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DEMOLITION DISASTER: Council Hears Concerns

The unexpected demolition of a historical house in Des Moines has produced some backlash, and moved the city council to look into changes, so it never happens again.

On February 14th, construction crews arrived at the property at 4111 Tonawanda drive. Less than 24 hours later. The home was destroyed. The reason so many are upset, is because it was a “Lustron House.” It’s made out of prefabricated enamel steel, and was developed post-World War II, to help fill the need for housing for returning soldiers. Only 2,000 are left in the entire country, and about 150 are left in Iowa. The one in Des Moines was considered unique because of its large size, material it was made of, and the fact it had an indoor pool.

“There was never any mention of demolition. It was always assumed that it would stay there. Unfortunately that’s not the case but because planning and zoning did not make that a condition of the approval, legally the property owners had every right to demolish it,” explained Christine Hensley with the Des Moines City Council.

Sarah Oltrogge with the Des Moines Historical Society said they just wanted more time- at the very least to be able to study and document it further. So, to make sure something like this doesn’t happen to another historical building in Des Moines, Oltrogge has taken her concerns to the council.

“The City of Cedar Rapids has some wording in its municipal code about a moratorium of 10 business days, so that’s really what I would like this council to look at,” said Oltrogge.

The council voted to not only look into this option, but research other options by creating a task force made up of the mayor, a few council members, members of the public, and historical society members.

The attorney representing the new owners of the property in question said that “failure to communicate” was the problem. He said no one contacted them to see if they had changed their mind about demolishing the house.

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