Thursday, May 8, 2014

A preservation protest


The Hach Building, built in 1901 for a beer bottling operation, is almost certain to come down Monday, a sad event for the local historic preservation group, Save CR Heritage, which had fought to save it. Members of the group gathered in front of the building late this afternoon to protest (and will be back tomorrow afternoon at 5).
Maura wields signs while Beth and Chris manage the Save CR Heritage heart
The guy on the door is paper but has withstood the elements
Janet managed three signs in high winds, an athletic feat
Beth becomes a caped crusader for preservation
The Hach Building is located, for the moment anyway, at 1326 2nd St SE, in Cedar Rapids's New Bohemia neighborhood. It has been a number of things in its 100-year history, and is currently a vacant eyesore. This area got about 11 feet of water in the June 2008 flood, and has never been repaired. With each year of weather and no maintenance, the building has become more and more of a mess. The owner has resisted pleas to restore it, and according to group members turned down an above-market price offer to buy it. Speculation as to his motives ranged from vindictiveness to fear that a new owner would open a bar to compete with Little Bo's down the street, which rents a building he also owns. (Side note: Little Bo's was referenced in an earlier post, "Third Places in the City of Five Seasons," posted July 14.)
The building from the rear
Steps lead down to the basement
Preservation is valuable in and of itself (see my post "Why Historic Preservation," posted July 22). But sometimes it doesn't happen, often because people see old buildings as standing in the way of economic progress. (Examples in Cedar Rapids range from the Union Station in the 1960s to First Christian Church a couple years ago.) Sometimes buildings get to the point where restoration is prohibitive, such as the old People's Church.

In this case the only argument against preservation is that the owner doesn't want to preserve it, and it's his damn building. We talk about rights a lot these days, often as a means of shutting off further discussion. If we're going to live together, we need to get out of our rights bubbles and find some ways to discuss how to balance individual autonomy with participation in the community.

Sidewalk commemoration of the brewery on 3rd St SE

The buildings across 2nd Street from the Hach Building were all cleared after the flood. You can pretty well see the river, next to which is a small memorial to the founder of Czechoslovakia. Damn it, Tomas Masaryk would have wanted this building saved.


Save CR Heritage's May 5 post on attempts to save the building at http://savecrheritage.org/razing-of-new-bohemia-building-to-leave-hole-in-historic-district-demolition-comes-as-developer-interest-increases/

P.S.--The Hach Building came down early, early Monday morning, May 12. This photo is from the SaveCRHeritage Facebook page:

 

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