On Friday, New Years Eve, the city-owned building in Greene Square Park was demolished following years of poor maintenance and minor flooding in 2008. The building opened Sept. 14, 1964, as a Senior Citizens Center, and most recently had been used for the Green Square Meals program. The one-story, fan-shaped building sat at the southwest corner of Green Square and opened up on to the park with a low, overhanging zig-zag roof.
The building appeared dated both in upkeep and the design itself. Its removal will return Greene Square into an entire open block that will accommodate a visual and active connection with the future new Cedar Rapids Public Library to be built across the street along the park’s southern edge.
While there is little to object with the demolition, it is important to note the building’s significance in local architectural history. It was designed by Cedar Rapids architect Ray Crites who had an influential career in Iowa and throughout the Midwest. His most renowned buildings were houses – two of which were his own located in Cedar Rapids – that were distinctive vertical and horizontal compositions engaging natural sites. His partnership firm Crites and McConnell also played a role in the design of C.Y. Stephens Auditorium at Iowa State in 1969.
Throughout the city’s history Greene Square has been a mainstay even while much in and around it has changed. At one time Greene Square included the old Washington High School, was next to the spectacular Union Station, and across from the original Carnegie Library. Washington closed in 1935 and was demolished in 1946 after a failed preservation attempt. Similarly Union Station was torn down in 1961 to make way for a parking garage, which remains today. The old Carnegie Library still stands and was incorporated into a new facility for the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art in 1989.