Manning’s Historic Preservation Commission was recently awarded $10,500 to hire an architecture historian to prepare application paperwork to put downtown Manning on the National Register of Historic Places.
Manning’s Historic Preservation Commission was recently awarded $10,500 to hire an architecture historian to prepare application paperwork to put downtown Manning on the National Register of Historic Places.
January 9, 2014

Efforts are under way to secure a place for Manning's downtown commercial district in the National Register of Historic Places.

Earlier this week, the city's Historic Preservation Commission received a $10,500 grant through the certified local government program of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs to hire an architecture historian to research the area and prepare the application paperwork for the national registry.

This individual's work will build on an intensive survey of the downtown buildings completed two years ago with a previous grant, also through the certified local government program. According to city administrator Dawn Rohe, this survey laid the groundwork for Manning's potential historic district.

The first qualification for the registry is that a building be at least 50 years old. According to Rohe, all of the buildings on Manning's Main Street are close to or more than 100 years old.

The second step is to determine how much of a building's historic integrity was maintained.

"The rule of thumb is, if the person who built it could recognize it today, then the building has maintained a lot of historic integrity," Rohe said. "On a lot of our buildings, you can still see the original architecture."

Each building contributes to a region's qualification.

"The more contributing buildings we have in a concentrated area, the more likely we will be included on the registry," Rohe said.

At the conclusion of the original survey two years ago, two potential districts were drawn. In the smaller district, 19 buildings contributed; in the larger district, 24 buildings contributed. They included Mueller's Furniture Store, Bank of Manning, Lewis & Grau Drug Store, the Wright Building, Claussen's Drug Store, Ross & Co. Garage, Manning City Hall and the Manning Telephone Co.

The survey was completed before the city's current downtown revitalization project in which at least 15 downtown buildings are receiving historic facade restorations. Rohe said these restorations could turn three or four downtown buildings that were previously not historic enough into contributing buildings.

"We're pretty confident we'll be on (the national registry)," Rohe said.

While the grant will pay the majority of the consultant fees, it requires local individuals to match it with volunteer hours, such as assisting in research and reviewing the historian's recommendations. Though this process does not require significant participation from the building owners, Rohe said, any interest is welcome. If the city is successful in being designated one of the nation's historic places, the business owners will be eligible for some federal tax credits when they need to work on the buildings. This benefit is in addition to "the obvious tourism pull," Rohe added.

Having worked with a certified local government grant before, Rohe said that she anticipates work will run smoothly. The application process takes about 16 months. Rohe expects a final decision on Manning's standing in the registry in June 2015.

Manning had to become a certified local government before it could apply to become a Main Street community, a designation it completed in 2009. One step in becoming a certified local government was to create the Historic Preservation Commission. Pam Kusel, the commission's longest-standing member, said the effect the organizations have had on the community is "evident" and "exciting."

"I always think it's important to look back and recognize where we came from and the contributions made in the past," Kusel said. "Architecture is always something that amazes me - how beautiful it can be, and was."

In the recent past, businesses closed up their buildings and put in new lights. But now, said Kusel, owners are "looking back" and finding ways to let in natural light and save resources while restoring buildings to their historic design.

"I find it somewhat amusing how we go backwards in many ways in order to get better," she said.

The National Register of Historic Places was created through the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. Since its inception, more than 88,000 properties have been included on the list.

According to the national registry's online database, Iowa currently has more than 2,000 historic sites. Carroll County is home to 13 of these sites, one of which, the William A. Leet and Frederick Hassler Farmstead District, is already located in Manning.