The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

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January 18, 2013

LEVINE: Tour reveals potential in Roosevelt Building

CLINTON — It didn’t take long for Gary Herrity to formulate an opinion Monday on the Roosevelt Building.

“It’s still in good shape and can be easily remodeled,” said Herrity, one of the members of the city’s historic preservation committee that toured the building Monday.

Many of the group members on Monday still lamented the fact the Clinton School District’s administration moved out to the former Harding Elementary School this past fall. But that story has been covered at length in the pages of the Clinton Herald.

This tour provided a glimpse into what’s possible with a building that’s more than 100 years old.

The historical significance of the Roosevelt Building also has been well documented through years of research by the very people that accompanied me on the tour.

When the Roosevelt Building was built in 1888, it was known as one of “the finest high schools anywhere.” Probably the most significant part of the structure is its Romanesque style, giving it a unique look compared to the many newer buildings that don’t have a particular style.

And the building’s image fits into the overall motif of surrounding structures.

The interior is still intact, and without any of the modern amenities that the administration center used to carry, it’s like stepping into the past when walking inside, including the chill that permeates the un-heated building.

Many of the people who toured the facility, including Jan Hansen, Mike Kearney, Herrity, John Rowland, Robert Betsinger, Carol Gilbert, Bill Foster and Clinton schools representative Gregg Cornilson, discussed what would need to be done to the building to make it viable for another owner.

The electrical work would have to be redone, the ceilings should likely be heightened and the outside would need some shining.

Being handicapped accessible was a major factor why the school district moved away, and that also would have to be addressed.

Overall, though, there’s potential in the building.

Viewing the structure from the outside doesn’t do the building justice. Once inside, it’s massive. There’s so much area to work with and the turrets create a nice picture in the attic.

A photo forwarded to me from Kearney shows the staircase from when it was built. When comparing that to a photo of the staircase from Monday, it would be almost impossible to tell the difference if it wasn’t for the difference of color in photography.

The building has character, and if the past week is any indication, that creates hope for the building’s future.

Plans to renovate the Wilson Building and the former Patrick’s Steakhouse are building blocks to revitalizing downtown.

And those entities were picked up by private entities, something the preservation group hoped would happen in the future for the Roosevelt Building.

Clinton Superintendent Deb Olson said so far no one has come forward with a real offer to utilize the building.

“What we’re looking for is a basic business plan that would benefit our community,” Olson said.

The district has only had an inquiry about reclaiming some wood, which isn’t a viable option for the district, Olson said.

I agree. This building should be put to good use, and it doesn’t appear the district would need a fortune to part ways.

And developers would reap the benefits of historic tax credits, which could pay for 45 percent of the rehabilitation, Kearney said. The building is on the National Historic Register.

It only takes one inquiry to turn around the fortunes of the Roosevelt Building. And the way 2013 is going for historic buildings, who knows what will be in store for the once “finest high school around,” in downtown Clinton.

Scott Levine is the Associate Editor of the Clinton Herald. He can be reached at scottlevine@clintonherald.com.

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