Boathouse restoration will begin in spring 2016

Dec 26, 2015
Orlan Love
The Gazette

QUASQUETON — A $200,000 restoration of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed boathouse at Cedar Rock State Park will get underway this spring.

“We call it the man cave,” said Katie Hund, site manager at Cedar Rock, the state-owned estate built by Wright for Lowell and Agnes Walter in the early 1950s.

“The boathouse was Lowell’s personal retreat, a place where he could get away and relax,” Hund said.

The boathouse, with its overhanging roof, cantilevered construction and Wright-designed furniture, echoes key features of the main house, which sits at the opposite end of the limestone spine known as Cedar Rock.

While the house remains in good condition, deferred maintenance and prolonged exposure to the elements have degraded the elegant brick pavilion, which features a fireplace, sleeping and lounging quarters, boat storage and launching facilities, and a deck overlooking the scenic Wapsipinicon River.

The contract, awarded to Eugene Matthews Inc. of Broadview, Ill., calls for restoring the building’s brick and concrete exterior and refinishing the walnut woodwork inside the boathouse. Completion is expected in October.

Restoring the boathouse has for several years been the top priority of Friends of Cedar Rock, a volunteer support group that has raised most of the money for the project through grants, donations and special events.

“I don’t see how this could have happened without the Friends,” said Hund, who noted they secured grants from the Buchanan County Community Foundation, the Community Foundation of Northeastern Iowa, the Black Hawk County Gaming Commission and the state Resource Enhancement and Protection program.

Hund said the largely depleted Walter Charitable Trust will contribute $50,000 to the project.

The trust fund, which consisted of two bequests totaling $1.5 million, covered Cedar Rock’s expenses from 1982, the year the Walters bequeathed it to the state, until 2009, when the Department of Natural Resources assumed most of the site’s operating expenses.

The park hosts about 10,000 visitors a year, many of whom come to see Wright’s handiwork and have donated to the boathouse restoration fund, Hund said.

The house and boathouse together “form a wonderful ensemble,” said Friends member Carl Thurman of Cedar Falls, who drafted the grant proposals.

Although Wright designed several boathouses, the Cedar Rock pavilion is the only one whose construction was overseen by Wright that remains standing, according to Thurman, who has visited all the Wright-designed structures open to the public in the United States.