Shaw Mansion

he Shaw Mansion has been unoccupied for more than a decade. Photo submitted

On Friday, Amy Pieper was informed that the Shaw Mansion in Denison had been selected as one of Iowa’s “Most Endangered Properties” by Preservation Iowa.

Pieper, who is Crawford County deputy auditor and a member of the Crawford County Historic Preservation Commission (CCHPC), nominated the house to be considered for the designation.

The Most Endangered Properties program began in 1995 with the purpose of making Iowans aware of “the special buildings and historic sites that are slowly and gradually slipping away from us,” according to the Preservation Iowa website.

The program provides a resource for media coverage and introduces the owners of endangered properties to preservation advocates and other resources.

“Preservation Iowa releases a new ‘endangered’ list every year,” Pieper said. “They choose buildings throughout the state and they spotlight the ones that need to be restored that, if not, will probably be demolished.”

Pieper said she nominated the Shaw Mansion because it is obviously in need.

Ken Kahl, of Buck Grove, took over ownership of the house, located at 1434 1st Avenue South in Denison, at the beginning of January.

L.M. Shaw, who was the governor of Iowa from 1898 to 1902 and Secretary of the United States Treasury from 1902 to 1907, built the house in 1897.

It has been vacant for more than a decade and has suffered damage from the weather, animals and time.

Kahl has started to clean out the house and plans to return it to a habitable condition.

“It’s going to take a lot of money to restore it,” Pieper said. “I’m afraid the only other option would have been to demolish it.”

Inclusion on the Most Endangered Properties list will give the house a higher profile around the state, which will help in the effort to raise funds for the work that needs to be done.

“Preservation Iowa does a lot of marketing and they’ll have it on their website,” Pieper said. “They have already posted it on the Preservation Iowa Facebook page.”

The Shaw Mansion has been on Pieper’s radar since she moved to Denison in 2011.

“It’s sad that this gorgeous home has fallen into such disrepair,” she said. “It’s a part of Denison’s history that needs to be saved.”

Pieper said the house was also on the radar of Paula Mohr of the State Historic Preservation Office of Iowa.

“She worked in Washington, D.C. and the building she worked in had a huge picture of Leslie Shaw,” Pieper said.

“She thought it was interesting that we were coming to her for help with his house.”

Mohr has been a good resource for the answers to questions about what can be done to help Kahl restore the house, she said.

CCHPC had considered nominating the house for the Most Endangered Properties list, but they didn’t have a relationship with the previous owner.

“Having Ken involved as the owner helped immensely to get it nominated,” Pieper said.

She doesn’t think the restoration project for the Shaw Mansion should all fall on Kahl’s shoulders.

“When you have a piece of history like this home, I feel it belongs to the whole community,” Pieper said.

Individuals interested in donating to the project may contact Pieper at shawmansion@yahoo.com.

Pieper will administer a Shaw Mansion crowdfunding website that will be set up in the near future, she said.

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