Old Christvision church falling into disrepair

Photo courtesy of :The Hawkeye newspaper

UPDATED: Aug 17 at 10:30 a.m.

Some Keokuk residents are joining together in an effort to save a historic church slated to be demolished.

The old Unitarian church there was abandoned back in 2006 by it's owners, a not-for-profit organization called Christ Vision. Since then it's fallen into disrepair.

The city has taken the owners to court to get it demolished.

A local engineering study is giving hope to Keokuk residents that a historic church can be saved.

When Keokuk Native Melanie Wells returned home to live after 15 years on the West Coast, she was shocked to hear this piece of Keokuk's history could be lost forever.

That's when she made it her mission to save it.

City officials say the structure is a hazard to the neighborhood. It was open to the elements and potential passersby. At the time of the inspection, the property wasn't maintained.

Wells hired an independent engineer at Poepping, Stone and Bach to see if the church was beyond repair. That expert agreed with the city that the structure was a hazard, but gave preservationists new hope. Engineer Charlie Bach said that the foundation had no cracks and the walls were not in danger of caving in. He added the structure could be fixed, with a lot of money of course.

That news spurred the owner Christ Vision to fight to keep the structure from being demolished.

Wells agrees that problems exist, the roof needs work, but she says the building is a treasure that needs to be saved. She has a plan to save it.

Wells is working with the Iowa Work force development office on a plan to use paid trainees in a federally funded on-the-job work program to repair the building. That would give masons like John West added workers and more work. He owns Custom Brick and Store Co. He says that could add up to an economic boost to the community.

West said, "We don't have many masons in this area and there's a chance we could hire some of them."

Wells said, "It creates jobs. Why don't we jump on this bandwagon, restore the history that sits at our fingertips and save our future through preserving our past?

All that's needed is money to buy supplies and pay professionals to mentor the trainees.

An online fundraiser is being planned to address that need. click here to learn more:

Wells tells KHQA if money is raised and this work program gets off the ground, it could be extended to projects like the arches on Main street and the Union Depot.

But the money is still needed to make all that happen.


A Keokuk church built in the 1880's could be headed toward demolition.

The corporation that owns the building has been inactive for several years.

Now neglect to the structure is starting to show and the city is beginning the paperwork to prevent another collapse like the one that happened to the Green Tambourine building in 2009.

Keokuk Mayor Tom Marion says he knows what can happen when the owner of a building doesn't take care of the structure, which eventually falls into disrepair.

So he wants to make sure that the old Christvision Church at the corner of 4th and High Street doesn't collapse before the city can take ownership of the property through a court order and have it demolished.

"It's an inactive corporation with the State of Iowa and that makes it a real mess as to who gets to. If we're going to to get them to deed it to us, who can do that? So that's why we're going through the process," said Marion

According to the mayor, the building has holes in its roof. Bricks are falling off the exterior. Leaders are concerned that if it were to collapse, the steeple could land on other houses in the neighborhood causing damage and possible injuries.

"If it goes, it's going to collapse one way or another and there are houses all around it. So it would be a problem," said the mayor

Marion says once the city files a motion with the court asking for the deed to the property, it will take about 60 days to demolish.

He says that since the Christvision corporation was a religious entity, it paid no tax to the city. So if the court deeds the property to the city, there won't be a loss of any tax revenue.