“The strength of a nation is derived from the integrity of its homes.”
The Gingrich Home | 300 Walnut Street
Designed by John Ralston, this home was first occupied in 1916 by Clement B. Gingrich, a well-known citizen of La Porte City who was involved with politics and also managed the Co-operative Creamery in La Porte City. In addition, Mr. Gingrich was a founder of the Farmer’s Mutual Telephone Exchange that served primarily the rural areas of La Porte City. In 1913 this company merged with the public utility company -- which served most of the town residents -- to form one company.
Gingrich also incorporated the Farmer’s Savings Bank in 1913. Interestingly, when Gingrich purchased the double lot for his future home in 1907, he had the existing two-story home on it moved to an adjacent lot (603 Third Street) where his mother-in-law would reside. After her death, this home became a rental property.
The Gingrich house is visually noteworthy for its scale and mass. It combines Georgian cube massing with Prairie School/Craftsman influences. The house as built differs somewhat from the original blueprints drawn. Many interior changes were made as costs skyrocketed. The basement is of interest because of the special treatments intended for it. Mr. Gingrich had planned for the basement to offer a den, complete with a fireplace and paneled walls, to serve as a personal space. Budget overruns canceled those plans; however, it still boasts 9-foot ceilings, a half bath, and a two-and-a-half-inch-thick concrete floor. When completed, the house cost $12,000, making it the most expensive home built in La Porte City for some time.
When Clement Gingrich’s widow, Ella, died in 1943, the house was sold and converted to the rectory for Sacred Heart Catholic Parish from 1946-1968. During that time, the basement was used for Catechism classes and served as a chapel for daily mass. In these “rectory years,” 27 interdenominational weddings were celebrated in the house.
Ray and Gerry Wester purchased the home from the Catholic Church in 1968 because it was spacious enough to accommodate their large family. The home was placed on the National Register of Historical Places in 1996. It is presently owned by Matt and Sarah Craft.
The McQuilken House | 602 Commercial Street
This house was built in 1900 by John and Mary McQuilken. John McQuilken was a local meat and poultry merchant. He sold insurance in later years.
Located on U.S. Highway 218 (Commercial Street) in La Porte City, this house is significant because of its stylistic influence and the richness of detail both on the exterior and the interior.
Completed in 1901, this house exhibits features of the Colonial Revival styling. It is unusual for a home of this modest size to have such an outstanding architectural roof element. Built by an unknown local contractor, the various pitches required more than ordinary skill.
This home was placed on the National Register of Historical Places in 1994.
The Heath-Kline House | 200 West Main Street
The Heath-Kline house and carriage house at 200 West Main Street was built in 1895 for the J Heath family.
The house was designed by renowned American architect George F. Barber, one of the most successful residential architects of the late Victorian period in the United States. His mail-order plans were used to construct houses in all 50 states plus many other countries. Barber’s work amassed more than 20,000 structure plans – including houses, barns, churches, businesses and pavilions -- over the course of his career.
The Heath-Kline house features many of Barber’s signature design elements. It possesses many of the detailed flourishes of the Victorian era, coupled with overall elements of Queen Anne style (sometimes called “picturesque” Victorian architecture). Among these features are its asymmetrical front façade, prominent square turret, steeply pitched rooflines, and multiple gables.
The Heath family lived in the house for just a few years after its construction was completed. In 1898, it was sold to the W. L. Kline family, who operated Kline’s Grocery Store in downtown La Porte City. The Kline family remained owners of the home until the 1960s.
The property was purchased in 1990 by Dave Hopkins, who undertook extensive restorations and constructed a back edition in keeping with the home’s original style and architectural details. In 2000, it was designated a National Preservation Award winner for the best preserved and restored private residence in Iowa.
The home also has been featured in Victorian Homes magazine, and on the PBS television show, “If These Walls Could Talk.” Dave and Shelly Hopkins remain the current owners of the home, which they continue to lovingly preserve and restore.
The Lunemann House | 509 Bishop Avenue
Noted Midwest architect John G. Ralston designed the stately mansion on Bishop Avenue for the John and Augusta Lunemann family in 1904.
Lunemann grew up in La Porte City, the youngest son of a local blacksmith. His father, Herman Lunemann, was a local institution who provided blacksmithing services to the La Porte City community for more than 60 years. The elder Lunemann was determined that his children would have a better life than the rigors of his own career, which cost him much of his vision and hearing.
John Lunemann graduated as salutatorian of La Porte City High School in 1886. He worked for various businesses in La Porte City before engaging in banking in Dysart, and later at the First National Bank of La Porte City. He became vice president of the bank and expanded into real estate. Lunemann traveled extensively, handling lands and purchases from Florida to the emerging West.
Near the turn of the century. Lunemann selected Ralston, a prominent Waterloo architect, to develop the plans for a grand home. Ralston’s design incorporated an eclectic blend of various architectural styles, a flair for which he was known throughout the Cedar Valley. Other examples of his creative design work include the Waterloo Public Library; the Black Hawk Hotel in Cedar Falls; and the Cattle Congress Hippodrome (now McElroy Auditorium) in Waterloo.
The Lunemann family only lived in the home for a brief time, selling it in 1915. Currently owned by the David Snook family, it remains one of the largest private homes in La Porte City.