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Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs awards Rural Revitalization Grants

May 25, 2021

The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs today announced $600,000 in grants for historic preservation projects in or near Creston, Decorah, Elkader, Keokuk and Muscatine.

Iowa’s Rural Heritage Revitalization Grants will help rural communities preserve their history and foster economic development through the preservation of historic properties. The grants are funded by the U.S. Department of Interior’s National Park Service and administered by the State Historic Preservation Office, which is part of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs.

“This was a great opportunity to collaborate with our federal partner, the National Park Service, to support historic preservation projects, boost economic opportunities and promote a sense of local pride in communities across the state,” Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs Director Chris Kramer said. “Revitalizing these historic icons will better showcase the authentic character of rural Iowa and will benefit generations to come.”

The department created the grant program last fall, after Iowa became one of just eight states to receive funding through the National Park Service’s Paul Bruhn Historic Revitalization Grants program. The federal program was named in honor of an influential preservationist in Vermont and designed to support states, tribes, local governments and nonprofit organizations that own properties on the National Register of Historic Places.

With today’s announcement, the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs expands its support for historic preservation, community development and creative placemaking efforts alongside other programs such as Iowa Great Places, Iowa Cultural & Entertainment Districts, Certified Local Governments, Local History Network and Cultural Leadership Partners. All of these programs help communities leverage local history, art and culture to promote tourism and economic growth.

Here are the five recipients of Iowa’s Rural Heritage Revitalization Grants:

Recipient: Clayton County
Project: Inn at Motor Mill near Elkader
Grant Amount: $125,000

Clayton County will rehabilitate the circa 1870 stone inn at the Motor Mill Historic Site. Plans include flood-proofing the main floor and installing new mechanical systems. The interior will be rehabilitated to include meeting rooms, office space, and guest rooms for overnight accommodations, a throwback to the building’s original purpose.

Recipient: City of Keokuk
Project: Keokuk Union Depot
Grant Amount: $112,798

The city of Keokuk will restore the windows, doors and exterior masonry of the central tower section of the 1891 Keokuk Union Depot, designed by the renowned Chicago architectural firm Burnham & Root. The brick walls will be cleaned and repointed or reconstructed. Terra cotta decorations will be cleaned or restored, and sandstone window sills will be restored or replaced. The deteriorated below-grade sandstone mudsill will be replaced by longer-lasting reddish-brown granite to reduce future brickwork deterioration. Replacement sashes and doors will be milled to reproduce the originals, finished in their historic colors, and glazed with restoration glass.

Recipients: City of Muscatine and the Muscatine Art Center
Project: 1929 Japanese Garden at the Laura Musser McColm Historic District
Grant Amount: $122,402

The Muscatine Art Center will restore the historic 1929 Japanese Garden at the Laura Musser McColm Historic District. Although Japanese-style gardens were popular in the United States from the 1890s through the early 1940s, most were destroyed during World War II. Spared this fate, the Japanese garden in Muscatine is one of the few remaining from this era in the Midwest. This project will preserve the garden’s historic features and character while improving its function as a public space. The project will repair the garden’s water system, replace vegetation, and provide better access and interpretation. The treatment plan is based on research using historic photographs and other primary sources.

Recipient: City of Creston
Project: Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad Station
Grant Amount: $114,800

The city of Creston will use funds to rehabilitate the exterior of the 1899 Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad Station, one of the oldest and largest active train depots remaining in Iowa. The project will address significant masonry deterioration resulting from age and exposure to the weather. Today, the building serves as city hall, a senior meal site, an art gallery and an Amtrak station. The preservation of this building will draw positive attention to the important history of railroads in Creston and Iowa.

Recipient: Winneshiek County
Project: Winneshiek County Courthouse in Decorah
Grant Amount: $125,000

This project will help preserve the Winneshiek County Courthouse, one of few remaining American Renaissance Beaux Arts-style rural courthouses in Iowa with its central tower intact. Exterior work to the dome will prevent further water intrusion and damage to character-defining interior finishes including ornamental plaster, hand-painted murals, an art-glass dome, and intricately detailed woodwork. Ultimately, the work will allow the courthouse to remain the active center of county government, a showpiece in the Broadway-Phelps Park National Historic District and a significant attraction for tourism.

The State Historic Preservation Office identifies, preserves and protects Iowa’s historic and prehistoric resources. It also administers state and federal historic preservation programs and incentives, and maintains a survey and inventory collection of historic properties in Iowa. More information is available at

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.