Sitting just west of the capitol, it’s always had one of the most memorable views in the city.
“You know, all the years I’d come down here as a member and work, I never really gave a lot of thought about the view out the window, like that,” said Denny Carlson of Des Moines.
That’s a running theme at the Norden Hall Row House. Forgotten until the 11th hour, it’s suddenly being remembered.
“It was a focal point for Scandinavians on the east side for around 100 years,” Carlson said.
Carlson’s grandfather immigrated to Des Moines from Sweden and found other Scandinavians here at the Norden Singing Society.
“I’m sure my grandfather brought my father here when he was a little boy,” he said, and I brought my son here when he was a little boy.”
The place was built by Samuel Green in 1880…six years before the capitol was dedicated. It was his house.
“At that time, there were lots of homes in the area,” said Pat Meiners of the Des Moines Historical Society,” which you don’t think about, today, because they’re all gone.”
It was sold to the Norden Society in the 1950’s, later passed to Grandview College and eventually sold to the state.
“When the state bought it, they were gonna make it a welcome center for the capitol,” said Carlson. “Something happened, there.”
The state deemed it too small. It first tried selling it along with the adjoining building, but one would buy and pay to move them. With no options left, demolition was scheduled for this week. As word of that broke, the Des Moines Historical Society and the city stepped forward.
“No, you can’t save every old building,” said Des Moines City Council member, Christine Hensley, “but there are those buildings that I think you need to explore and make sure that you’ve just completely exhausted all the options.”
A private developer has a plan to detach the house and move it into the East Village. The state and the city want to see it in writing.
“I think the important thing that comes next would be you can’t just plop a row house in the middle of a parking lot, you’ve got to have a plan.”
Relocation alone would run six figures. Carlson says it’s worth it.
“There’s not much left in the way of old buildings like this. And a lot of them are so dilapidated, you can’t do anything with them.”
Every old building has a past, they just don’t all have futures. This one still might.