A new resource of Dubuque Historic Preservation
For the last several years, those in Dubuque who have been instrumental in completing some of the most innovative historic preservation projects have recognized the need for a local historic preservation nonprofit organization that could be a resource for property owners, businesses, and organizations looking to plan and complete their own historic preservation projects. After a year of intensive planning, Heritage Works, Inc. has been established to fill that need.
I became involved as a historic preservation consultant with the Friends of St. Mary’s shortly after obtaining my Masters in Historic Preservation from the School of the Art Institute in May of 2012. Through the St. Mary’s/Steeple Square project, I met John and Mary Gronen, owners of Gronen Restoration.
The Gronens have been part of ongoing discussions for several years about helping to form a preservation nonprofit focused on Dubuque area restoration projects. In my work over the past couple of years, there has been discussion about some of the barriers that property owners and developers face in trying to plan and complete historic preservation projects. In particular, the financing of historic preservation projects can be daunting, even for those who are familiar with the process. Many important projects do not even get to the planning stage because the technical and financial resources necessary to do the “pre-planning” work are underestimated. As a result, only a handful of property owners and developers in Dubuque have the knowledge and resources necessary to complete historic preservation projects.
In our discussions, we felt that historic preservation in Dubuque could be taken to the next level if there was a nonprofit organization that gathered all of the best practices from prior successful restoration projects and assembled a network of professionals who could impart their prior knowledge and experience to others. The organization could also mine technical and financial resources from throughout the United States for the purpose of promoting transformative projects in Dubuque’s historic neighborhoods.
John and Alice Butler have been long-time staunch advocates of historic preservation, both at the local and national level. Because of their past experience with preservation projects in Dubuque and their active involvement on the National Trust for Historic Preservation Council, the Butlers were keenly aware of the importance of vital technical and financial resources in completing quality restoration projects. They expressed an interest in helping to fund a non-profit historic preservation organization if an operationally viable and financially feasible business plan could be developed for the organization.
A planning team was assembled that included the Gronens, City of Dubuque Manager Mike Van Milligan, and President and CEO of the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque, Nancy Van Milligan. The Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque and Gronen Restoration paid for the planning services of Preservation Design Works in Minneapolis, MN to help organize the framework of a preservation organization. The Gronens enlisted my help as historic preservation consultant to conduct research and to assist in the development of the business plan. Jerry Huguelet, then a Loras College student interning at Gronen Restoration, also provided valuable research and assistance with the business plan.
The goal of the organizational planning was to borrow successful programming from other preservation organizations throughout the country, but also to break the mold and create an innovative and entrepreneurial organization that would not only talk about the importance of preservation, but also engage in transformative historic property redevelopment projects that would show the tangible benefits of historic preservation in the Dubuque community.
The Butlers also strongly believe in education as a vital component in forwarding Dubuque preservation efforts. So the planning group endeavored to incorporate education and training into many of the programming proposals. The Butlers view Dubuque’s historic buildings and neighborhoods as a laboratory to help youth and interested adults gain vocational training and experience in developing skills in the traditional building trades, such as historic masonry repairs, historic carpentry, historic plaster repair, and stained glass restoration.
Heritage Works, Inc. is the result of over a year of thoughtful planning. Heritage Works’ startup and first years of operations are funded through the generous support of John and Alice Butler. We will begin immediately working to gain broad public support to assure long-term viability.
The name “Heritage Works” encapsulates all of what we hope to accomplish as an organization. The word “heritage” means a collective knowledge that is acquired or transmitted from predecessors. Each generation adds to heritage and passes it on. Heritage is dynamic and transformative. The word “works” has several meanings. As a verb, it means “to act or operate effectively.” As a noun, it means “a place where something is accomplished or produced.”
Heritage Works will strive to use Dubuque’s history as a transformative, effective, economic development tool so that Dubuque’s past and present can be transmitted to future generations.
Heritage Works will also be a “think tank” whose purpose is to develop innovative tools and methods of restoring and transforming Dubuque’s historic buildings and neighborhoods as well as the lives of the people who inhabit them. Heritage Works will be most effective when it partners with other organizations that have developed successful programming that will assist in meeting Heritage Works’ mission. Friends of St. Mary’s, through its Steeple Square Project, is engaged in a project that will transform the Washington Neighborhood, fitting squarely within the mission of Heritage Works. They also have developed programming to use the restoration of Steeple Square buildings as an opportunity to train those wanting experience in traditional building trades.
Four Mounds Foundation has a track record of developing successful educational programming to give hands-on training opportunities to at risk youth, as evidenced by the transformative HEART program. As one of its first projects, Heritage Works saw an opportunity to assist Four Mounds in developing a program to utilize local Dubuque high school students in the St. Mary’s window restoration project sponsored by Friends of St. Mary’s. As a result, all of the partner organizations are able to enhance their respective missions.
Heritage Works will strive to be a vital resource to assist those who want to harness historic preservation as an engine of economic development. We believe that Dubuque has only begun to tap its rich heritage to continue its nationally known reputation as a vibrant place to live, work, and play.
As published in Julien’s Journal. View article here.
Tonight’s presentation about Alfred Caldwell and his architectural and landscape designs at Eagle Point Park, served as more than a public education opportunity. The event launched Dubuque’s newest non-profit organization focused on historic preservation and redevelopment of the area’s historic buildings: Heritage Works, Inc.
Heritage Works aims to be a comprehensive resource for those engaged in preservation and redevelopment projects in the Dubuque area. It’s efforts will be focused toward three primary objectives: facilitating collaboration for catalytic preservation and restoration projects, including help in gathering financial assistance for such projects, community and governmental advocacy emphasizing the importance of historic preservation, and educational programming highlighting Dubuque’s rich historic and architectural heritage.
The organization already has a collaborative opportunity planned that will provide hands-on vocational training in the historic preservation and traditional building trades. Heritage Works is partnering with Four Mounds and Friends of St. Mary’s to bring a group of skilled craftspeople and apprentices from Chicago who will restore two of the former St. Mary’s church stained glass windows. The restoration project will take place from June 8 through June 19 at St. Mary’s. Four Mounds has identified 6 local high school students who will also participate in the window restoration project by observing and actually participating in the window restoration. Heritage Works hopes that this will be a pilot project for developing a unique educational and vocational training program focused on traditional building trades.
Heritage Works received its startup and early operational funding through a generous donation from John and Alice Butler of Dubuque. The Butlers have a strong track record of completing historic preservation projects in Dubuque, including the restoration of the Town Clock Building at 823 Main Street in 2003 and the complete restoration in 2009 of the Security Building at 800 Main Street, the corporate headquarters of Cottingham and Butler. Most recently, the Butlers donated $780,000 to the Dubuque Community School District to fund the replacement and renovation of historically appropriate windows at doors at the Bryant Elementary School. “Dubuque has a unique sense of place because of its wealth of historically and architecturally significant buildings and neighborhoods,” said John Butler, Chairman of Cottingham and Butler. “Many of those important buildings and neighborhoods are in great need of revitalization. Gathering funding for those types of transformative historic preservation projects is one of the most challenging aspects of restoration efforts. Heritage Works will be avital resource to help projects acquire adequate funding.”
Through its efforts, Heritage Works hopes to further promote the concept of historic preservation as an opportunity to revitalize the community and drive economic development. Citing the popularity of tourist attractions like Eagle Point Park, and the success of redevelopment projects like the Historic Millwork District, Heritage Works CEO, Duane Hagerty said, “Dubuque has proven that a community doesn’t have to make a false choice either to have economic development or historic preservation. Rather, historic preservation is an engine of economic development.” Hagerty, a Bankston, Iowa native, is relocating back to the Dubuque area to lead the organization. Previously a Chicago-based attorney and historic preservation consultant, he has collaborated on several Dubuque historic preservation projects, including the redevelopment of Steeple Square, the former St. Mary’s parish complex. “I have always been fascinated by Dubuque’s rich history and architecture. As a community, Dubuque has had such great success harnessing its heritage as a driver of economic development. Heritage Works can help to continue that success. I am excited to lead Heritage Works as it endeavors to contribute to Dubuque’s legacy.
About Heritage Works:
Heritage Works leverages Dubuque’s architectural heritage to drive community revitalization and economic development. Through collaboration, financing, advocacy, and education, Heritage Works preserves our community’s history to invigorate its future.