Historic Preservation Commission shares projects
by Margaret Hurlbert
February 14, 2020

MUSCATINE, Iowa—From one end of the county to the other, the Historic Preservation Commission works to protect and restore significant structures. At the Feb. 10 Muscatine County Board of Supervisors meeting, Becky Allgood and Lynn Pruitt from the Historic Preservation Commission spoke about projects they worked on in 2019 and their plans for this year.

Last year, the Historic Preservation Commission helped place the Muscatine County Home Dairy Barn or “Old Barn,” on the National Register of Historic Places. This designation allows the Old Barn to qualify for grants to help maintain it. Currently, the Friends of the Old Barn give tours of the barn that highlight its historical significance and host various special events throughout the year.

The Historic Preservation Committee also worked to restore several buildings in downtown Wilton with the help of a Community Development Block Grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Thanks to the Historic Preservation Committee’s efforts, three new businesses recently opened in some of the restored properties in downtown Wilton.

Finally, the Historic Preservation Committee helped the City of Nichols make progress on getting several of their buildings on the National Register of Historic Places and getting their downtown made into a historic district. Currently, the Commission expects to hear in March or April if several churches in Nichols and their downtown qualify for recognition.

Along with making progress on several important projects, the Historic Preservation Committee also had two opportunities to speak at the Preservation Iowa Summit. Their topics included spurring economic development through historic preservation and tourism and fundraising for various projects.

This year, the Historic Preservation Commission has several projects in store. In the spring, the group hopes to begin their survey of country churches and schools across the county. They planned to conduct the survey last year, but a delay in state funding prevented them from doing so.

In addition to the survey, the Historic Preservation Commission also looks to continue restoring buildings at the Muscatine County Fairgrounds. Previously, the group has worked with the Muscatine County Fair Board to redo the swine pavilion, Midwest One Art Building, Ryan Building, and Heritage Hall. This year, they want to begin work on revitalizing the Fair’s main building.

Earlier this year, Preservation Iowa named the Fairport Fish Hatchery to its most endangered property list. In conjunction with them and Mussels of Muscatine, the Historic Preservation Commission looks to save the building and possibly use it to aid in Mussels of Muscatine’s mission of sharing the history of the pearl button industry and using it as a catalyst for propagating mussels to improve water quality in the Mississippi River.

The Historic Preservation Commission also identified converting the historic jail into a historical museum and archive as a project they would tackle this year. They thanked the Muscatine County Board of Supervisors for their help in getting access to the space and the City of Wilton for donating a thousand dollars to put towards work on it.

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