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Cedar Rapids’ Bever Woods neighborhood proposed for National Register of Historic Places designation

Bever Woods nomination neighborhood meeting

Wednesday, July 14 at 6 p.m. at the Bever Park pavilion


Homes in the Bever Woods neighborhood photographed on Sept. 11, 2019. — Jav Ducker/Little Village

The City of Cedar Rapids has decided to nominate the Bever Woods neighborhood to the National Register of Historic Places.

Individuals residing in this southeast neighborhood are invited to an hour-long meeting at 6 p.m. on Wednesday evening at the Bever Park pavilion to learn more about the process. An email and letter were sent to residents, and a news release was posted on the city’s website informing individuals about the meeting.

Residents who attend are encouraged to bring any historic information they have that might help with the nomination, including property abstracts, historic photos, house plans, drawings, newspaper clippings and scrapbooks. The documents will be photographed on-site during the meeting and immediately returned to residents, according to the city.

The survey of the Bever Woods neighborhood was conducted in late 2019 as part of the city’s Historic Preservation Plan. Cedar Rapids received an $18,000 Certified Local Government grant from the state for the survey, which was completed by Wapsi Valley Archaeology, a consulting firm specializing in historic preservation issues.

The portion of the neighborhood being surveyed has Bever Park on the east, Bever Avenue SE on the south, 21st Street SE on the west and Grande Avenue SE on the north.

Bever Woods survey area from Google Maps

Survey results were shared last year during a virtual open house. The results will also be reviewed at Wednesday’s meeting.

Wapsi Valley Archaeology’s architectural historian Maria Schmid informed residents in May 2020 that the neighborhood is in fact eligible for the National Register due to its association with community planning and development, as well as its distinctive architectural design characteristics. Wapsi Valley Archeology recommended that the city nominate the Bever Woods area to the National Register.

Sampson Cicero Bever, the patriarch of the Bever family, moved to Cedar Rapids with his wife and children in 1852. He led the effort to create the first railroad in Cedar Rapids and opened the city’s first bank. He also donated the land that is now Bever Park.

James L. Bever Jr., a grandson of Sampson Bever, developed the homes in the Bever Woods neighborhood. Houses in this neighborhood were mostly built between the 1910s and 1920s. In 1923, he also built an office building at 417 First Ave SE that became a notable part of downtown Cedar Rapids. The Bever Building was torn down in 2018, despite strong opposition from historic preservation advocates.

The study found that the Bever Woods neighborhood has 128 properties, 125 of which contribute to the Bever Woods Historic District. Three properties in the area are not eligible for the National Register.

A “contributing property” has historical integrity and adds to the district’s sense of time and place, Schmid said. A property that does not contribute is one that had major alterations to the original building.

A home in the Bever Woods neighborhood photographed on Sept. 11, 2019. — Jav Ducker/Little Village

Neighborhoods added to the National Register are promoted and distinguished for adding historic value to the city, according to a news release. Unlike other historic designations, being on the National Register does not impose design requirements on property owners. It does allow for certain incentives and benefits from the National Park Service.

After the nomination forms are completed, the forms will be submitted to the State Historic Preservation Office for review, which is expected to occur in spring 2022. If approved, the area would then be designated as a National District.

Individuals who have historic property information they’d like to share can call the city’s Community Development office at 319-286-5041 or email hpreview@cedar-rapids.org.

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In May, Iowa City’s Downtown Historic District was added to the National Register of Historic Places.


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