WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Keokuk Church on Endangered List

Apr 28, 2014

A former church in Lee County has made the list of Iowa’s most endangered properties.

The former Unitarian Church in Keokuk is on Preservation Iowa's 2014 Most Endangered list.

Preservation Iowa has produced the list every year since 1995.  The non-profit, statewide organization works to identify historic sites that are threatened by disrepair or potential development.

Board Member Leigh Ann Randak says it also advocates for and educates about historic preservation.

"We are mostly trying to help communities (and) organizations (that) are trying to work with preserving properties or looking at (the) benefits of historic preservation... and help them find resources."

Preservation Iowa's 2014 list features six properties, including the former Unitarian Church in Keokuk.  Each site was nominated by a local organization and selected by a panel of judges.

The former church along North 4th Street is in need of a new roof to help protect it from the elements.

Randak says Preservation Iowa does not provide money for the properties.  Instead, it hopes to raise their public profile.

“This will help them get some media attention and will help them show in their community that there is a statewide organization that is paying attention to this, (so) maybe we should look at it.”

The city has looked at the church, as well, and does not like what it sees.  It has filed a lawsuit in district court in the hopes of acquiring the building and demolishing it over safety concerns.

Randak says some properties are saved after appearing on the list while others have not made it.

"Obviously, not all of the properties that are on the endangered list become success stories.  It is mixed, but there are some of those where hopefully (it has) given organizers and community a boost in terms of looking at their property."

Randak says one success is a hotel designed by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright in Mason City.

The 2014 List

Priester Buildings - Bloomfield (Davis County)
Forest Grove #5 School - Bettendorf (Scott County)
Beers and St. John Company Stagecoach Inn - West Liberty (Muscatine County)
Brooklyn Opera House - Brooklyn (Poweshiek County)
Historic Unitarian Church - Keokuk (Lee County)
Glenwood Archaeological State Preserve - Glenwood (Mills County)