Preservation At Its Best Award Winners

Newton, Iowa – Each year, Preservation Iowa honors individuals, organizations, projects, and programs whose work demonstrates a commitment to excellence in historic preservation. The annual awards show the value of preserving, protecting, and promoting historic resources.

This year RDG is honored to have two projects receiving recognition:  Harbach Lofts – winner of a Merit Award in the Multi-Family Residential; and the Historic Garst Farmhouse – winner of a Merit Award in the Rural Preservation Category.


The L. Harbach & Sons factory complex consists of two functionally related 5-story brick buildings separated by a paved courtyard. It’s a rare surviving warehouse-factory complex from early twentieth century Des Moines.

The current owner of the 1906 complex wanted to rehabilitate the two buildings as competitive-rate urban housing, giving them a hip, uptown feel to draw urban professionals to the revitalized downtown business district. RDG’s design challenge was to take full advantage of the history and materiality of the buildings but do it economically and in keeping with the urban lifestyle that has evolved in this redeveloped part of downtown.

East Facade – BEFORE Rehabilitation

The buildings were stripped to their architectural “bones” and rebuilt from there. Both buildings retained a highly open structure, with exposed wood beams, brickwork, refinished original wood and concrete floors and ceilings, repurposed large steel doors, and visible HVAC systems acknowledging the industrial history of the mixed-use neighborhood. Industrial architectural elements are highlighted throughout. A center courtyard between the two buildings adds a visual and physical connection which re-imagines the past building linkage.

East Facade – AFTER Rehabilitation

The newly rehabilitated buildings include 103 studio, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom apartments; retail space; theater room; and fitness room. As a National Register of Historic Places building, the rehabilitation highlights the warehouse and factory history while converting the space to new use, acknowledging the industrial history of the mixed-use neighborhood.


The historic nature of this property goes beyond its architectural details. The Garst Farmstead, in rural Coon Rapids, Iowa, has significant agricultural history: owner Roswell Garst, who moved here in 1916, was an important innovator and expansive promoter of the new agricultural methods and science that were developed in the 1920s, 30s and 40s – in particular, the new hybrid seed corn developed by Henry A. Wallace. Garst was a pioneer in converting the family farm into a modern agribusiness.

This Iowa farmstead was the unlikely site of a 1959 event that made waves across two major nations, when Soviet leader Nikita Kruschev made a personal, much-publicized visit to the Garst farm. In 2004, the Garst family (heirs of Roswell and Elizabeth Garst) formed Whiterock Conservancy to protect the house and its unique 5,500-acre land base in perpetuity. The Garst Farmstead Historic District was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 2009. When the Whiterock Conservancy approached RDG in 2017, the farmstead was overdue for maintenance needs including foundation repairs, waterproofing, roof and window replacement, chimney repair, siding and trim, and landscaping.

RDG began with an evaluation and assessment of the existing building focused on prioritized repairs. The chimney, the most iconic feature of the house, was leaning significantly and in danger of collapse, endangering other portions of the house. The roof had seen many layers of shingles, which were buckling, curling, and showing other signs of wear. The wood clapboard siding and wood windows and doors needed maintenance and some material replacement. All repairs had to be done in a sensitive manner, respecting the historic integrity of the house.

The evaluation report offered guidance and details that helped the Conservancy acquire the necessary funding to proceed. Once funding was secured, RDG developed construction documents focused on roofing replacement, window and door repairs, wood trim repairs, and repainting the entire building. And thus, the unassuming but highly historic farmhouse is preserved for new generations to learn about and enjoy. The Garst Farmhouse now operates as a bed-and-breakfast at Whiterock Conservancy, with five bedrooms available and numerous gifts from Khrushchev on display. 

Learn more about the process in “What’s So Special About that Farmhouse?”

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