The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Local News

May 2, 2014

Wilson Building added to National Register

CLINTON — Bob Koontz considers himself privileged to have worked within the Wilson Building for so long. The 60-year-old Clinton resident has a deep history and close personal connection with the city’s tallest structure.

And as he speaks of it, passion brims in Koontz’s voice.

“It’s built like the pyramids,” said Koontz, the building’s maintenance man.

He started working in the Wilson Building in the mid-1990s with his father, Wayne.

“They went so overboard with building it that a lot of it’s still just as it was when it was first made,” Koontz said.

Built in 1914, named for George E. Wilson, Jr., the building still houses many of the artifacts it originated with. Koontz showcased marble walls, trimmings and trappings of brass, old fashioned man-operated elevators, and antique glass that can’t be found elsewhere.

As a staple of Clinton for so long, the Wilson Building was named on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places over the winter. Although the building is mostly empty — for now — plans to restore it to glory are in the works.

For Koontz, there’s a lot to work with.

“The value of this place is outrageous,” he said. “You walk on the floors and they’re solid as a rock, but this is a hundred-year-old building. They wanted this to last forever I guess.”

In 1892, the Wilson family immigrated to Clinton from England. They were a steel family, owning one of the largest industrial companies in the country. George Wilson, Sr. founded the Clinton Bridge and Iron Works, which employed 350. The investment return allowed his son, George Jr., to pursue a career in real estate.

In a matter of time, they conceived a Chicago-style structure in the heart of the city, the first of its kind for the region. In an attempt to grow downtown commerce, it was built in the 200 block of Fifth Avenue South with Wilson-company steel. Over time, the structure of the Wilson Building has endured very little structural change, and other materials, as presented by Koontz, also have endured the century. This is a testament, he said, to the revolutionary foundation.

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