Historic Forest Grove school, home receive state awards | Local News

Two Quad-City properties – the old Forest Grove School in Bettendorf and a showy mansion in Davenport’s historic Gold Coast neighborhood – have won top awards for historic preservation from the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs.

Both received Preservation Project of Merit Awards, which recognize projects that exemplify the best practices of historic preservation, meet federal standards, and make use of state tax credits for historic preservation, according to a news release from the department.

Forest Grove School, built in 1873 and not used since 1957, was falling apart when Sharon Andresen launched a campaign to save it one snowy day in 2012. In cooperation with the Blunk family, on whose property it stood, she and a nonprofit support group raised more than $250,000 over a seven-year period and donated or solicited untold hours of volunteer labor and in-kind contributions to restore the one-room school to how it looked in the 1920s.

Early work included jacking up the leaning structure so that a new foundation could be built, then setting the building back down. A new roof and rebuilt windows to “button up” the building from the elements also were crucial, as were new floor joists, new siding and new walls.

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A crowning feature was construction of an elaborate bell tower that had been removed, and the reinstallation of the original bell that the Blunks had retained for safe-keeping.

Today the school at 24040 Forest Grove Drive is being operated as a museum-interpretive center, offering tours that educate the public on what one-room schools looked like, the type of education they offered and the role they played in the state’s history. At one time the state had 12,000 to 14,000 such schools, more than any state in the nation.

In addition, volunteers offer one- and full-day “reenactments” in which school children are invited to come to the school to experience what a typical day in the 1920s was like.

Gold Coast mansion

The towered mansion known as the Lambrite-Iles-Petersen House at 510 W. 6th St. was so dilapidated that the city of Davenport had declared it uninhabitable. In 2012, the city’s Historic Preservation Commission asked the city council to declare it a local landmark as a way to provide some protections. The city boarded up the house and made temporary roof repairs.

A group of concerned neighbors and others interested in historic preservation formed a group called Friends of 510 to develop a plan to save it. They convinced the city to condemn the building and then seek proposals for its restoration.

The city bought the home in September 2014 for $34,000 through condemnation and in February 2015, the mansion was purchased for $38,000 by Dick and Linda Stone of Muscatine. Restoration turned into a multi-year year retirement project for them, with a total investment of nearly $500,000 that has come from state and federal historic preservation tax credits and their own capital.

They rebuilt the mansion from top to bottom, with all new mechanicals, 52 restored windows, a new roof, restoration of an early addition, removal of later additions, new drywall, paint and floors. One of the final projects, undertaken in 2021, was to hire a company specializing in historic paint restoration to restore a fresco painted on the central stairwell walls and ceiling.

“We’ll probably be at this for as long as we own the house,” Dick Stone said of restoration. “There’s always something we want to do.”

While Forest Grove School is open to the public on a regular basis, the mansion is a private residence. But it will be open for tours on Sept. 16-17 during the Gold Coast tour of homes.

Built in 1856, the mansion is one of the most architecturally and historically significant residential structures in Davenport for several reasons, beginning with its Italianate architectural style, with brackets under the eaves, a tower, tall windows and quoins, or blocks on the corners.

It also was the home of three significant individuals: Joseph Lambrite, the builder who was a partner in Davenport’s largest sawmill, a major industry in the city’s early history; Thomas Iles, a prominent Davenport physician who cared for prisoners at the Civil War Confederate camp on Arsenal Island and John H.C. Petersen who established a mercantile business at 219 2nd St., now the Redstone Building, home to the River Music Experience. The business he founded has evolved into Von Maur.

Finally, the home is significant because it was designed by John C. Cochrane, whose other credits include the Renwick Mansion in Davenport and both the Illinois and Iowa state capitals.

Other awards

The awards were presented last week during the 2022 Preserve Iowa Summit held in Mason City. In total, 17 projects and individuals and 14 communities received honors.

An award for a large commercial project went to the Warrior–Davidson/Warrior Hotel in Sioux City that is owned by Restoration St. Louis, a company owned by Amrit and Amy Gill who have done extensive work in the Quad-Cities.

Vacant for 40 years, the hotel was redeveloped in 2020 with a $72 million investment. Much like the Gills’ projects in Davenport, it has served as a catalyst for Sioux City’s downtown redevelopment.

Other awards went to projects and educational efforts in Council Bluffs, Mason City, Bloomfield, Centerville, Des Moines, Dubuque, Keosauqua, Mt. Pleasant, Newton and Red Oak and to Leah Rogers of Mount Vernon who had a 40-year career in historic preservation.

The awards acknowledge thousands of volunteer hours and more than $120 million of investment in Iowa’s economy, the news release said. “Without the combination of private funding, historic tax credits, grant awards, and public dollars, projects like these would be impossible,” Susan Kloewer, administrator of the State Historical Society of Iowa, said in the news release.

More information about the awards is available at iowaculture.gov and preservationiowa.org.

Preservation Iowa was created in 1991 to support, broaden and strengthen the statewide constituency for preservation in Iowa; to educate public and private policymakers who affect historic preservation issues at the national, state and local levels; to develop and implement strategies for ensuring the preservation of individual and collective sites and structure of cultural significance to Iowa; and to work in partnership with national, state and local agencies and organizations whose activities impact historic resources. 

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