Thursday, May 15, 2008

My Apologies!

I mistakenly put up a wrong picture in my post Look at Someone Else's House

Michael Wright graciously pointed this out. Here is the correct house:
4. 225 N. Lucas St.

(image from the Iowa City Assessor's Web site)

May 15-16, 1933

From Helen's Diary:

May 15
Gardened most of day. Fed Buster every hour or so. Put in seeds + transplanted artichokes + tomatoes. France and England worried over Hitler's aim of arming Germany. Sunny till evening then rain. Made rhubarb fluff + ham souffle.

May 16
Gardened in morning and dug worms. Saw "Farewell to Arms" Helen Hayes and Gary Cooper. Very good. Went to Mortar Board picnic in park. Took Mrs. Wilson. Bed + read.
Roosevelt sends message to 54 nations warning against aggression. Fair- rainstorm in evening

My Comments:
Helen would have been 22 years old and would have lived at Foxcroft for 4 years with her mother when she wrote this. The spring term at the University of Iowa was already over, the previous week she wrote about working on a correspondence course. I believe she would have graduated the year before, but worked on grad level classes. "Buster" was a baby robin that had been pushed out of it's nest by his mother. She was digging worms for him.

Helen probably made rhubarb fluff from their rhubarb patch in the yard now owned by our neighbors behind us. The neighbor's lawn service just mowed all the rhubarb down last night while cutting the grass.

"Farewell to Arms" probably made a major impression on Helen. Her father had volunteered for World War I at age 40, and since he was a physician, was commissioned as a captain and sent to field hospital in France. He was sent to Serbia to help fight a typhoid outbreak after the armistice, but before his enlistment expired. It was there that he contracted pneumonia and died. Helen was seven when he passed away, Bess was a widow at 36. She never remarried.

"Mortar Board" was an honor society that Helen belonged to. "Mrs. Wilson" was their neighbor two houses down. Mr. Wilson, was Eric Wilson a former University of Iowa track star, who ran in the 1924 Olympics. The Wilson's were neighbors for 40 years.

On May 10, 1933 German students burned 20,00 "Jewish books" in front of the University of Berlin. By 1933 Helen had already been to France twice, something that certainly set her apart from young Iowa girls of the 1930's. We found her ticket stubs and a 78 rpm recording of Josephine Baker from Helen's 1931 tour. As a French major she was keenly interested in European events. I find her comments to be ominous foreshadowing considering that 10 years later she would leave her high school teaching job in Milwaukee and volunteer for the American Red Cross. Due to her fluency French she was posted to England prior to the Normandy invastion and went to France right behind the allied troops.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Look at Somebody Else's House!

Not that I don't want you looking here, but the Friends of Historic Preservation will have their 2nd Annual Parade of Historic Homes on Sunday May 18th, from 1-5 PM.

Here is a little bit about each of this year's tour sites:

1. Summit Apartment Building 228 S. Summit St

(image from
Two apartments from the 1916 Summit Apartment building will be open. Summit Apartments were the first apartments built in Iowa City. The Summit Apartment Building is the only known work in the state of Iowa by noted Prairie School architect Parker Nobel Berry (1888-1918). Berry was chief designer for Louis Sullivan for more than eight years and is said to have possessed one of the finest talents in Prairie School architecture. However, due to his untimely death at the age of 30, his work is virtually unknown.

2. Isaac Wetherby Cottage 611 N. Governor St.

The recently moved Isaac A. Wetherby Cottage will be open and there will be a Power Point presentation inside. Isaac A. Wetherby was the first photographer to take a picture of the Old Capitol in 1854. He also photographed many well-known Iowans such as Governor Samuel Kirkwood. The owner of the cottage, Marybeth Slonnegar has documented the history of Isaac A. Wetherby. She invites anyone with a Wetherby photograph in their collection to bring it along to be scanned into a database of Wetherby images. Architectural Historian, Marlin Ingalls will also be on hand to explain how he documented the structural history of the Wetherby Cottage. Marlin is an unbelieveable resource and listening to him is an experience not to be missed!

3. 1011 Woodlawn

(image from Iowa City Assessor site)
Also on the tour is the prominent Italianate house located at 1011 Woodlawn that was built in 1888 by Amos Hiatt. This property was damaged during the tornado of 2006 and has been beautifully repaired and painted.

4. 225 N. Lucas St.

The four square located at 225 North Lucas Street has been sympathetically updated by its current owners. Under construction is a new kitchen for Press Citizen food columnist Michael Knock.

5. 160 N. Linn St. (2-5 PM only)

(image from Iowa City Assessor site)
The newly re-located Motley Cow restaurant demonstrates adaptive re-use of historic materials.

For more information:

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Big Dig Continues

It's probably not good that I've been watching Deadwood reruns on HBO, as my work in the pool seems eerily similar to that of being a miner...

I've been carting dirt hither and yon. All told I've taken nearly 40 wheelbarrow loads of dirt out. Here are some pics taken on May 1st. I washed one part of the shallow end wall clean to see what the painted cement looked like:

The next three were taken this morning. I have gotten through the deepest part of the pool and am working toward the edge again. At the deepest part it seems as though they took a pick axe and broke a hole through the bottom when they filled it in. Given the amount of slag concrete I've found in the bottom my speculation that they filled the pond in when the neighbors built a gigantic garage right on the property line next to the pool seems confirmed. The construction of the garage in 1966 has meant major slope changes since the pool as built in 1933.

From where ground level was when I started, to the bottom of the deepest part of the pool is nearly 4 feet. We got 2 1/2 inches of rain from Friday night to Sunday morning. That meant on Sunday morning there was nearly a foot of water in the deepest part. That allowed me to wash the walls down a bit to get a better look at them. The water has slowly drained to what you see below. After the entire area is excavated my vague plan is to dig out the hole and put more cement in to patch it.