The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

National News

September 23, 2013

Row house move is small part of Capitol grand plan

The Associated Press

DES MOINES — A tiny two-story red brick row house that sat nestled in the shadows of the grand Iowa Capitol for nearly 120 years will soon move a few blocks west and get new life as a restaurant.

The state wants the vacant building moved to open additional space for the West Capitol Terrace, a park that designers envision will eventually encompass 10 acres stretching from the Capitol into the East Village business district. It’s just one segment of an expansive multi-decade plan to beautify the areas surrounding the Capitol.

The 22- by 50-foot rectangular building’s modest appearance belies its historical significance. It is one of very few buildings remaining in downtown Des Moines built before 1900 and is considered to be “a well-designed and extremely rare surviving row house,” according to documents prepared for the city’s Landmark Review Board.

An early prominent business owner in Des Moines, Samuel Green, commissioned the building initially to be his family’s home. In 1949 it was bought by Norden Singers Inc., a Swedish choral and cultural group and used as a rehearsal hall and clubhouse. That history gives the building an ethnic heritage considered significant given local Swedish immigrant cultural contributions to Des Moines.

Jake Christiansen, a local developer, plans to spend about $1.2 million to move the 540,000-pound building to a city-owned parking lot in the East Village, build a large patio and set it up for use as a restaurant.

The 2½-block move is scheduled for Wednesday night at midnight. Christiansen expects the building to be ready for use by the end of the year.

“Not every building can be saved but when we have a chance it seems like it’s a worthwhile effort to save some of that history,” Christiansen said.

Moving the building opens the space for expansion of the West Terrace, a broad area of walkways, terraced grassy areas, gathering spaces, benches, and trees that was once a large state-owned concrete parking lot.

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