Visual continuity and historic integrity: a case study of the historic courthouse square in Adel, IA

Dolan, Jeffrey
Major Professor
Committee Member
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Research Projects
Organizational Units
Organizational Unit
Journal Issue

As the old saying goes, beauty is only skin deep, but when it comes to the health of small towns and their historic business districts the appearance of the street facades can have larger repercussions. Many towns are waking up to the importance the visual image of their traditional cores. The overall visual quality of a traditional downtown depends heavily upon the appearance of the street facades of the commercial buildings that line the streets. How the visual character of historic facades is maintained and how well new construction visually blends with them goes along way in determining how the town is perceived. Change has been a constant on Main Street since its inception, yet for many years the changes that were made stayed true to the overall patterns of composition that were in existence across the entire streetscape. The same cannot be said for more recent changes to commercial building facades during the middle to late twentieth century. The small town of Adel, Iowa is like many other small towns that are rediscovering the value of the traditional commercial facade in terms of maintaining both visual continuity and historic integrity within their traditional commercial core. History and small town character are still a large part of Adel. From its founding in 1847, Adel has served as the county seat and heart of Dallas County, Iowa. The Dallas County Courthouse anchors the Courthouse Square Central Business District along with the remainder of its turn of the century commercial architecture and original brick streets. This thesis was developed as a case study. The small town of Adel, Iowa provided an excellent opportunity to both document visual problems and provide design solutions within that specific historic context. Design recommendations concerning the existing facades of the courthouse square are based upon the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties as well as a redesign of one side of the square based upon generalized guidelines developed for infill and new construction that are based upon the precedents of historic commercial facade forms.