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Webster City Elks building gets a facelift

Facade work on historic site nears completion

-Messenger photo by Anne Blankenship
Crews installed new plate-glass windows this week, completing one of the final exterior facade upgrades at the historic former Elks building. Officials with LIFT WC, the nonprofit that owns the building, said they hope to roll out a capital campaign that would help fund interior renovations.

WEBSTER CITY — Crews were busy earlier this week installing large plate-glass windows in the former Elks building at 713 Second St. The work was part of an extensive exterior rehabilitation project that has taken place over the past year.

Tuck pointing, brick replacement, new windows and doors, repaired exterior walls and refurbished stained-glass windows are all part of the building facade improvements undertaken by LIFT WC, the nonprofit group that owns the building.

“Over the course of the past year, we’ve been utilizing the (Community Development Block Grant Funds) to restore the facade of the building,” said Lindsay Henderson of LIFT WC. Contractors found that brick work on the west wall of the building was much worse than anticipated.

“It was literally crumbling away,” Henderson said. “That tells us that the building was at even greater risk than originally thought. Once the water penetration gets into the brick, it really starts deteriorating rather quickly, threatening the safety of the building.”

The west wall of the 1906 building has now been shored up and restored.

Glass blocks, which were used to fill in the original upstairs and rear windows of the building, were removed and replaced with energy-efficient windows which are still appropriate for historic accuracy of the building.

“You can’t imagine the amount of natural light that now floods into the building. It’s just remarkable,” Henderson said. “The biggest impact has been with what used to be a bar at the back of the building. It was like a cave in there. Now I think anyone would be happy to have an office set up in there. The light is just gorgeous.”

The iconic green stained-glass arcs above the front windows were removed, cleaned, re-leaded and repaired. The glasswork has now been reinstalled and the new plate-glass windows mark the near completion of the facade rehabilitation.

“There is a little bit of roof repair to be done,” she said. They are looking at cost figures to be sure that there is enough to do the final project.

While the exterior work was going on, nothing could be done on the interior of the building to be sure that projects inside were kept separate from the Community Development Block Grant work.

But LIFT WC is gearing up to get started on the inside of the building.

The nonprofit has been working with RDG Design on designs, plans and cost estimates for inside improvements. One of the biggest projects will be the installation of an elevator to make the building ADA compliant.

Henderson said the group had originally thought the elevator could be placed on the west wall of the building, but found a better location would be at the back of the building, near what used to be the entrance to a basement bar.

The elevator will take people to the basement, or up just a few feet to the main level, as well as travel to the upper floor where the ballroom is located.

Henderson said the group is looking at ways to reduce the costs of the interior renovations, including using in-kind labor.

“We’ve got a pretty scrappy group and there are a lot of volunteers supporting us,” she said.

“We have a lot of people who’ve reached out to us to say they wanted to volunteer when we were ready to do projects,” said Darcy Swon, another LIFT WC board member. “We should be able to save a nice size chunk of change by doing some of the work ourselves.”

RDG will also help the nonprofit prepare for applying for the state’s Historic Tax Credits.

“That’s an important piece of the funding, because it represents 25 percent of your total project cost,” Henderson said. There are also several possible grant options on the horizon.

Once plans and cost estimates are finalized, LIFT WC plans to roll out a capital campaign to help fund those renovations.

Swon said she thought the campaign would be introduced in June, but possibly sooner if plans come together more quickly.

Swon said that LIFT WC has a fund established with Enhance Hamilton County Foundation. More information on making a donation is available at enhancehamiltoncounty.org.

“We’re excited to show people what we have dreamed up and our ideas for the building,” Henderson said. “As far as the work in the building, it all hinges on the funding, the fundraising and the grants.

“We have kind of a hopeful timeline for completion in 2023,” she said.

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