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Find out why old places matter during Preserve Iowa Summit

Apr 27, 2017

DES MOINES – So, why do old places really matter?

It's a question historic preservation professionals, advocates and volunteers will take up when they gather in Fort Dodge this summer for the 2017 Preserve Iowa Summit.

"There are many good answers, but historians and everyday Iowans say historic places give people a sense of identity and meaning to their lives," said Paula Mohr of the State Historic Preservation Office. "Historic properties also improve quality-of-life and economic opportunities in our communities."

Those topics and more will be discussed during the 2017 Preserve Iowa Summit: "Mining the Past," set for June 8-10 at various venues in Fort Dodge's Downtown and Oak Hill historic districts. Owners of historic properties, preservation professionals, architects, developers, historic preservation commission members, students and others interested in historic preservation are encouraged to attend.

"In Iowa, we're fortunate to have more than 90 city and county historic preservation commissions involved in our Certified Local Government program, one of the largest of its kind in the country," Mohr said. "They are the backbone of Iowa's preservation network, and we especially invite them and state, county and city officials to come to Fort Dodge to learn more about historic preservation in Iowa."

With a rich collection of historic sites, Fort Dodge is an ideal location to host this year's Preserve Iowa Summit. Preservationists will use the city’s historic assets as a learning laboratory for attendees and share their knowledge about projects during breakout sessions and tours, including:

  • The Gypsum Mine: This tour of the Flintkote Pit, an active gypsum mine operated by United States Gypsum Company, and Off Highway Vehicle Park where former gypsum mines have been converted into a unique recreational area.
  • The Warden Arcade and Apartment Building: Fort Dodge has approved a redevelopment agreement to rehabilitate these once-abandoned buildings into housing and possible space for commercial, cultural and recreational use. This tour showcases their opulent architecture and imminent rebirth.
  • The Karl King Bandshell: One of Fort Dodge's most dramatic structures, the Art Moderne bandshell was built in 1938 with Works Progress Administration funding and named for the world-famous band composer who performed here from 1938 until his death in 1971.
  • Fort Dodge's Public Sculpture: Fort Dodge has an impressive collection of public sculpture ranging from bronze statues of its founding fathers to a monumental concrete bas relief depicting athletes to a contemporary work called "Turn on the Light," which represents the city's diverse population.
  • Historic Fort Dodge Senior High School: Nationally renown school architect William Ittner designed Fort Dodge's Elizabethan Revival high school in the early 1920s. The building continued as a school until 2013 and will be converted into housing.
  • Oakland Cemetery Walk: One of the oldest and most historic burial grounds in Fort Dodge, the Oakland Cemetery was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2000. Tour highlights include a Civil War Memorial, seven tree-stump grave markers and graves of two African-American Civil War soldiers.

Breakout sessions will address a wide range of topics, including Iowa and World War II, Iowa's historic minority neighborhoods, the history of gravestone carving, and the Nodaway Cemetery Kids, a group of high school volunteers who have preserved historic cemeteries in Page County. Other sessions will explore Northeast Iowa's Native American art-rock legacy, unmarked burials and Plymouth County's Kimball Village, which became a National Historic Landmark in December.

Attendees can also get some technical tips about tax credits, preservation tools and techniques, architectural and historical surveys, high-definition scanning, historic rehabilitation of downtown storefronts and more.

The keynote speaker is Thompson Mayes, vice president and senior counsel for the National Trust of Historic Preservation. He has authored many articles about preservation easements, shipwreck protection, historic house museums, the Americans with Disabilities Act, preservation public policy, and the importance of old places. He taught historic preservation law at the University of Maryland and is a recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts Rome Prize in Historic Preservation.

Additional highlights include a reception at the Blanden Art Museum and a screening of "The Barn Raisers," produced by documentary filmmakers Kelly and Tammy Rundle of the Quad Cities. The summit closes with day-long Saturday workshops about gravestone repair and Iowa's agriculture history.

The summit is presented by the State Historic Preservation Office, the city of Fort Dodge, the Fort Dodge Historic Preservation Commission and Preservation Iowa. Participants can save $30 off regular admission by registering on or before May 11. Discount admission rates are available for students and preservation partners.

The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs and its three divisions – the Iowa Arts Council, Produce Iowa - State Office of Media Production and the State Historical Society of Iowa – empower Iowa to build and sustain culturally vibrant communities by connecting Iowans to the people, places and points of pride that define our state. The department’s work enables Iowa to be recognized as a state that fosters creativity and serves as a catalyst for innovation where the stories of Iowa are preserved and communicated to connect past, present and future generations.