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Officials move 100-year-old Iowa City barn without a hitch

BY BRIANNA JETT | AUGUST 23, 2012 6:30 AM

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Just above a snail’s pace, the little red barn previously nestled at 711 Melrose Ave. precariously made a journey to its new home around 100 feet away Wednesday morning. A few neighborhood officials say they are happy the barn could be saved.

Jean Walker, a Melrose neighborhood representative, is relieved the barn is still standing, after a house on the same property was demolished earlier this year.

“Though we are disappointed that the house couldn’t be saved,” she said.

The Albert and Augusta Wiese Barn, owned by the University of Iowa, was moved to make way for a new surface area parking lot. The barn has survived since 1910, earning it more than 100 years of history, and that history saved its life.

And despite a few breath-holding moments, the barn remained in one piece and the move went off without a hitch.

The state Board of Regents approved UI officials’ requests to demolish a 100-year-old house and another house at 15 Melrose Place during a meeting in Cedar Falls in May. The demolished property will be replaced by a 250-space parking lot for UI Hospitals and Clinics staff and physicians, whose parking will be displaced by construction of the new Children’s Hospital.

The barn was built originally in 1910 for the Wiese family and used for urban purposes— namely housing a carriage and two to three horses. Until the move Wednesday, it stood on its original foundation and original dirt floor.

In total, 10 houses owned by the UI were torn down to make room for the parking lot. The UIHC invited the Melrose Neighborhood Association to the planning committees for the new hospital so the neighborhood could voice any concerns about the project when it was in discussion.

The Melrose Neighborhood Association originally requested the Albert and Augusta Wiese house and barn be saved; however, only the barn could be spared.

“[The barn] didn't have the wear and tear or use and abuse [that the house did],” Moore said, adding the condition made the decision to save the barn much easier.

While the barn has no exact purpose, the next step is to put the materials taken out of the barn back in and restore the barn, Walker said.

Janet Coapstick, the director of the Melrose Daycare Center, 701 Melrose Ave., said that although the construction was a bit noisy, the kids were fascinated by the trucks and digging.

“It’s nice that they’re at least keeping some of the historical stuff together,” she said. “As long as they’re not putting it in my yard, I’m happy.”

Walker said the decision to save the barn ultimately saved years of history.

“The most important thing is that it is preserved because it is not only part of the neighborhood’s heritage but also part of the city’s heritage,” she said.


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