Saving History: Unique Cedar Rapids House Goes on the Market

By Cindy Hadish

It isn’t your standard “cookie-cutter” home. A Bohemian house rescued from demolition by Save CR Heritage will soon be on the market as affordable housing in Cedar Rapids.

Originally at 1257 Third Ave. SE, the home was moved in September 2015 to a site just blocks away, at 1425 Fifth Ave. SE. Contractors and volunteers have spent more than a year bringing the late-1800’s home up to modern standards, while retaining its unique historic character.

Vintage gable trim and scalloped shingle siding on the home’s exterior and original interior doors and woodwork have been meticulously restored, while new heating and air conditioning, electrical wiring and plumbing have been installed. The home sits on a new foundation, with masonry work reflecting the period in which it was originally built.

The three-bedroom, 1 1/2-bathroom house also features restored windows, new bathroom and kitchen fixtures, new cabinetry and appliances and a new roof, along with architectural details rarely seen in newer homes.

“Houses like this are vital to the fabric of our neighborhoods in Cedar Rapids,” said Bethany Jordan, president of Save CR Heritage. “Once they’re gone, we lose that history and sense of place in our communities.”

Provided it be moved from the property, Westminster Presbyterian Church sold the home to Save CR Heritage for $10 when church members decided they no longer had the funds to maintain the structure. Save CR Heritage, a nonprofit organization dedicated to saving historic properties, has invested in the project through loans and is using historic tax credits, which can recoup 25 percent of the project expenses.

The nonprofit had the home moved to a site of one of the Wellington Heights Neighborhood Association’s community gardens. In exchange, the Affordable Housing Network, Inc., donated an empty lot nearby for a new community garden.

Many other donors and volunteers have worked together to make the project a reality. The Cedar Rapids Garden Club, for example, designed landscaping and donated iris, peonies and other plants, and even sod for a new lawn. Garden Club members and students from Washington High School’s Interact Club volunteered their time to landscape.

Randy’s Carpets donated new tile for the bathrooms and kitchen, one of several businesses that Save CR Heritage is recognizing for their contributions. Save CR Heritage board members and volunteers dedicated weekends to priming and painting the exterior, while contractors have done much of the interior work, many at reduced cost.

John F. Kuba, a machinist for the Rock Island Railroad, was the original owner of the home, which research shows was built sometime between the late 1880s to mid-1890s. Kuba’s family immigrated to the United States from Bohemia in 1869.

Cedar Rapids historian Mark Stoffer Hunter said the home was likely among the first constructed in the neighborhood, then on the outskirts of town, and is one of the remaining examples of the vernacular architecture of that period in Cedar Rapids, serving as a connection to the city’s early Czech immigration.

The home is in the city’s ROOTs program, which offers down-payment assistance of up to 25 percent of the purchase price to income-qualified applicants. Eligible buyers must be at or below the area median income limits and able to secure an approved mortgage through a qualified lender. A family of four, for example, can earn up to $62,500. More ROOTs information is on the city’s website: www.cedar-rapids.org

Because the house is considered historic, the new owners also will receive a 7-year tax abatement, with no tax on the increase in value for the first four years.

Save CR Heritage hopes the project will serve as a model for others interested in saving homes, and in the meantime, is fund-raising for remaining costs of the move and restoration work. Anyone interested in contributing to the project, or who would like to learn more about Save CR Heritage’s educational and advocacy work, can visit www.SaveCRHeritage.org

The group will recognize donors and hold an open house in the near future, once restoration is complete.

Contact Kay Baty at (319) 364-8121 or kaybaty@cbhrealty.com for more information about the home.

Cindy Hadish is a volunteer and board member of Save CR Heritage.

©Copyright City Revealed 2016