Preserve Iowa Summit; Iowa is a Leader in Historic Preservation

Sep 15, 2016

History doesn't have to be pretty to be worth preserving.  As the Preserve Iowa Summit gets underway in Davenport, Charity Nebbe speaks with four unique guests about historic preservation in Iowa: Paula Mohr, Dustin Oliver, Rosemary Thornton and Duane Timm.

"We really do have a very robust historic preservation program here in Iowa, and I'm very proud of it," Paula Mohr, State Architectural Historian in the State Preservation Office and organizer of the annual summit told Charity.   "We have one of the largest local preservation programs in the country, with about 90 historic preservation commissions participating at the city and council level."

History doesn't exist just in museums, Mohr told us.  She says Iowa history can be found in cemeteries, agricultural buildings, industrial warehouses and much more.  And sometimes, she says, it hits even closer to home.  "Pre-Civil War, the Industrial Revolution was happening and that basically is what made wallpaper affordable to the middle class and the merchant class," Duane Timm, an historic wallpaper expert and reseacher in Davenport told Charity.

For many, wallpaper is a household decor that is often overlooked.  Yet for Timm, historic wallpaper is an important resource for Iowa historians.  "It shows the progression of history.  You can see how that old house has evolved."  Timm's wallpaper re-creation can be found in the movie "The Bridges of Madison County" and in Terrace Hill, the Iowa governor's residence.

Also on the program, Charity speaks with Dustin Oliver of Davenport, who led the charge and did the extensive research necessary to get the city's Oakdale Cemetery, the final resting place of musician Bix Beiderbecke and many other important figures in Eastern Iowa history, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.   Another guest is historian Rosemary Thornton of Virginia, an expert on mail-order houses of the early 20th century from Sears and its rival, the Gordon Van-Tine Co. based in Davenport.