved and rehabilitated. The building is owned by Bob Hamilton, who lives and works downtown and owns several other historic buildings in the neighborhood. While nearly vacant prior to construction, the interior is now ready for future development into commercial and residential spaces, breathing new life into Grinnell’s downtown area.

RDG Planning & Design met with the building owner several times to develop an appropriate scope of work and construction budget and then completed the bidding drawings and specifications. Historical photos were consulted, and the architects made site visits to confirm existing conditions and investigate what historic elements remained for viable restoration.

Construction and rehabilitation activities primarily took place over the course of 2016. Restoration efforts included brick masonry repointing (based on mortar sample testing), stone masonry cleaning (using the gentlest means possible), upper-story window replacement (based on historical photographs), and full-height first-floor storefront reconstruction (using proportions, designs, and colors compatible with other historic buildings in the neighborhood.)

The next chapters in the story of this building will include interior space redevelopment on both the first and second floors. (P.S. Bob also owns the building to the left of the Beyer Block, which was dramatically restored from its non-contributing condition, based on historic photographs and evidence uncovered during investigations on-site.) It takes commitment, it takes money, it takes time, vision, and planning to keep our Main Streets vibrant economic and cultural centers of our communities.

Written by Scotney Fenton, Architect; Michelle Cunliffe, Architect