Sabin School part of Iowa City history


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Iowa City resident Judy Howard remembers swaying to old records alongside friends in the old Sabin Elementary School gym.

“In the late-50s, things were still ‘happy days,’ ” she said. “We would go to the gymnasium, and they would play records and occasionally have a garage band there.”

The school, which holds a lot of fond memories for Howard, as well as many others in Iowa City, will be demolished after the completion of the new MidWestOne Loan Center in the spring and summer of 2015.

At present, Sabin stands as a monument of Iowa City’s launch into the modern era early in the 1900s, said Mike Haverkamp, an employee who works in staff development for the Iowa City School District.

“Schools are the anchor of our neighborhood,” he said. ”People attach a lot of importance to it.”

Haverkamp said he worked in the Sabin building and, as a former president of the Friends for Historic Preservation, knows quite a bit about the school.

He said from when the building opened in 1918 to the time it closed in 1979, the elementary-age population declined because of the expansion of business and college rentals in the area.

Although the building is no longer owned by the School District and will be demolished at the completion of the new MidWestOne building adjacent to it, it holds memories far and wide of students and community members.

From the building, according to a memorandum of agreement with multiple agencies including the University of Iowa, the city of Iowa City and FEMA, parts of the school will be saved and put in a new park the city is planning to build in the Riverfront Crossings District.

From 1979 until the district moved to its new building on North Dodge Street, the former school served as the administration building.

The school was constructed in 1917-1918 as part of a bond referendum that added four new elementary schools to replace the previous grammar schools that had existed.

The State Historical Society of Iowa released a report that stated the significant of the school related to the demolition, saying the building could have potentially qualified as a National Register building.

Jeff Schabilion, a director for the Friends for Historic Preservation, said the history of schools in Iowa City is being lost.

“They were part of a system of neighborhoods where things literally revolved around the school,” he said.

Schabilion also said the city stands to lose a lot by leaving that system of community.

Haverkamp said that the importance of the building is located in the fact that it is a public space, saying that everyone in the area went to school and remembers their school days.

He said that sometimes as we progress forward, we lose a lot of the history around us.

“It’s always regretful to see a good historic building go down,” he said.

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