Historic Preservation Commission works to save Ames landmarks


Photo: William Deaton/Iowa State Daily

The Farmhouse, located on the ISU campus, is one of the 16 places in Ames that is recognized on the National Register of Historic Places. There are six other landmarks at Iowa State. 

Tedi Mathis

The Historic Preservation Commission works to ensure the protection of more than just buildings in Ames. The group is working with the city of Ames library board to save a couple of windows in order to preserve history.

Commission member Jason Dietzenbach said the windows are 80 to 90 years old and may need some work, but are not “through with their life.” With the library currently undergoing reconstruction, it is hard to ensure the safety of the windows.

As an architect based out of Ames, Dietzenbach is especially interested in the maintenance of the windows because of their quality. “What we’re building now a days is not the same level of quality. It’s a combination of our history and quality. It affects how our places are perceived,” Dietzenbach said.

“I’m passionate about preservation because I think there is a history and a quality in structures and just trying to maintain that as much as we can.”

Dietzenbach said that the importance of historic preservation could be seen through many buildings up and down the Main Street Cultural District in Ames.

In the 1970s and 1980s, he said you could see the trend where people knocked off brick details from the front of buildings to be replaced with fake facade.

“You’ll see where preservation wasn’t even desired and promoted,” Dietzenbach said. “Our Main Street here in Ames is actually trying to go about bringing back some of that character.”

The Main Street district in Ames is one of the main focuses of the Historic Preservation Commission and has a specific representative within the group, Sharon Wirth.

Wirth is a teaching laboratory coordinator at Iowa State in the college of human sciences as well as the old town district representative of the HPC. [Historic Preservation Council] has to do with preserving visual history,” said Wirth. “Part of your sense of place, part of your cultural heritage.”

Wirth said that another important role of the council deals with certificate of appropriateness permits in the historic district of Ames. They are currently working on rewriting chapter 31 of the city code that deals with historic preservation.

The council is also in the middle of hosting a four part lecture series, the first of which took place Monday, April 8, 2013. Steve Wilke-Shapiro, an architect from the Des Moines area, spoke about the importance of historic preservation in a lecture titled “Why Old Buildings Matter” during the council meeting, and the public was encouraged to attend.

The next event in the series will be an educational session, which will take place at the next meeting of the Historic Preservation Commission on Monday, May 13.

The Historic Preservation Commission works on many other things within the city, ensuring national and local landmarks are protected. “There are a variety of things that we do, one of them is reviewing what has been designated as a historic district,” Dietzenbach said.

There are 16 places in Ames listed on National Register of Historic Places, and another two locations recognized as local historic landmarks. Among the 16 nationally recognized locations, seven are on the ISU campus, including the Marston Water Tower and the Farm House.