Washington rallies to save former Captain’s Table building


A project to save a historic Washington building and transform it into an information hub for services provided by the Washington Chamber of Commerce and Main Street Washington has gotten new oomph thanks to private donors and the possibility of a new $750,000 grant.

The Smouse House, home of the former Captain’s Table restaurant on South Iowa Avenue, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places but has been named one of Iowa’s most endangered buildings. Though the Washington Chamber of Commerce has been working for a year to raise funds to purchase and renovate the building for use as a welcome center and offices for the chamber and Main Street Washington, the pandemic economy hampered those efforts – until now.

In recent months, the $1.5-$2 million project has secured $110,000 in private donations and $30,000 from the Washington Iowa Betterment fund, bringing total commitments for the project up to $740,000. The Chamber is also applying for a $750,000 Riverboat Foundation grant, which will determine whether the project will go forward, according to Washington Chamber Director Michelle Redlinger.

If the grant is approved, the renovated building would serve as a regional facility to welcome and inform visitors to Washington County, providing them with information about sites and activities throughout the area, as well as housing Chamber and Main Street Washington staffers. If the grant is not approved, Ms. Redlinger said, “the funding gap to renovate the building will be too great to move forward.”

“Without action to renovate and repair, the building will continue to deteriorate and there will likely be no other choice than to tear it down.”

Ms. Redlinger added that saving the house would replace “an eyesore” with an inviting presence in a highly trafficked area. And it would enable the community to preserve a historic structure, she said.

Those behind the project hope to fund it solely through local contributions to “cut down on the red tape and conditions that go with grants from non-local sources and to build a sense of local pride.” Anyone interested in helping save the building is encouraged to contact Ms. Redlinger at michelle@washingtoniowa.org.