Iowa Loses 130-Year-Old School

St.
St. Paul's School, built in 1875 in Burlington, Iowa, was demolished in March 2005.

Credit: Heritage Trust

May 31, 2005

Dear Preservation 911,

We in Burlington, Iowa, are unhappy to have lost a building in a National Register district. Unfortunately, we lost St. Paul's School in March. The board of the Great River Medical Center, which owned the building, intends to put the site up for sale. It is on the crest of North Hill at the edge of downtown Burlington, overlooking the Mississippi, as you can see in the attached photo.

The only consolation is that much of the building material was salvaged. Volunteers from the Heritage Trust, the local preservation nonprofit organization, were allowed to remove architectural items for resale through their Preservation Station salvage operation. Also, a crew of Amish workmen dismantled many of the structural timbers for reuse, bricks were saved for resale to benefit local Catholic schools, and the cut stone decorative elements were spared and given to the Church.

Here is the text of an article in our most recent newsletter:

St. Paul's School Razed

Burlington lost part of its architectural heritage with the demolition of the former St. Paul's School at 520 N. Fourth St. The building had been occupied until last spring and was structurally sound. However, a subsequent roof leak and the freezing and bursting of the water pipes caused significant interior damage. Volunteers from Preservation Station were allowed to salvage many items, and the fact that many of the structural timbers and bricks were also saved for reuse is of some consolation.

However, the loss is a hard one, since the 1875 structure was listed in the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Heritage Hill Historic District. Local preservationists were unable to stall the demolition by the building's owners, Great River Medical Center. The reason? The locally protected district encompasses only a portion of the National Register district, and St. Paul's fell outside the boundary. Therefore, the building's razing was not subject to review by the City's preservation commission, and the owners could do as they wished.If we truly value Burlington's rich legacy of historic sites and structures, we must work to extend local protection to those that are listed in the National Register. In addition, we should strive to promote the many economic, social, and aesthetic benefits of preservation. We cannot afford to become complacent about the need to protect these irreplaceable resources.

Sincerely,

Steve Frevert
Secretary, the Heritage Trust for Restoration and Preservation of Historic Burlington, Iowa

E-mail the writer with advice, comments, or commiseration.

Got a 911 in your town? Send us an e-mail.

Preservation 911 is a message board open to all readers. While National Trust staff will respond to the extent feasible, this will not be possible in all cases. We encourage other readers involved in state or local preservation to respond with advice or assistance. To contact either a regional office of the National Trust, a statewide or local nonprofit organization, or your state's historic preservation office, click here for a state-by-state list.

The National Trust's regional and field offices bring the programs and tools of the Trust to communities across the country. They offer technical assistance through consultations and field visits and financial help through small grants. They hold educational programs for professional preservationists and work to foster policies that help historic places. They also provide leadership on issues that concern entire regions, such as saving historic schools, fighting sprawl, and revitalizing cities.