University of Iowa will no longer be relocating the Sanxay-Gilmore House, leaving the historic home’s future uncertain

Sanxay-Gilmore House, 109 E. Market Street in Iowa City. — Jordan Sellergren/Little Village

The University of Iowa will not be moving forward with plans to relocate the Sanxay-Gilmore House due to “unforeseen costs of the project.” The house, located at 109 E Market St, is believed to be the oldest remaining house in Iowa City.

Cost estimates for relocation and renovating the home were estimated at $1.23 million. The university designed the project and secured $1.6 million in funding, with $1.3 million of that being private gifts.

But the project bids came in almost $1 million over the estimate, the city’s senior planner Anne Russett said in an email on Wednesday to the Historic Preservation Commission.

“After review of the bids, it is clear the moving expense is much higher than was anticipated in our study,” Russett said. “Contractors expressed significant risk associated with moving the brick structure. Due to the unforeseen costs of the project, the UI will not be moving forward with the relocation.”

“I am told the UI will mothball the Sanxay-Gilmore house in its current condition. The home’s future will be decided when the University moves forward with plans to build a structure on that site in future years (no plans for a facility on the site at current time).”

The Sanxay-Gilmore House was built prior to 1843 by Theodore and Hettie Sanxay shortly after they got married, according to Preservation Iowa. The Sanxays owned the property for almost 80 years. Eugene and Blanche Gilmore bought the house in 1946.

Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, which is located next to the house, owned the property in recent decades up until it was sold to the university in 2018.

The home’s future has been in question since the university purchased it from the church, with plans to relocate and preserve the home for a minimum of 40 years starting last year.

Last July, the Iowa Board of Regents approved a property transfer of .20 acres of land from the city to the university for the new location. The city-owned land on East Market Street between North Dubuque and North Clinton streets would be transferred to the UI at no cost, but the university would be responsible for relocating the home and renovating it. The land is currently a metered parking lot.

The parking lot across the street from the Sanxay-Gilmore House where the home was planned to be relocated to. — Jordan Sellergren/Little Village

The intention was to use the renovated and relocated home to house the Nonfiction Writing Program. With UI canceling the relocation, Russett said officials are looking at other options on university land to build a new facility for the program.

The house in its current location is not large enough to house a UI program, Russett said. The university planned to install a new foundation/basement for added space when relocating.

Russett said UI is willing to donate the home to a third party preservation group or nonprofit if it has the funds to relocate the home to another site.

“The University invested significant time and money in design, programming, engineering and fundraising,” Russett concluded the email. “Unfortunately, it appears the contracting community sees this move as significantly more risky than our study had predicted.”

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