An effort to save a landmark Cedar Rapids church from the wrecking ball has failed. The near-century-old First Christian Church will be demolished starting this week to clear space for a parking lot for St. Luke’s Hospital. Activist Beth DeBoom wanted to save the church, with its stained-glass windows that were designed by famed artist Louis Millet.
DeBoom says, “A building is not a person, but this has sort of been like dealing with a terminal illness and now we’re at a point where we realize that this is a terminal issue and I’m going to have to watch that building come down.” Preservationists also note that legendary architect Louis Sullivan had consulted on the church’s design.
DeBoom says Sullivan was a mentor to Frank Lloyd Wright, perhaps the world’s most reknowned architect. “There are probably five or less Louis Sullivan buildings left in the state of Iowa,” she says. “Nationally, we keep losing these buildings to progress, to new development, and a lot of them have been lost to natural disasters.”
St. Luke’s officials say they’ve already delayed the demolition date by several months and waiting any longer would push back their plans to build a new medical complex. DeBoom says they still haven’t decided whether to donate the valuable stained glass windows to a museum or sell them to a private collector.
Saving the church would have reportedly cost $900,000.