MUSCATINE — The County Board of Supervisors approved the Historic Preservation Commission's annual report Monday morning and member Lynn Pruitt said there is plenty going on.
“We’ve got a lot of things going right now, and we appreciate the county's help in all of this," said Pruitt who presented the annual report.
The commissions new Chairperson Rebeckah Allgood said that commission has benefited from partnering with municipalities with vested interests in preserving their history.
"We have great partnerships with not only the towns in the county but also the historic organizations throughout the county," Allgood said. "In the towns, we help them the best we can because individually, we are from each of these towns and have worked to try to preserve that history."
“We’ve got a lot of things going right now," Pruitt said after the meeting.
West down I-22, Pruitt, a native of Nichols, said that the work to preserve parts of the town has been in three parts.
Already a historian paid for through a Technical Assistance Network (TAN) grant has determined that the commercial district was eligible to be placed on the National Registry of Historic Places. Pruitt said that next step is putting together an application to be added to the listing.
"Several of the buildings downtown are at least 50 years old," Pruitt said. "They have to be in pretty much their original condition. It's just a matter now to gather a little more info about how they've been used down through the years."
Getting added to the list would allow for the owners of buildings to apply for grants to restore the buildings — in keeping with the National Park Services' approved preservation approaches.
"They could potentially apply for funding to help with (restoration)," Pruitt said. "It's normally not going to cover 100 percent, but more like 60. And working with us, they will have other ways to raise the rest of the money."
In addition, Pruitt said that they were looking at trying to get the Nichols family residences on the list.
"They were instrumental in founding the town," Pruitt said. "They could potentially have those homes placed on the list."
The Muscatine County Fairgrounds in West Liberty have been on the National Register of Historic Places since 2016. Pruitt said that buildings on the site like the swine facility and the arts and crafts facility have received restoration efforts over the years.
"We have gotten local funding through donations for a lot of the work at the fairground," Pruitt said. "There have been a lot of donations. In particular, Kent Corp has been very generous in donating for that work."
According to Pruitt, Kent Corp donated $300,000 to the restoration effort.
In addition, downtown West Liberty is working on a Community Block Development Grant for the facades.
Like the other towns, restoration projects in Wilton have been ongoing, according to Rebeckah Allgood, a resident of Wilton.
"We already had the Candy Kitchen and the Wilton Depot downtown on the registry," Allgood said. "What we wanted to do was put the downtown district on the registry. So we worked with the commission and worked with a historian and got it put on the registry. While we were dong that, we were working on getting a half a million community Block Development Grant to get the facade restored, (rehabilitated) and preserved."
Once they are done, 11 buildings in downtown Wilton will have 11 new facades.
The historic preservation effort in Muscatine has been primarily aimed at the Old Dairy Barn and the Old Sheriff's Jail and Office.
In February, the Muscatine Board of Supervisors approved a consultant to prepare an application placing the Old Dairy Barn on the National Register of Historic Places.
"She is doing the work as we speak," Pruitt said. A draft is due later this month."
The Friends of the Old Barn, a charity aimed at raising money to preserve the barn is in the process of developing long-range planning for their fundraising effort.
The Muscatine County Conservation Board manages the site now. Pruitt said that in the future he hopes to see the site used for events.
The Old Sheriff's Jail and Office is in in Phase 1 of construction. The board of supervisors awarded the contract in March to rehabilitate parts of the building. These will include stabilization of the facade, structural repairs to the roof and waterproofing the basement.
Following the Old Barn's approach, Pruitt said they will likely try to set up a similar "Friends of" group to help raise funds for the building.
"That group would be able to then take donations to help restore it," Pruitt said. "That is in process. We are just trying to get together a brochure."
Both Allgood and Pruitt speculated as to what the future projects might be. But both were interested in creating markers for sites that used to be country school and churches.
"That part about the county historic churches and schools, we are working on those," Allgood said. "We want signage throughout the county explaining a little bit about these sites."
"There is one that we are looking at for next year and that is country schools and perhaps country churches," Pruitt said. "We want to try and get a handle on where every one of those were. Most of them are gone, but at least they have a sign up for the few that still remain."
Pruitt said that he wanted to see these markers explorable through online geographic information system.
"Eventually will get this done in a kind of GIS system where people could say show me the nearest historical school and it would pop up on a map with directions on how to get there," Pruitt said.