Smith/Winterink Building listed among ‘Most Endangered Properties’ in Iowa

News Release from Mark Wicks, Community Development Director

CHARLES CITY – A historic cornerstone building in downtown Charles City has been named to the “Most Endangered Properties” list by a state preservation organization.

The Dr. J.W. Smith Building at 201-203 North Main St., also known as the Winterink Building, was the first of the properties announced for inclusion on the Most Endangered list this year by Preservation Iowa. The organization is announcing one accepted property a day on its Facebook page until the list is complete. To date three other properties have also been announced, in Red Oak, Jackson County and LeMars.

Begun in 1995, Iowa’s Most Endangered Properties was created to spotlight special buildings and historic sites that are slowly and gradually slipping away. The preservation program provides a resource for media coverage and introduces endangered property owners to preservation advocates and resources that can help preserve their historic property.

Each year a call for nominations is made through the Preservation Iowa membership, Main Street communities and historic preservation commissions across the state. A panel of judges considers four criteria in choosing the final list: geographic distribution, historic significance, nature of the threat and variety of building type.

The Charles City Historic Preservation Commission nominated the Smith/Winterink Building, which was constructed in 1866 by Dr. Joel Washington Smith, one of the first physicians to move to what was then St. Charles and open a practice. For many years the building housed a pharmacy/drug store on the ground floor, presumably to go along with Dr. Smith’s medical practice upstairs. The three-story structure was constructed by Ira and Anson Brackett from native limestone taken out of the old Fairgrounds Quarry (now known as Lions Field Park).

Today, the building is today part of a downtown historic district that is on the National Register of Historic Places, and is the only intact block on Main Street remaining after the tornado of 1968.

“The structural integrity of the building is a major concern at present,” the Charles City Preservation Commission noted in its nomination. “The exterior has been severely neglected and pieces of stone have fallen off. A damaged roof has left the interior exposed to water and animals. Despite offers of help by Community Revitalization and Historic Preservation Commission representatives in locating preservation resources, the current owner has not shown a willingness or ability to either maintain the building or sell it.”

The property is currently owned by Ellyn (Winterink) Dix of Clear Lake. Both the Historic Preservation Commission and the Business Improvement Committee of Community Revitalization have approached the City about doing something to help save the historic building.

Charles City Historic Preservation Commission Chair Jeff Sisson reported that the Endangered Properties listing does not come with any financial assistance. “However it brings increased public awareness to the property’s situation and helps it score higher in grant applications.”

Preservation Iowa is a private, non-profit advocacy group established in 1991 to help address statewide preservation concerns. Originally called the Iowa Historic Preservation Alliance, the group changed its name to Preservation Iowa in 2010. The organization has sponsored or hosted several statewide preservation and educational conferences, as well as played a part in the Iowa legislature’s decision to pass a state rehabilitation tax credit in 2000. It’s two highest profile programs are Iowa’s Most Endangered Properties and the Preservation at its Best Awards. Each has continued to expand and mature over the years. In 2010 Preservation Iowa launched a Main Street Development Loan Program, a national pilot project designed to support small business entrepreneurs that locate and grow within selected historic commercial districts by working with local lenders.

Preservation Iowa also continues to promote several important preservation initiatives: barns, country schools, and movie theaters. It has also expanded its initiatives to include disaster recovery and sacred places.