A group in Des Moines that’s working to save old buildings from the wrecking ball is celebrating a couple of successful projects. In 2003, the City of Des Moines declared an abandoned, century-old church “unsafe.” The Kingsway Cathedral in the Sherman Hill Neighborhood was about to be demolished when The Rehabbers Club featured the church on it’s first “Most Endangered Buildings” list in 2008.
Rehabbers Club founder Steve Wilke-Shapiro says the church is unique in a number of ways. “Masonry buildings in Des Moines are not very common, so to have a substantial building with this kind of character is extraordinary in and of itself,” Shapiro said. “The fact that it has survived for the past 100 years is a testament to the quality of construction and to its place in this historic neighborhood.”
Last summer, Kingsway Cathedral was sold to KLM Ministries in Ankeny. KLM Pastor Kenney Linhart credits the Rehabbers Club for his decision. “There are a lot of people who have a heart for restoration and preserving history,” Linhart said. “If it weren’t for that particular list and the people in Sherman Hill who worked so hard to keep this building from being torn down, it would’ve been a parking lot.”
Linhart is hoping to restore the church to the way it looked in 1902. A couple of miles away from the church, in Des Moines’ East Village neighborhood, residents raised $60,000 last year to purchase a service station that was built in 1931. The area where the service station once stood is now a parking lot. Linhart recently agreed to purchase that small building and hopes to move next to the Kingsway Cathedral. Wilke-Shapiro says he’s thrilled his Rehabbers Club had some role in saving the two buildings.
“We want to initiate discussion about what buildings are worth preserving, why they’re worth preserving and how do people go about organizing for preservation,” Shapiro said. The Rehabbers Club is taking nominations from the public for a third “Most Endangered Buildings” list to be released this summer.