Individuals recognized for McGregor historic preservation efforts

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The McGregor Historic Preservation Commission held its annual awards ceremony Oct. 7, recognizing individuals who have demonstrated a commitment to the historic preservation of McGregor. The honorees, pictured with McGregor Mayor Harold Brooks (back, right), included (front, left to right) Melanie San Fillippo, Michelle Pettit, Richard Palucci; (back) Fred Petrie, Gary Bowden (accepting for the McGregor United Methodist Church congregation), Barbara and Skip Corson, Charlene Palucci and Med and Corky Bickel. (Photo by Audrey Posten)

Members of the McGregor Historic Preservation Commission are (front, left to right) Lynette Sander, Maureen Wild, Dave Kneer; (back) Marsha Bickel, Rogeta Halvorson, Richard Palucci, Michelle Pettit and Duane Boelman. (Photo by Audrey Posten)

The building that now houses McGregor City Hall is 100 years old. It was constructed in 1917 as McGregor’s First Church of Christ, Scientist.

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times Editor

The McGregor Historic Preservation Commission held its annual awards ceremony Oct. 7, recognizing individuals who have demonstrated a commitment to the historic preservation of McGregor.

The event took place at McGregor City Hall, in conjunction with a centennial celebration of the city hall building.

Mayor Harold Brooks began the ceremony by presenting tribute awards to Skip and Barbara Corson, as well as Melanie San Fillippo and Fred Petrie, who lost their buildings during the July 19 tornado.

The Corsons were recognized for their years of care and preservation of the Goedert Meat Market. The couple bought the building at 322 Main St. in 1981, operating it in the years since as the Main Street Mall. Their restoration efforts resulted in the building being named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1996.

The building has been a mainstay in the community for over 125 years. John Goedert commissioned construction of the building’s cast-iron storefront around 1889, its likeness coming from a meat market in New York. Edward Bergman purchased the building in 1927 and moved his meat market to the location. Jack and Azalia Corlett began ownership in 1944, operating “Trash and Treasures.” In 1972, Senator John Culver purchased the building to use as an office.

San Fillippo and Petrie were recognized for their care and preservation of the Troutfetter and Son Grocery building, located at 330 Main St. 

Through the years, the building had several owners, including J.D. Bickel, who bought it in 1907 and operated Bickel Meat and Grocery for over four decades. In August 1972, Terrence Ghan and Guy and Joyce Ghan opened the Village Traveler restaurant there. Herb and Joanne Collins bought the restaurant in 1974 and operated it for many years. Mark Russo ran a woodworking business in the building throughout the 1980s and 1990s. 

San Fillippo and Petrie purchased the building in 2008, allowing the McGregor-Marquette Center for the Arts to operate in the space. The building most recently housed INKspiration Tattoo, owned by Crystal Scarff.

Following the tornado, San Fillippo and Petrie donated the land where the building stood to the city of McGregor.

“We’ll miss the building,” San Fillippo shared, “but we’re glad something productive will come of the lot.”

Two mayor’s century awards were presented. One went to Richard and Charlene Palucci, for their care and preservation of the Old Jail and Firehouse Guest Suite at 212 A St.

A century award was also given to John (Corky) and Mary Ellen (Med) Bickel, for their care and preservation of the Christian Bloedel Wagon Works and Paint Shop, located at 524-526 Main St.

“We’re proud and pleased to be part of the McGregor community. I’m a fifth-generation McGregor Bickel,” Corky said. “My first love is and will always be McGregor. We’re proud to preserve its history.”

It’s melancholy, he continued, that San Fillippo’s and Petrie’s building, which once housed Bickel Meat and Grocery, no longer stands.

“But McGregor will go on,” he said. “We’re a resilient community with ambitious, forward-looking people, and we always will be.”

The ceremony continued with the perseverance award, given to the congregation of the McGregor United Methodist Church. Earlier this year, the church, which is 148 years old, was threatened with closure. Services and other activities were not held there for three months.

“We were told it was not structurally sound and that there were mold spores,” threatening the air quality, said church member Gary Bowden, who accepted the award. “But we didn’t buy it. We had the building inspected, and it was found to be in good and stable condition. The air quality test was negative,” meaning the air quality was fine.

After a thorough cleaning, the church is now back to its normal activities, Bowden said.

The final award of the day went to Michelle Pettit, in recognition of her excellence in individual contributions to preserve the city’s history and culture through research, collection and documentation. 

Of the award, Pettit said simply, “It’s easy to fall in love with history in a town like McGregor.”

After bestowing the awards, Brooks referenced the July 19 tornado. Although damage to trees and some historic buildings was extensive, he said he’s proud of how the community has rebounded.

“Looking at the things that have changed in three months, it’s amazing,” he said. “McGregor is a strong town. We’ll be back—we are back, we’re going.”


McGregor City Hall building celebrates centennial

Designed by prominent Chicago architect Spencer Solon Bemen, the building that houses McGregor City Hall was constructed in 1917 as McGregor’s First Church of Christ, Scientist.

The Christian Science Society of McGregor was organized on May 10, 1892, by Elizabeth Webster, of Chicago. Services were originally held in members’ homes, then in a large upper room of the Barron Building, in downtown McGregor, before the church was built to accommodate a growing congregation.

The church building was neoclassical inspired, its front entrance framed by two wooden columns sitting on short plinths. A coffered ceiling and entablature spans the entire building front. The fan light window above the doorway is reminiscent of a Roman arch. Together, the elements give the front of the building the look of a temple.

The front of the building is now undergoing some changes, explained Duane Boelman, the city’s deputy clerk. One of the columns, which fell as a result of the tornado, was recently put back into place. The fan light above the door is being restored. The French doors that originally graced the entrance, but had been stored in the basement, will also be put in place.

Another unique aspect of the building is its cornerstone, to the right of the entrance.

“The cornerstone is still there. It was a very important part of the building,” Boelman said, adding that a large ceremony was held at the time it was placed.

Although neoclassical inspired, the building also features some Tudor elements, including the diamond pattern leaded glass in the windows. The exterior walls with concrete stucco over clay structural tile blocks was also popular in Tudor-style buildings.

These eclectic elements were normal for the architect, Bemen, whose other notable projects included the Pullman community near Chicago, Grand Central Station in Chicago, the Pioneer Building in St. Paul and the Pabst Building in Milwaukee. He also designed at least 90 Christian Science churches.

“It’s unique that they got an architect with such renown to build a tiny church in McGregor,” Boelman said.

After the congregation disbanded, the building served as apartments, owned by Bud Jamesen. Dr. James Heiring operated his podiatry office at the location from 1975 to 1978. The Masonic Bezer Lodge #135 then called it home until 1995, when they disbanded and donated the building to the city of McGregor. It’s served as city hall ever since.

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