Situated just north of the Fayette County community of Clermont is the Montauk Mansion and Historic Site, which was home to Iowa’s 12th governor, William Larrabee, and dates to 1874. Constructed of brick and limestone, the mansion was home to the Larrabee family for more than 100 years before being given to the State Historical Society of Iowa. The home and surrounding property, which overlooks the Turkey River, is open for tours Memorial Day through Labor Day.
Local residents celebrated when the Hotel Charitone opened on the northeast corner of the square in the Lucas County seat of Chariton. The hotel featured modern conveniences including tile floors, a telephone in every room and an in-house restaurant. The future looked bright for the historic building in 2003 when developer Charles Thomas purchased the abandoned hotel and announced plans for a $1.5 million renovation. The plans included renovation of the building to accommodate fifteen assisted living apartments with a “full spectrum of amenities.”
The project never got off the ground, and in January 2008, the Iowa Historic Preservation Alliance group placed the building on its list of Most Endangered properties. That year, a portion of bricks detached from the south side of the building, and while the owner took steps to prevent additional damage, including covering the windows with plywood, the structure remained in a state of significant decline. No further changes have been made to the property, and in December 2010, the Chariton City Council voted to move to acquire the property’s title by classifying the building as a public nuisance.
The historic Garland Hotel was constructed on Main Street in the Taylor County seat of Bedford in 1857. Originally called the Bedford House, the property saw many changes over its 140 years of operation, including the addition of electric lights in 1898, installation of central heating in 1906, and the addition of a south annex in 1910. An estimated 150,000 guests stayed at the downtown hotel.
The hotel fell quickly into disrepair following its closure in 1997, and the property was on the verge of demolition following the collapse of the south annex in 2004. Fortunately, community members banded together to save the structure, and with much volunteer help, a steady stream of improvements have been made to the historic structure. The red brick was restored, the east wall was reinforced, and the balcony was rebuilt. The interior has seen its own set of upgrades including floor reinforcements, new paint, restored ceilings, and refurbished woodwork.
While progress has been made, work remains to restore the entire second and third stories, as well as required plumbing, heating, air conditioning, and electrical work. The restoration board is working to secure a grant to create a master plan in an effort to accelerate progress to make the hotel operational. For more information on the project, contact Lee Weir at (712) 438-0012.
Continue reading Garland Hotel/Bedford House (Bedford, Iowa)
A modest wooden sign on the north side of East Peru in Madison County, Iowa, marks the city’s discovery of the famous apple variety in 1892, five years after the community was founded. At the time, Louisiana-based Stark Nurseries held a contest to replace the “Ben Davis” apple, which was declining in nationwide popularity due to its lack of flavor. East Peru-area farmer Jesse Hiatt sent in the winning apple, which he called “Hawkeye.” The nursery bought rights to the apple and began growing it under the “Delicious” moniker.
Now labeled “Red Delicious,” the apple saw many changes over the years, as producers were able to make it firmer and juicer while allowing it to be stored in sealed warehouses for up to 12 months. In the 1980s, the Red Delicious represented nearly three-quarters of apple production in the state of Washington, the United States’ main apple producer. American consumers began to sour on the apple as other varieties gained prominence; by 2003, the Red Delicious apple lost over half its market share.
Major renovations are planned for the former Opera House in downtown Corning in Adams County, Iowa. The 1902 building was constructed across from Central Park replacing a bank and merchandise stores destroyed by fire five years earlier. For its first decade of existence, the Corning Opera House staged exclusively live performances. By 1921, motion pictures became the primary function with only occasional staged events, with the last known live production held in 1934. The 724-seat Opera House was one of hundreds built in Iowa in the early twentieth century.
The building was sold to the local newspaper publishing company, where it was used for nearly 70 years before it was donated to the city of Corning in December 2001. A board of directors was formed, and more than $500,000 has been raised to improve the building, which received new windows in 2006 and a new elevator in 2009. In August, the Opera House received a $1.5 million Main Street Iowa grant, and plans are being developed to reopen a fully restored Corning Opera House by April 2012.