NORTH LIBERTY, Iowa — A house listed on Preservation Iowa’s 2023 “Most Endangered” properties is getting a second chance in a new location.
The Queen Anne Victorian home, built in 1892, will make the 16-mile trek from North Liberty to rural Oxford in June.
“My wife and I had been looking to move other houses,” said Terry Miller, who owns the farmland where the house will move. “This one fit our property best, and we love it.”
Developer Matthew Lepic is “selling” the home to the Millers basically for free, with a transaction fee, to make way for two 12-unit residential buildings on the site under rezoning approved last year by the city of North Liberty.
North Liberty resident Cathy Coleman had been advocating to save the home and reached out early last year to Save Cedar Rapids Heritage, whose mission is to preserve historic resources in Cedar Rapids through education, assistance, advocacy and action.
While North Liberty is out of the nonprofit’s typical boundaries, board members agreed to help try to save the home.
Lepic allowed Save CR Heritage to reach out to potential homeowners who would have the capacity to move the towering three-bedroom, two-bath home.
A post about the “free” Victorian home received dozens of serious inquiries, coming from across Iowa and from other states, as well.
Built in 1892 for the Jacob and Martha George family, the more than 2,800-square-foot house features a wraparound porch, turret, curved staircase, pocket doors and other original architectural features.
George, an elder in the Lutheran Church, operated a saw mill and owned about 450 acres of farmland, according to the History of Johnson County, Iowa.
In recent years, the house became a rental and, as North Liberty has grown, has become nearly enveloped by townhomes, duplexes and other multi-family dwellings.
After years as a rental, including recently being used as a daycare, the house had seen better days, but is structurally sound and has a new roof.
Save CR Heritage volunteers spent days removing rubbish, vacuuming dog hair-covered carpet, removing stickers and posters taped throughout the daycare spaces and otherwise cleaning the home to prepare it to show to people interested in taking on the move.
With Save CR Heritage board member Dennis Andrews, a retired house mover, answering basic questions on what is involved in moving a house of that size, the group invited 16 interested individuals for a walk-through last May.
None of those individuals was ultimately able to make the move work; mostly due to lack of available land in the North Liberty area.
Lepic then entered into an agreement with another person who also came up empty-handed in finding a vacant lot.
By early this year, it appeared that time would run out on saving the home when it made Preservation Iowa’s “Most Endangered” list.
Miller saw an article in the Iowa City Press-Citizen about the home’s inclusion on the Most Endangered list in February. He and his wife, Heather, connected with Lepic and his wife, Nicole, about moving the home and came to an agreement.
The Millers hired Goodwin House Moving of Washington, Iowa, to move the home. A newer kitchen addition had to be removed to ensure the width of the house would fit the roads on its route west of Iowa City, to south of Oxford.
Miller said the cost of moving power lines as the home makes its move will cost as much as the move itself, with a combined total estimated at $200,000 to $220,000.
Only two routes were viable for the move out of North Liberty.
With wiring and other updates once the home is moved, the home should easily last another century, he said.
See more photos of the Queen Anne Victorian, below:
Journalist Cindy Hadish is a board member and volunteer of Save CR Heritage