MUSCATINE, Iowa–After months of anticipation and careful planning, the Community Foundation of Greater Muscatine moved to 215 West Mississippi Drive in Muscatine and officially opened their doors Nov. 21. Now located in a historic space many times larger than their previous offices, the Community Foundation looks forward to renovating the space into a location that serves a variety of needs.
According to research compiled by previous building owners, S. G. Stein had the earliest part of the building constructed in 1849 to use for the Muscatine Oatmeal Company. As the company expanded, owners built additional space around the original building, encasing part of it in newer construction. In 1914, Hahn Produce purchased the building and expanded it once again in 1920. In 1946, Clarence Schmarje purchased the building and used it to operate the Ronda Button Company from 1946 to 1966. He and his family continued to use the space for his other business venture, Schmarje Tool, which created cutting implements, until 1967 when the company downsized to fit solely into its shop at 109 pine street. After sitting vacant for just shy of 30 years, the Button Factory Restaurant opened in the space and operated for a number of years.
With such a storied history, the staff at the Community Foundation hope to preserve its legacy in Muscatine and continue its history of serving many different groups. On the first floor, a large meeting room serves as a conference space for the Community Foundation as well as a classroom for the Muscatine Community College culinary program, which also utilizes the building’s commercial kitchen. For large events, the Merrill Hotel may use the kitchen as well. The Button Factory Restaurant’s bar will turn into a more informal meeting space for the Community Foundation, helping conversation and brainstorming flow. “We think in an informal space, sometimes ideas are better,” observed Community Foundation of Greater Muscatine Executive Director Charla Schafer.
Overlooking the river, the Community Foundation has located its offices. In the future, they hope to renovate an existing three season porch into an additional midsized meeting space or coworking area.
On the second floor, the Community Foundation plans to begin making decisions for the spaces available at the beginning of 2023. They particularly want to convert a spacious ballroom into a large group meeting space and to possibly use a suite of offices for coworking spaces or another purpose.
Though the Community Foundation has a lot of work ahead of them to fully utilize their new space, they feel excited to take this next step in preserving history and providing new opportunities for the community. “The revitalization of the building is a work in progress, but we are enjoying the additional space this location provides for collaboration and community meetings,” shared Jamie Leza, vice president of operations for the Community Foundation of greater Muscatine. “We are thrilled to be in our new home in the heart of our community and look forward to reinvigorating this space to support our mission today and far into the future.”