Historic Buildings of Iowa: Iowa City (Pledge Special)

Nov 29, 2021  | 1 hr 27 min  | 2021 | Transcript

 

Explore the architecture, culture and history of the Old Capitol, Hancher Auditorium, Englert Theatre and Kinnick Stadium through a combination of indoor filming, drone cinematography and in-depth interviews.

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In Iowa's first capital city, a collection of structures tell a story dating back more than a century. Join Iowa PBS as we journey inside the historic buildings of Iowa City, home to the University of Iowa and the building blocks of our state, stories of culture, history and grandeur intertwined with the structures that still remain.

A Statehouse built on the edge of the frontier and home to legislators for Iowa's first days as a state.

The Old Capitol Building resting on a hill overlooking the University of Iowa and the Iowa River.

A performing arts venue once ravaged by flood waters and then torn down before rising like a phoenix from the ashes, the new Hancher Auditorium is a showcase for the arts and entertainment.

A legendary theatre rebuilt for a modern age, the Englert Theatre in downtown Iowa City has been updated to honor its history and future role for community arts.

And a brick facade housing one of the Midwest's most historic football stadiums, the home to nearly a century of gridiron clashes, Kinnick Stadium has honored its legacy and consistently retooled for the future of Hawkeye football.

Multiple buildings that each tell a different story. Structures still standing, some renovated, some rebuilt, and all part of Historic Buildings of Iowa: Iowa City.

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Funding for Historic Buildings of Iowa: Iowa City is provided by Friends, the Iowa PBS Foundation, as well as generations of families and friends who feel passionate about the programs they watch on Iowa PBS.

And by OPN Architects.

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There's always a discovery period, and whether that is really trying to find the documentation of the original building or doing your investigation, every building has a story and there's always a surprise.

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It's an iconic setting, a few hundred feet back from a treasured Iowa River, on top of a gently sloping hill, cut from centuries-old stone sits Iowa's Capitol Building. No, not the gold dome spectacle of Central Iowa. This oddly similar description is that of the state's original capitol, the Old Capitol Building lording over the campus of the University of Iowa in Iowa City.

Liz Crooks: The first territorial government for the state actually met in Burlington, Iowa. It met there for just one legislative session and the state was quickly growing, they recognized the need to move west. And so Iowa City, Johnson County more specifically, was selected. And within the next four years the building was completed. But then from 1846 to 1857 this was the state capital.

It is hard to imagine now, but as the marker was placed for the forthcoming Capitol Building, Iowa City was nothing more than a river, some hills, and a single log cabin. As construction started, the town quickly popped up around the future legislative Capitol. While today the building is known for its iconic porticos on the east and west entrance, the reverse spiral staircase at its center and the four buildings surrounding it, the Old Capitol would go through many updates before it would take its current form.

Liz Crooks: Excitement around the building really started as early as 1840. The cornerstone was laid and construction got underway. The original architect, J.F. Rague was not pleased with the way that his plans were being followed. And so a few months into the building process he left and took the plans with him. So when the government started meeting, the building looked very different from the exterior and looked very different inside as well.

With no construction plans and a budget growing to more than three times the expected cost, features were quickly cut, including the spiral staircase and the east and west porticos. It wasn't until the 1860s when the University began updating the building.

Liz Crooks: It quickly became apparent even in the first year that the legislature was meeting here that the state was growing and that the capital would need to move westward to be better positioned to serve the rest of the state. And so in 1847, the building was given to the University of Iowa. So on February 25th of 1847, the University came into being, although they didn't occupy the building of course until the legislature had moved out some 10 years later.

In its 10-year Capitol run, the building saw three governors sworn in, six legislative sessions, and saw the drafting of the State Constitution. And while state government eventually relocated to Des Moines, the remaining Old Capitol Building quickly became the landmark of the University and surrounding community.

Liz Crooks: So, when we refer to the Pentacrest it's a roughly two block by two block space in the center of campus. It is bounded by four buildings that house classes and a number of other administrative functions as well as the Museum of Natural History. And the Pentacrest itself is really the heart of campus. Almost every undergraduate student has attended an event, has played hacky sack or Frisbee or just simply hung out on the Pentacrest. It is also a place where Iowa-Citians come and during the summer spend a lot of time. So it is this unique space where campus and community get to coexist together.

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While the Old Capitol opened its doors in 1846, the four adjacent buildings weren't collectively established until the mid-1920s. First came Schaeffer Hall in 1902, second Macbride Hall in 1908, then MacLean in 1912 and finally Jessup in 1924. All designed by the Des Moines architecture firm Proudfoot & Bird and drawn up to match the style of the Old Capitol Building, the Pentacrest became the hub of all campus activity and still is today.

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Liz Crooks: This building, along with all of the other buildings on the Pentacrest, are of a neoclassic style. The Old Capitol in particular is known as a mature Greek revival and mature refers to the fact that the building has symmetrical entrances on the long side and that the columns surround the doors only, they don't surround the entire building and they are also not in a circle as they would be in a Grecian Temple.

When you walk into the Old Capitol today, it appears to be a building lifted straight out of the 1800s. The truth is, the building has lived through many phases and renovations through its lifetime. It has been an armory, a chapel, home to the Law School, even the Museum of Natural History started on the second floor as the Cabinet of Curiosities. But in the 1970s when the University administrative offices moved out of the Old Capitol, a formal plan was fashioned to restore the building to its original 1846 designs. And the Old Capitol has remained in that state since 1976.

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As America's bicentennial neared, work began on the restoration of this historic landmark to a living museum. The reconstruction began with the stripping of the building to its bare walls. Often during these first months, Old Capitol looked more like a site of demolition than reconstruction.

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The authenticity of the restoration of Old Capitol was maintained in even the smallest details. To provide a visual presentation of the total history of the building, individual rooms were restored to different periods. These details were carefully arranged to give the offices the appearance of the way Old Capitol would have looked in use in the various stages of its history.

Liz Crooks: The original remnants of the building from the time it was built include the four pillars that surround the spiral staircase. Those are the only original artifacts that exist in the building because of the extensive renovations that happened. The building now is featured with authentic period pieces. The desks in the House Chamber are reproductions of two desks that we have that we know were original o the building. Many of the books in the library also were recollected from various places around the state because they are all marked on page 30, State Library of Iowa. But in large part those four pillars are what remain.

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As you enter the Old Capitol's west side entrance, the eye-catching features begin with a true rarity, a reverse spiral staircase at the very center of the structure. Beyond its elegance, it is one of only three reverse spiral staircases in North America.

Liz Crooks: A reverse spiral staircase is a very unusual staircase. It is maybe my favorite feature. This one is also unique because the top stair on the second floor perfectly aligns with the bottom stair on the first floor. During the '20s renovation it was noted that no two balusters on the staircase are the same height because of its unusual configuration and that not having the original building plans caused many challenges when they went to restore that staircase. Some say the lack of plans is the very reason that it is a reverse spiral.

As you start to wander through the halls and rooms of the Capitol, you get a real sense of what it might have been like to work in the Old Capitol when state government was in session. The chambers for the State Supreme Court bustling with legal proceedings lit by candlelight, warmed by wood burning stoves and a brick hearth. The Governor's Office overlooking the Iowa River, desk adorned with proclamations, quills and important letters. The House Chamber encircled with lawmaker desks. A top level gallery for visitors to watch. And stately curtains to manage the sunlight as it passed by all throughout a day's affairs.

Liz Crooks: So, all but two of the rooms in the building have been restored to look the way they would have when this was the territorial capital. The two rooms that were restored to look as they did when this was a University building are the Senate Chamber. It is set up to look like a lecture space of that time. Also the University President's Office is set up to look like it would have in the late '60s, early '70s when Willard Boyd was the President of the University. He was the last president to occupy that office space before the president's administrative suite moved to Jessup Hall. On the desk sits a piece of a meteor that landed in Marion on February 25th, 1847 and coincidentally that is the day that the University of Iowa was founded. So that meteor commemorates a really unique experience in the state and also commemorates the founding of the University. People said the boom could be heard as far away as Iowa City.

As a historic artifact, the Old Capitol is both attractive and transportive. Take for instance the House Chamber, where the gallery is a clear sign of the times.

Liz Crooks: In the '70s renovation there was evidence of a gallery that existed in the House Chamber. It was the women's viewing gallery, although you'll notice if you are up in that space because of the angle of the gallery and the height of the gallery, you can't see what is happening on the House floor. But you can hear the proceedings. That was the attempt of the day to keep the women who wanted to come and observe the proceedings from gossiping about the activities afterwards. Also, if you have a moment and you sit and pause on one of those benches, you'll realize how terribly uncomfortable it is. That is because those benches were designed for women who were wearing hoop skirts and bustles to sit in and supported them in a very different way than the way we sit in a chair today.

Ever dedicated to depicting the era, another artifact that might be overlooked throughout the Capitol are the spittoons.

Liz Crooks: In that era it was very common for both men and women to use chewing tobacco. And of course they needed a place then for the spit that they couldn't swallow. And so we have all manner of spittoons throughout the building. Some of them are larger like those in the House Chamber where people spent more time. There are also some smaller versions, they are handheld versions that a lady could hold because it was considered unattractive for her to spit.

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Of course, not all renovations are period accurate. In fact, the 1920s update, which saw the addition of the spiral staircase and the west entrance portico, also installed a roof-lined firewall. While not a feature visible on a public tour, it did save the Old Capitol from disaster in 2001 when a fire broke out while removing asbestos from the gold dome and cupola.

Liz Crooks: We were fortunate, while there was smoke damage and extensive water damage, everything was able to be saved thanks in large part to the firefighters who responded. They pulled many of the artifacts to the center of the rooms, covered them with heavy tarps and plastics, protected many, many, many things from water damage and from being ruined. So, at that point in 2006 after four and a half years of renovations and restorations, the building was able to be opened to the public.

Through multiple updates, drastic changes in use, and even a trial by fire, the Old Capitol Building still stands. From its start as the state's territorial Capitol, to the iconic centerpiece of the University, the building has maintained its draw as a focal point of the community and state.

Liz Crooks: These sorts of spaces are really very special and to be able to come visit them in person transports individuals back to another time. It allows them to imagine what it would have been like when the House was in session, when they were working to ratify the State's Constitution, when there was a trial happening in the Supreme Court Chamber. These cultural spaces, it's very easy for them to vanish and for us to forget what was here and what came before us. So that is another important reason to maintain and preserve these spaces.

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When you think of historic buildings, Hancher Auditorium may not be what first comes to mind. After all, the structure of contemporary curves and cantilevers covered in brushed stainless steel and walls of glass opened its doors in 2016. This state-of-the-art world class performing arts venue is visually stunning and has all the bells and whistles a performer or a patron could want. The history is just as rich.

Chuck Swanson: So, Hancher when it came to the University of Iowa, I really feel like it changed the whole landscape of the arts in our state and really in our country too because right away, immediately Hancher presented world class artists, artists that you would see in New York City and Chicago and Los Angeles or somewhere on the West Coast. And people really took pride in Hancher. For a community of this size to be supported by the University and also by the donors and to be able to live up to the programming that Hancher presented, it was a big deal.

The original Hancher opened its doors in 1972, named after Virgil Hancher, the longest-serving President in the University's history, who wanted to make the arts available to as many people as possible. For more than 35 years, its stage welcomed artists, scholars, student performers and some of the most well-known musicians and entertainers in the world.

Chuck Swanson: But when then original Hancher opened in '72, I was in the audience when Rudolf Nureyev performed with the National Ballet of Canada. And I was this young kid from a small town in Iowa and I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

 

Then in 2008, disaster. Unprecedented flooding damaged more than 50% of the building beyond repair. Hancher was one of five campus buildings permanently closed and the University had no choice but to tear it down and start over.

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At a high point just uphill from the old location along the Iowa River, a new Hancher rose from the ground, sitting 7 feet above the 500 year flood level. The Federal Emergency Management Agency picked up a large portion of the $176 million price tag, 25 times what it cost to build the original. Dozens of architects, some of the best in the world, competed for the coveted job of creating it.

Chuck Swanson: We wanted Hancher to be here because of the accessibility, because of the view, just because of the expansive lot we really had an opportunity to do something pretty exquisite here. I wanted them during this phase of design to really understand what this building was going to be doing, not just the structure of the building, the design of the building, but the function and the use of the building and the opportunity that we had to build the best building possible.

The crown jewel of the facility is the 1800-seat proscenium theatre, about 700 seats fewer than Old Hancher, but with views and acoustics that are hard to beat.

Chuck Swanson: You can stand on that stage as an artist and look out into that audience and you can see those faces. So it really generates such chemistry between the audience and between the artist. And so the intimacy of the hall is one thing that I am just, I really cherish and I love, the acoustics is great. Also this color, I think the color is just so unusual, it's very inviting. And the lighting is very unusual, very different. Francesca was the lighting designer. We have won several awards. And we gave her a charge at the very beginning, our team, we said, we want something different, something that doesn't exist anywhere at all. And so that is when she came up with the hoop lights. And to this day she tells me, because we're still in contact, she said, not that I know of does anybody have the hoop lights. And then the twinkly lights too, it just presents itself with a different sort of feel, but yet it wears well on you. It's not so ostentatious that you tire of it.

The design respects that of the original building. But unlike the Old Hancher, this one doesn't have a back side. All public areas feature a visual connection to the river, other nearby art buildings and the rest of campus and the community.

Chuck Swanson: We came out a winner, we really, really did. But we were very careful about every stage of it and there again we tried in the best way possible to be appreciative, inclusive and to celebrate along the way.

A majestic lobby splashed with sunlight, a second level terrace, ceilings of cypress wood subtle works of art themselves.

Chuck Swanson: We spent so much time talking about the social areas of Hancher. Performing arts centers have changed. People come to be seen, people come to be heard, people come to really forget about a lot of their worries and they come to be taken to another world. And so we put a lot of effort into the views from that lobby.

The featured artwork includes Anonymous Creature in the main lobby by West African sculptor El Anatsui, rows and rows of recycled liquor bottle tops intricately woven together with copper wire. And We All Perform, a local piece featuring students from seven communities across Iowa who took selfies and then transformed them into text tied to the notion of performance.

Chuck Swanson: And it talks so much about self-esteem, it talks about inclusiveness, it talks about communities just really being a part of the arts and about being a part of Hancher's world. And I just love that piece.

It is a premier performing arts venue and a cultural focal point with a lasting legacy. And with space for rehearsals, teaching and impressive scene and costume shops with ample storage, tools and work areas of envy, Hancher is also referred to as the large classroom on campus.

Chuck Swanson: Of course dance, music and theater are a big part of our partnerships. But we also relate to business, to law, to medicine, to nursing, to social work, to rhetoric classes. We find ways when it makes sense to integrate the arts into the classroom. So, the building when it was built, we really had students in mind, we really thought not only students in the audience but we want students on stage.

The awe-inspiring structure, setting and spirit of Hancher connects its proud history to the present and the future. The encore even better than the first act for the University, the community and the state.

Chuck Swanson: What we ended up with is just, it's a masterpiece, it really is in so many ways. It's a masterpiece from the beauty but also the function. There is that form and function and the team really looked at that very carefully all the way through because we wanted an iconic building, we wanted a beautiful building, but we wanted it to work too. We wanted to build a home and not a house.

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In today's collegiate environment, almost always newer is considered better. But inside the University of Iowa's Macbride Hall sits the Museum of Natural History, a time capsule of both flora and fauna the world around. But the museum itself is a treasure of architecture and design from more than a century ago.

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Liz Crooks: The large mahogany cases, the high ceilings, just the expanse of the space really makes you feel like you, again, are in this time machine and you're transported back to an earlier period on campus.

The Natural History Museum is one of the oldest features of the University. In 1858, surveyors from the University of Iowa explored the state's land and resources, cataloging everything they encountered. As they returned to Iowa City with a bounty of discoveries to share, the University converted the Old Capitol's former State Senate Chamber into the museum's initial home, then titled the Cabinet of Curiosities. The collection wouldn't find its permanent home for another 50 years following a historic campus disaster. In 1897, Iowa proudly housed the largest academic library west of the Mississippi. And with the crack of a single bolt of 4 a.m. lightening, the University Library lit aflame. Even with firefighters' best efforts, by 5 a.m. the fire completely devoured the building and it collapsed. More than 80,000 books, volumes and other collections were lost in the fire.

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Liz Crooks: The University administration very quickly came to realize that a number of their collections, including this Cabinet of Curiosities, was in danger of being lost. And also in order to remain competitive with the colleges on the East Coast, faculty petitioned that they have a building dedicated to the natural sciences built. And so Macbride Hall was built and construction started in 1904, finished in 1908 and the museum then moved in.

 

In the four-stage plan to construct the buildings of the Pentacrest, the Natural Sciences building was the second structure erected, today known as Macbride Hall. Its Beaux-Arts style was chosen to match the Old Capitol built a half century earlier, a choice made specifically to withstand disasters of all kinds.

Liz Crooks: These buildings are local limestone and they are here to last. They have withstood tornados, derechos, floods, fires, you name it, these buildings have seen it. One of the really special things about it is the floor tiling. The tiling was laid and at that time you could not buy sheets of tile, each tile mosaic was hand-set. So, visitors may notice that patterns may be just a little bit off. It's one of the things that makes our building really special.

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The construction of the Natural Sciences building was a long-standing dream of renowned University Professor and Head of the Zoological Department, Charles Cleveland Nutting. The professor personally led dozens of exploratory expeditions across the world and often shared his work to packed Iowa City audiences. If the library fire was the catalyst to get the building erected, C.C. Nutting's work laid the foundation for what the museum would become.

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Liz Crooks: In the early 1900s, it was really the age of expeditions. The museum director at that time, his name was Charles Nutting, he was a marine invertebrate biologist. So this expedition that he was on in 1904, the ship happened to make land on the Laysan Island and he was taken with the scene before him, thousands of birds, no humans, no predators to the birds, just this three-mile expanse of land. He felt that it was imperative that this exhibit, the Cyclorama, be built so that the citizens of Iowa could experience this place that they likely would never otherwise be able to travel to.

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In 1914, the Cyclorama was opened to the public. From the day it opened to today, it has been a one-of-a-kind 360 degree immersive experience. As visitors step inside, they are transported 800 miles west of Hawaii to the Laysan Islands as seen by C.C. Nutting in 1902.

Liz Crooks: For people visiting today, it is very nearly unchanged from the day it was installed and opened to the public. It is this complete time machine, a time machine that was built before the idea of virtual reality existed, before the widespread use of photographs, before even widespread travel. It's really very special.

While the Cyclorama is considered the crown jewel of the museum, it is far from its only entrancing feature. Displays upon displays allow up-close and detailed looks at animals from within the state's borders and far beyond.

Liz Crooks: Because we are a university museum, it is not just animals of Iowa, it is animals from all over the world. So, you'll find panda bears, you'll see a zebra, you'll see musk ox, you'll see grand peacocks. And Iowa Hall, which is devoted to the natural history of the state of Iowa, so beginning in prehistoric times up through native cultures of the state, all aspects of Iowa culture is examined.

For nearly as long as the University has existed, the researchers, explorers and museum curators have been working diligently to share the natural world with visitors to Macbride Hall. Compared to the planet, Iowa is a small ecosystem, but a diverse one that we're still learning about. And as the University natural history collection has survived fires, tornados, pandemics and more, its mission has been the same, to inspire visitors to learn about the natural world and cherish it.

Liz Crooks: If you don't know and care about something, you're not going to want to conserve it and protect it. And so that is a big piece of what we are here to do is to educate the public about these different, really special areas all around the world.

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Katie Roche: So, the Englert Theatre was originally the dream of Etta Englert and she managed to convince her husband who was a very successful businessman that they should invest some of their funds in creating a theatre for this community. And so the building was built in 1912. It was a Vaudeville House, an opera house and Etta and Bill lived on the third floor of the theatre. And the story goes that they would host parties, that they had doors that opened up into the balcony from what is now our parlor and gallery space, and that they were really just hosts of the theatre as well. Eventually the theatre, of course, followed the course of American theatres and transitioned into silent movies, movies with musical accompaniment and then just became a basic cinema.

Jessica Egli: Even at one point they divided the theatre in two and put a wall down the middle and put up two theatres, which was really awkward because they did not change the seats. So you were sitting in your seat and you were looking at the movie over there.

Katie Roche: And a lot of people fondly remember sitting through a quiet romantic film and being able to hear an action film through the wall on the other side. And when it was torn down for the renovations, we discovered that there wasn't really insulation in between the two walls.

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The Englert Theatre has been a staple of downtown Iowa City for more than a century. Its evolving marquee has hung as a landmark for countless travelers stating that they had arrived in town. And while today it is a beautifully restored, nationally recognized entertainment space, very little besides the walls of the Englert date back to its origin in 1912.

Katie Roche: The back walls of the theatre are still fire-licked from the fire of 1926. Unfortunately, we're not exactly sure of the cause of the fire. But it is believed that the unstable nature of film at that point, to where it had to be kept in fireproof boxes, that that's probably what caused the fire.

Jessica Egli: The fire, it basically climbed across the ceiling and then dripped down the brick wall. So all of the bricks were colored with this ancient smoke.

Katie Roche: There's some historical accounts that put Etta Englert sitting out front with Dora Chapman, whose family actually operated the theatre after Bill passed away. They had chairs brought out and they sat and they watched the theatre burn.

Katie Roche: We did lose quite a few architectural features to the theatre, the boxes on the side, much of the lobby was retained and when the theatre was rebuilt they did keep a lot of the original footprint, the curved wall in the lobby and other aspects of the space and the dressing rooms we believe are original from that period too.

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Today, the Englert is a wonderful mix of modern amenities and historic charm. As soon as visitors pass by the marquee and into the building, the flare of early 20th century architecture is waiting to greet them.

Jessica Egli: So, when you first walk into the Englert, the very first thing you see is this booth that is where you would purchase your ticket, although there weren't tickets, you just gave them money and you walked in. And that is a replica. But the floor in that front lobby is slate that is original. And if you look up at the ceiling there is plaster molding of grapes that go all along the border and there's two plaster coat of arms that are there. So right away when you walk in there is all this history immediately. The dressing rooms also contain a lot of original features, just dressing room doors that are still down there and we have some in the basement and the sinks down there. So it looks really industrial and got personality.

Jessica Egli: On the stage at the back of the stage is that we have a traditional fly system. So above me right now is where all of our soft goods, our curtains and screens, live and lights and they get to come in and out for different shows. We have a lot of flexibility when it comes to the aesthetic of our stage and we have to sometimes do live moves during shows so we actually still have staff that will have to stay up on the fly rail and pull in certain batons when it's time and take them out when it's time. And that little bit of theater that is left is really cool. And we have some bricks on our brick wall and in our dressing rooms that have been signed by famous people and artists throughout time who have come and visited our space and performed in our space. So it's a little archive of past performers all over the walls, which is just fun to revisit.

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Throughout its evolution, the fate of the Englert Theatre hinged on one key sale. In 1999, the building was sold to a local bar owner who was planning to convert the space into a night club. Those plans fired up the local arts community who started a public campaign to save the performance and arts space in the early 2000s. Quickly, the building was sold to a non-profit which led to its indefinite preservation.

Jessica Egli: So, the Englert is on the National Registry of Historic Places. And what that means logistically for us is that we get to keep everything that was ever once in the building that is historic. So, our basement is full of old sinks, bathtubs, radiators, the big pulleys that lit up the stage lights, which now we do at a computer. We have a lot of the storage units for the celluloid film and an old projection canister. So a lot of it is really cool and then some of it is sinks. So, we just make piles of it and share the love with tours who are interested in that kind of thing.

With its place on the National Registry, the Englert is required to hold onto its history. But one intriguing aspect of the theatre is when it chose to retain pieces of its past that were redefined by global tragedy.

Katie Roche: I think one of the interesting pieces about the theatre are these little tiles that are embedded right outside one of the side doors. And they were put in when the theatre was first built and there are signs of prosperity and luck just right there in the footprint of the building. And one of the symbols is actually a swastika, which is something we've had to contemplate over time, because at the time that that would have been put in the swastika had a very different meaning. And in fact outside of the Nazi Party and their appropriation of that symbol, that symbol has a different meaning throughout the world. So it has been a wonderful way to have a conversation with students and community members as they come through. And sometimes we have to answer some hard questions about that. But, it's a story that we're willing to discuss and dig into the history. 

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As renovation efforts got going in the early 2000s, one of the priorities was the marquee. Having been refashioned several times over the building's century-long history, the decision was made to restore the iconic look of the 1958 marquee.

Jessica Egli: So, the marquee definitely was in need of some love. A lot of the neon wasn't working anymore. It no longer did its sporadic light show, it was just on or off. But getting a marquee like that restored is definitely a challenging process because we had to disassemble it, and then we had to ship it somewhere where they restore historic marquees. And the marquee was gone off the front of the building. It was a reminder to the community that we were doing work, that we hadn't shut down, though it was also really sad to see all of a sudden this landmark is gone. And I was thinking about the students who were coming to the University of Iowa for the first time as freshmen and not having this sight in their world. But, the marquee was restored beautifully and in order to celebrate this we had an outdoor marquee lighting event. So, having it come back and light up to this beautiful original glory with brand spanking new neon, it was really emotional.

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Saving the Englert Theatre has helped retain a piece of Iowa City not connected to the University. It is a privately-owned performance and arts house that has entertained generations of visitors. And, with its renovation efforts, it will continue to do so for future generations.

Katie Roche: I think it's incredibly important for communities to preserve the buildings that are important to them in order to just kind of maintain the longevity of just even the story of what the community is. At the point when we preserved and saved the theatre, they really predicted that we'd be able to support about 60 events a year. And now we're looking at having over 100,000 people through our doors, close to 200 events per year. Our community has stepped forward to support everything that we do. They get married here. They have funeral services here. They come and see their favorite bands here. It is more than a building, it is really a center of our community.

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Resting in the heart of Iowa City, a living monument to a century of gridiron battles, rebuilt over generations, but still connected to its past.

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The brick facade of Kinnick Stadium still stands as the history of Iowa football is enshrined in murals and statues.

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Including the Iowa farm boy whose name still resonates 80 years after winning a Heisman Trophy.

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A stadium modernized over decades with 21st century accommodations.

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A new playing surface.

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And a press box rebuilt for years to come.

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Kinnick Stadium is one of the Midwest's most historic football stadiums, still welcoming nearly 70,000 fans to fall Saturdays in Iowa City.

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Phil Haddy: I think that is special to be a Hawkeye and to be here, to play on this field. When you play on it, when the players come out invariably they say they get goosebumps.

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Phil Haddy: Now, the one thing I'll say right off about Kinnick Stadium, it was known back in the 1930s and is still known now in the 2020s as maybe one of the top two or three best stadiums in the country to watch a football game.

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In the 1920s, University of Iowa administrators conceived of a new stadium after years of playing on the modest Iowa field.

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An artist rendering at the time envisioned the next steps for the athletic department, a new shrine for Hawkeye football.

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Phil Haddy: We're also going to move forward, or we hope to anyway, as far as building a new stadium, Iowa football stadium and that was in 1927. So he took it to I guess what would have been the Board of Regents back at that time and it was approved.

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Phil Haddy: They started building Kinnick Stadium in I believe it was late March or April of 1929 and it was ready for occupancy in October of 1929. So they had a work crew of like 250 people, Kinnick Stadium. They worked day and night. You see it is below the level of the streets and everything, they had horses and carriages carrying the dirt out. There's still a legend, and I think it's true, that a number of horses died in the act and they're still buried below the field that we know now as the Kinnick Stadium playing surface.

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Phil Haddy: And I believe attendance for one of those first games was right near 50,000, which was an all-time record for the state of Iowa for any football facility. And then the story goes from there. All we had at that time was the east stands and the west stands. There were no stands in either of the end zones. That came at a later time.

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A new tradition at the new Iowa stadium as its future namesake became a Hawkeye in the late 1930s. Nile Kinnick, an Iowa farm boy from Adel, would go on to win the Heisman Trophy and was a decorated student athlete and later an assistant coach.

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Kinnick's on-field achievements would be rivaled by his reputation in academics.

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Phil Haddy: The one thing I can tell you right now, a number, not just one or two, a number of people said he was the kind of person that he could have run for President. He was in law, I guess he was brilliant, he was an honor student and they said they could see him as a future, certainly a Senator, Congressman and probably run for higher office at some time. He even helped coach here at Iowa as I guess back then I don't know if you'd call it a graduate assistant or if he was an official assistant coach, but he was on the coaching staff until we got into the full-fledged rigors of World War II. And then he was called into service.

Kinnick would enlist in World War II and later died in a plane crash. His statue on the south end of the stadium is a symbol for the University of Iowa and a pre-game ritual for the Hawkeye football team.

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Nile Kinnick's Heisman acceptance speech still echoes through the stadium on game days.

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Nile Kinnick (Heisman acceptance speech): Finally, if you permit me, I'd like to make a comment which in my mind is indicative perhaps of the greater significance of football and sports emphasis in general in this country. And that is, I thank God I was born on the gridirons of the Midwest and not on the battlefields of Europe.

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Phil Haddy: People go there, the team touches his helmet every Saturday morning of a home game when they come in as good luck and as a tribute to Nile Kinnick. It's something if you come to Kinnick Stadium and have never been here, or if you've been here and haven't been to that statue, you need to go over there and read the stuff written about Nile Kinnick on there and his exploits as an athlete and as a scholar student.

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Phil Haddy: It became Kinnick Stadium I believe it was 1972, 1973 and it obviously was to honor Iowa's greatest and only Heisman Trophy winner, Nile Kinnick, who won the Heisman Trophy in 1939 and later died a couple of years later in World War II in an airplane accident. But that is who it was to honor. There was some discussion at the time should we name it Slater Stadium after Duke Slater? Should we name it Kinnick-Slater Stadium? But I think everybody pretty much agreed back then it should go to the only person who won the Heisman Trophy for Iowa.

In 2021, the playing field at Kinnick Stadium was named Duke Slater Field, after the first black student athlete in school history to earn All-America honors while playing from 1918 to 1920. And while he never played on the future Iowa stadium site, Slater's name now adorns its field.

Phil Haddy: Well, there have been a number of renovations. You see what the north and south stands are now, they are permanent, they are state-of-the-art, they're first class and they're just beautiful. And our capacity right now is just under 69,000. But just prior to that before there was some renovation in the north end zone it got up to about 70,500.

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Phil Haddy: I dare say I would not take any other stadium in the Big Ten above this. The angle of the seating is spectacular, it always has been, it is now. You go in some stadiums where it's a slow pitch and you get to the back, we have 79 rows in our stadium, and you go in some stadiums and you get to the back row you're actually far enough away you do need binoculars. The fans are right on top of you. There isn't, in my opinion, except for maybe sometimes row one or two or three way, way down low where you can't see as well, there isn't a bad seat in the house. The opposition hates it because the home fans are right on top of you. And there used to be some teams that came in and said, I didn't like going to Iowa because sometimes when we did something good the home fans would spit on you and the spit would actually reach you. So it was, I mean, it's the best stadium in the country from a fan standpoint. From the home team standpoint it's the best stadium in the country because the fans are right there and you can hear them.

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Phil Haddy: It's not like a lot of stadiums where there's a running track in between the actual football field and the stadium or where there's 15, 20 yards between row one and the actual field. Everybody here is within 5 yards of being on the field. And it's incredible. I've sat in virtually every angle of seat in this stadium including the end zones and the corners and they're all good seats.

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Phil Haddy: I just know so many people that they would not for any reason miss an Iowa football game, they plan weddings around home games. I know people who fly as far away as Arizona and Pennsylvania that fly in, they live there and they fly in for every Iowa home game.

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Announcer: Please turn towards the University of Iowa Stead Family Children's Hospital and join together in sending our support and encouragement to the kids and their families watching today.

For a stadium rooted in a century of Hawkeye tradition, there is still room for new celebrations. In 2017, the Iowa Hawkeyes began a new ritual at the end of every 1st quarter. Fans, players and coaches turn to the newly-built University of Iowa Children's Hospital overlooking the stadium and wave to the families above.

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A sign that even the oldest traditions can evolve and grow at one of Iowa's historic buildings, Kinnick Stadium.

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In Iowa's first capital city, this collection of structures tell a story dating back more than a century. From a stately building overlooking the University of Iowa campus, the Old Capitol remains the symbol of this college town.

To a modern performing arts venue, Hancher Auditorium remains a showcase for the arts.

A legendary theatre rebuilt for the modern age, Englert Theatre is updated for the next generation in downtown Iowa City.

To the legendary brick facade of Kinnick Stadium where fans, players and coaches honor the past and enjoy the current generation of Hawkeye football.

These Iowa City structures combine for an unparalleled tour of awe-inspiring architecture and make up the latest chapter of Historic Buildings of Iowa.

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Funding for Historic Buildings of Iowa: Iowa City is provided by Friends, the Iowa PBS Foundation, as well as generations of families and friends who feel passionate about the programs they watch on Iowa PBS.

And by OPN Architects.  

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There's always a discovery period, and whether that is really trying to find the documentation of the original building or doing your investigation, every building has a story and there's always a surprise.

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