When Maura Pilcher returned to her hometown Cedar Rapids in January 2008, little did she know her training in historical renovation would be so critical to the city, when many buildings and neighborhoods were devastated by floodwaters just six months later.
She had been working on her master’s of science in historic preservation thesis for the The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, which focused on design guidelines for the New Bohemia historical district in southeast Cedar Rapids.
“I finished the final draft of the thesis the Monday before the flood,” she said.
Since then, major renovation and development has occurred in Cedar Rapids, especially in the New Bohemia district.
“She has had a major role in the thoughtful redevelopment of the devastated Czech Village New Bohemia Main Street District post-flood of 2008, and was instrumental in the formation of that organization in 2009, which has brought significant, measurable and civic development to Cedar Rapids,” Sara Reasner, board member of the Czech Village New Bohemia Main Street District, stated in her nomination of Ms. Pilcher.
As vice-chair of the Linn County Historic Preservation Commission, vice president of Save CR Heritage and a trustee of the State Historical Society of Iowa Board, Ms. Pilcher looks at all options when considering the fate of old buildings.
“A lot of lessons have been learned since the flood; we are headed in the right direction,” she said. “I’m not a building hugger. Empty lots look like lack of investment. Development and preservation go hand in hand.”
As assistant director of Brucemore, Ms. Pilcher supervises preservation projects for six historic structures and 26 acres of historic grounds. She also serves as event lead for two high-netting events, The Tahitian Party and The Brucemore Garden and Art Show.
“We answer what the community wants and adjust programming,” she said of Brucemore’s popular cultural calendar that attracts 40,000 visitors annually.
Ms. Pilcher has a bachelor of arts degree in anthropology and art history from the University of Notre Dame and a master of science from the Art Institute of Chicago. She lives in Cedar Rapids with her husband, Michael Tertinger.