Future Home of the Italian-American Cultural Center of Iowa

Jan 07, 2022 771

BY: Susan Defazio

The iconic Butler Mansion on Fleur Dr in Des Moines IA, was built in 1934, in a style the architecture magazines called Streamlined Moderne, a late version of art deco that possibly had more of the practical and less panache. It was forward-looking per the wishes of Earl Butler, an engineer who had lived in the city about three decades, and his architect George Kraetsch, also a Des Moines native. The Butler Mansion was built for durability, all reinforced concrete, steel trusses and large, steel windows that rolled outward.

A ramp system unfolds from the basement to the third-floor sunroom. In 1989 architecture firm Wells Woodburn O’Neil designed the first of three additions that blend into the landscape as well as the original structure and today enclose a courtyard that was designed by Genus Landscape Architects and features recycled glass pavers, composite decking, a bocce ball court, a basalt water feature and a custom tally wall.

In 2021 the Italian-American Cultural Center of Iowa contracted for the acquisition of this historic building and the planning began. The vision for this immense project is three-fold:

• Preserving this historic building is preserving a part of Iowa’s history. Tours will be available for the public to appreciate just how unique this structure is and learn about Iowa’s history.

• Making the Butler Mansion a destination point for the State of Iowa will open its’ doors to public use. This building that overlooks downtown Des Moines will feature two large convention/banquet halls, several smaller meeting rooms, a projection room, an education center, and an outdoor courtyard, that will attract businesses and people to Iowa.

• Our mission to preserve and promote our Italian heritage will vastly expand with the opportunity to showcase an interactive museum featuring our Italian ancestors and traveling museum tours, a vineyard, an educational center for language and cooking classes and an art studio to teach Italian arts. A store will feature Italian products, a café will offer Italian beverages as well as food prepared with Italian herbs and vegetables grown in our garden. The genealogy center will offer classes, family histories and research sources.

The outpouring of public, private, County, City and State support is immense, all wanting to participate in bringing this endeavor to fruition. If you are interested in supporting this project, please contact Loretta Sieman at (515) 689-4451 or lorettasieman@gmail.com

Visit the Center’s website for information on activities and events at www.iaccofia.org

SOURCE: Italian-American Cultural Center of IA

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