UI officials say barn at 711 Melrose Ave. will be preserved

BY BETH BRATSOS | MAY 01, 2012 6:30 AM

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Though the state Board of Regents recently voted to demolish the house at 711 Melrose Ave., University of Iowa officials said the barn behind the house will likely remain.

UI spokesman Tom Moore said officials are considering either slightly moving the barn to a nearby location or letting the structure remain.

"It appears that by shifting the barn slightly within the site, we will be able to keep it and still allow parking traffic to route around it," wrote said in an email. "The barn would have no function on the site but would simply be preserved for purposes of heritage."

The regents approved UI officials' request to demolish the 100-year-old house and another house at 15 Melrose Place during their meeting in Cedar Falls last week. These houses will be replaced by a 250-space parking lot for UIHC staff and physicians, whose parking will be displaced by the construction of the West Campus Transportation Center and the new Children's Hospital. The regents granted permission for the removal of 1 Melrose Place through 8 Melrose Place at a previous meeting.

Moore said the barn's smaller size increased the chances of it being incorporated into the design of the parking garage. The house, however, exists directly in the pathway of the entrance and exit for the site, causing the need for its removal. Moore said UI officials will complete designs for the parking lot and the barn sometime in June.

Robert Miklo, a member of the Iowa City Historic Preservation Commission, said that although 711 Melrose Ave. and 15 Melrose Place are in a historic district, he believes few key properties exist on Melrose Avenue and most tend to be farther east.

"I think because of their age and architecture, the properties are not some of the defining properties of the district," he said.

Miklo said several structures in the district developed in two key time periods make the district historical. The 1870s involved the construction of many houses, and a wave of construction in the 1920s brought many houses built for UI faculty and staff in the area.

The State Historical Society site inventory forms identify the carriage barn, which retains its original roof and wood siding, as a "well-preserved example of a two-story barn."

The original dirt floor also remains and the barn is "the only surviving barn in the district, which originally had several such outbuildings located along Melrose Avenue," the forms said.

Though the form also identifies the 711 Melrose property as significant because of its vernacular house structure, known as the "Front-Gable Roof form," among other things, many UI officials say the dilapidated condition no longer makes it a "key property" of historical significance.

Jean Walker, the president of the Melrose Neighborhood Association, has expressed concern about the effect the house's removal will have on the Melrose Historic District. Walker said she has suggested UI officials name the parking lot something related to Melrose to preserve the area's historical significance.

Moore said he is unsure what the name will be, however, and that UI parking lots are typically designated by lot number.

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