Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
Dr. Mary Wettach can tell you renovating an old building is expensive.
She owns the McCandless Building, 115 W. Monroe St., on the north side of the Square.
Recently she had a company clean the lead paint off the bricks on the building.
She’ll also tell you that you are never finished with an old building. It seems one project leads to another. Now that the paint is gone from the building, issues with the mortar are evident.
“I think the paint might have been holding this up,” Wettach said.
Altogether, she says she has spent $500,000 on the building.
Her hope is that the city or another local organization will be able to help with matching money to get a grant to continue the work.
The three-story building is on the National Register of Historic Places. It was built in 1862 by William McCandless, who also is credited with the Union Block in downtown. He probably built more of the city’s buildings, but those are the two he is credited with.
The building facade features three round arched windows on the second and third floors, with brick patterned hood molds, according to the building’s listing in the historic register. It is about 20 feet wide and 65 feet deep.
“This building retains sufficient integrity to be immediately recognized as an early Italianate building from circa1860. It is one of four commercial buildings which visually represent this important period of construction in Mount Pleasant's history,” states the National Register of Historic Places.
Bricks for the building were manufactured locally. Wettach said that the bricks are soft and subject to crumbling.
The register gives more of its history and significance:
“With the arrival of the railroad in 1856, the town more than doubled in population in a three-year period. New buildings were needed to house businesses and services, including hotels, restaurants, banks, drug stores, and jewelry stores. These new buildings were constructed along the north and east sides of the Square, and along the 100 block of N. Main. Brick was used as the primary building material for the most important of these buildings.
“The McCandless Building was originally leased to a Mr. Pennington for use as a dry goods store. By 1886, the Sanborn map shows it housing watches and jewelry. It continued as a jewelry store until circa 909 when it is shown as a candy shop and later as a restaurant.”
The restaurant was the Princess Cafe, recalls Wettach. After she and her husband bought the building, their daughter operated a store selling formal dresses. Now, her son-in-law, Beau Bergmann has his law firm in the building.
The building needs to be converted from a retail space into a law office, she said.
All of that takes money. She is hoping the building’s historical significance in Mt. Pleasant will generate local support for money to match grants she wants to get for the renovations.
“You can’t live on memories,” she said. “You can’t live on history.”