Cedar Rock State Park opens for season, begins renovations

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BUCHANAN COUNTY, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) – If step onto any of the 320 acres of Cedar Rock State Park you will experience a piece of history. On the grounds sits one of the few signature Frank Lloyd Wright homes and structures.

The famous architect built the home for the Walter family in 1950. It received so much attention, the Walters opened it up to the public for viewing. In 1981 the Walter’s donated the home to the Iowa Conservation Commission, and now more than 10,000 people from all over the world travel to Buchanan County to visit the home every year.

“Cedar rock is one of 10 homes in Iowa, but it is the only signature house,” Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ Kathryn Hund said. “We get a lot of visitors that want to come through the house, but they like to spend time outside here as well. They check out the view of the house, we have a trail that leads from the visitor’s center down to the house, a lot of people doing photography. We also have people who come out here for mushrooming, hunting, all sorts of different uses.”

Along with the home, Wright designed the formal entrance gate, entertainment area, and the famous river pavilion. The boat house sits off of a prominent rock on the Wapsipinicon River. That’s how the park got its name of Cedar Rock.

“It’s one of fewer than a hand full of boat houses that Wright designed worldwide, and probably the only one still in its original condition,” Hund said.

With the boat house being more than 65 years old, upkeep is difficult. Its original funding fell through in 2009, and the structure is in rough condition.

There’s missing bricks, water damage, broken gates, and ripped screens. After seeing the damage a group joined together to begin restoration and promotion.

Friends of Cedar Rock is not your typical park group.

“Typical park friends group are neighbors right around the park, and the friends in this group are really from a wide area in eastern Iowa ranging from Cedar falls, Dubuque, Iowa City, and beyond,” Director Patty Resignger said.

The group was recently granted its official nonprofit status, and members have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars toward fixing the boat house. They want to keep it in its original state to educate guests on Wright’s work.

“The boat house will look as it did 50 years ago, and we’ll preserve the structure another 50 years until weather takes its toll again. This will be an example that people from all over the world will come to see,” Risingnger said.

“There’s no way it would of happened without them at this point. We’re apart of state parks, but the funding for this project would not have come together for probably quite some time,” Hund said. “We’re incredibly lucky. This is their first funding project, and I couldn’t imagine it going any better than it has.”

The entire renovation project can be live streamed here, as it begins in the next couple of weeks.
The park opens for the season Wednesday. Tours are given hourly Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.