A distinguished honor for buildings, cities, and in this case an entire downtown district has come to Iowa City, as Iowa's News Now reports that on May 27, listing in the National Register of Historic Places was bestowed on downtown Iowa City.

How does a place get listed?

I was interested to know how a place gets listed on the National Register of Historic Places, so I took to Wikipedia. They say anyone can place the nomination and in this case, the city of Iowa City has been working with the architectural historian Alexa McDowell of AKAY Consulting, on an update to the City’s historic survey of the Downtown. They've been collecting input since 2017 at public meetings and with private stakeholders.

What is the criteria for listing?

A place can get listed if it meets one or more of the following criteria:

  • The property must make a contribution to the major pattern of American history.
  • It is associated with significant people of the American past.
  • There are distinctive characteristics of the building by its architecture and construction, including having great artistic value or being the work of a master.
  • The property has yielded or may be likely to yield information important to prehistory or history.

What will the designation do for Iowa City?

In short, money and bragging rights. According to the National Park Service website  (who publishes the registry), the distinction is the first step towards eligibility for National Park Service-administered federal preservation tax credits that have leveraged more than $45 billion in private investment and National Park Service grant programs like Save America's Treasures and Preserve America. It does not protect properties from demolition nor regulate changes to buildings.

How many sites in Iowa are listed on the National Register of Historic Places?

You can see a listing of all the sites by county here. In Johnson County, downtown Iowa City, officially known as the "Iowa City Historic Downtown District" is among 94 listings.  Plenty of other notable locations like the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, the Old Capitol in Iowa City, and the Cedar Rapids Central Business District Commercial Historic District (downtown Cedar Rapids) have made the cut over the years.



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