111 Church Street

We'd like to begin with the University of Iowa's Acknowledgement of Land and Sovereignty:

The University of Iowa is located on the homelands of the Ojibwe/Anishinaabe (Chippewa), Báxoǰe (Iowa), Kiikaapoi (Kickapoo), Omāēqnomenēwak (Menominee), Myaamiaki (Miami), Nutachi (Missouri), Umoⁿhoⁿ (Omaha), Wahzhazhe (Osage), Jiwere (Otoe), Odawaa (Ottawa), Póⁿka (Ponca), Bodéwadmi/Neshnabé (Potawatomi), Meskwaki/Nemahahaki/Sakiwaki (Sac and Fox), Dakota/Lakota/Nakoda (Sioux), Sahnish/Nuxbaaga/Nuweta (Three Affiliated Tribes) and Ho-Chunk (Winnebago) Nations. The following tribal nations, Umoⁿhoⁿ (Omaha Tribe of Nebraska and Iowa), Póⁿka (Ponca Tribe of Nebraska), Meskwaki (Sac and Fox of the Mississippi in Iowa), and Ho-Chunk (Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska) Nations continue to thrive in the State of Iowa and we continue to acknowledge them. As an academic institution, it is our responsibility to acknowledge the sovereignty and the traditional territories of these tribal nations, and the treaties that were used to remove these tribal nations, and the histories of dispossession that have allowed for the growth of this institution since 1847. Consistent with the University's commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, understanding the historical and current experiences of Native peoples will help inform the work we do; collectively as a university to engage in building relationships through academic scholarship, collaborative partnerships, community service, enrollment and retention efforts acknowledging our past, our present and future Native Nations.

Please visit the UI Native American Council website for additional information.

For information about the Obermann Center's accessibility, gender-inclusive restrooms, and medical resources, please visit our Contact Us page.

Timeline (1856–present)

1856

Craft Coast (1816–1864) and his wife Nancy Regan purchase the plot of land after arriving from Ohio in 1854. They build a house at 530 N. Clinton (corner of Clinton and Church Streets) and a carriage house at what later becomes 111 Church St. Their daughter, Mary Elizabeth, would go on to marry the famous portraitist George Henry Yewell, whose papers are held by the UI Libraries.

1926

black and white headshot of Bird Baldwin, very dapper

Bird Thomas Baldwin (left) commissions Cedar Rapids architect Mark Anthony to build a home for himself, his children, and his then-fiancée on the site of the Coasts’ carriage house. Baldwin (1875–1928) was Research Professor of Educational Psychology at the UI from 1917 to 1928 and Founding Director of the University of Iowa Child Welfare Research Station, the first research institute in its field in the world. As an occupational therapist, he was devoted to holistic patient care. He was a major in the sanitary corps of the army in 1918–19 and was director of the rehabilitation of disabled soldiers in the Walter Reed General Hospital. As director of the ICWRS, Baldwin won a series a of grants, including from the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial, with which he led the Station to national eminence, integrating the science of child study and the applied social technology of parent education. His wife Claudia died of illness in 1925, leaving their three children in his care.

Baldwin himself died on May 12, 1928 at age 53—a few days before he was to be remarried. (He’d cut himself while shaving on a train and died of a bacterial infection.) The house was still under construction. Bird and his children had been living at 124 E. Church St. Beth Wellman (1895–1952), Baldwin’s fiancée and an ICWRS researcher, author, and UI professor, settled Baldwin’s estate, foreclosed on the property, and raised his three children as her own.

Mark Anthony (the architect) was a strong proponent of period revival-style architecture, hence the half-timbered, half-stone exterior and steeply pitched gable roof of the house at 111 Church St. Originally from Chicago, Anthony was sent to Cedar Rapids in 1918 to work on engineering projects for Douglas Starch Works and Quaker Oats and went on to become a prominent church and home architect. According to the Iowa State Historical Department’s Iowa Site Inventory, the house at 111 Church St. is one of only a few homes in the district with an identified architect.

1928

Pi Mu purchases and completes the house. We are unsure if this reference is to Pi Mu Epsilon, Alpha Pi Mu, or a different organization.

1941

Baldwin and Georgia Maxwell purchase the house and convert it to a private residence. Baldwin Maxwell (1893–1988) was the chair of the UI English Department from 1926 to 1961—a remarkable 35 years. He was a scholar of Renaissance drama and oversaw the English department through a period of major growth that included the founding of the Writers’ Workshop. He was also a longtime editor of Philological Quarterly and a WWI veteran.

Georgiana ("Georgia") Smith Maxwell (1896–2000), a native of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, was considered one of the most influential hostesses in Iowa City. She was a founding member of the Pan-American League of Iowa City, whose mission was "to broaden the mutual appreciation of the peoples of the Western Hemisphere," and was a longtime member of Iowa City’s Raphael Club, serving as both vice president and historian. The Raphael Club was founded in 1884 as an all-female social/literary/artistic club that studied copies of Raphael's drawings and other works of art owned by founder Mrs. Mark Ranney. The members would each research and prepare papers on the different subjects, then present them to each other. 

The Maxwells were also active in a number of social organizations, including Hiking Club and Dancing Club, and threw numerous memorable parties in their home, propitiously situated across the street from the University President’s house. 

2002

The Maxwells’ heirs sell the property to the University of Iowa. Renovations begin.

2004

The house serves as the home of former UI Provost and historian Michael J. Hogan and his wife. In 2005, the Hogans move to a new home north of Iowa City, and the house at 111 Church St. is unoccupied until 2006.

2006

The Office of the Provost makes house available to visiting writers, graduate students across all writing disciplines, and creative writing undergraduates as a mixed-use living, working, socializing, and learning space called “The Writers’ House.” Four postgraduate writing fellows move in.

2010

The Obermann Center for Advanced Studies moves from its longtime home on the Oakdale Campus north of Iowa City to 111 Church St. 

The Obermann Center today

Today, the building includes many of the charms that the Maxwells surely enjoyed, including two fireplaces, sloped ceilings, a screened porch, and a library with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. More recent amenities include a full kitchen, complete with dishwasher and microwave, rain garden, a backyard patio, and house-wide Wi-Fi. There is a wheelchair accessible entrance on the west side of the building and three single-user, gender-inclusive restrooms in the house—one on the first floor and two on the second. 

In addition to the offices available each semester to seven Fellows-in-Residence, the Center has a library and conference room where other Obermann Scholars, including members of our Working Groups and Interdisciplinary Research Grant groups, meet. These rooms can be reserved by Obermann-related groups and friends of the Center. To reserve these rooms, please contact Erin Hackathorn.