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The Civic Center

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  • (Photograph by Catherine Boland Erkkila)
  • (Photograph by Catherine Boland Erkkila)

In 1911 the Chicago planner and successor to Daniel Burnham, Edward H. Bennett, prepared a Beaux-Arts Classical scheme for downtown Cedar Rapids. In addition to proposing boulevards adjacent to the river, he suggested that a grouping of civic buildings be established centering on Municipal (formerly May) Island. Bennett's scheme formalized an approach to the riverfront improvement that had been initiated in 1902. The 1911 plan called for the construction of masonry embankments, boulevards with formal plantings of major trees, arched masonry bridges, and the location of the principal governmental buildings on the island, facing onto the river and the boulevard on the adjacent bank. By the beginning of the 1930s, four of the city's principal public buildings were located within this “civic center.” Because of the openness of space provided by the boulevard, river, and island, and the seven-story tower of the Veterans' Memorial and City Hall building, this complex of public buildings constitutes one of the few instances in America where a Beaux-Arts scheme has continued to dominate a downtown area.

Writing Credits

David Gebhard and Gerald Mansheim

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