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Mt. Pleasant's Union Block to receive $155,000 in funds for restorations

Union photo by Ashley Duong

Lisa Oetken, the director of Main Street at the Mt. Pleasant Chamber Alliance, spearheaded the campaign to help the Union Block receive grant funds from the Vote Your Mainstreet competition. The building was awarded $155,000 at the conclusion of the competition.
Union photo by Ashley Duong Lisa Oetken, the director of Main Street at the Mt. Pleasant Chamber Alliance, spearheaded the campaign to help the Union Block receive grant funds from the Vote Your Mainstreet competition. The building was awarded $155,000 at the conclusion of the competition.
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MT. PLEASANT — Mt. Pleasant’s Union Block will receive $155,000 in grants for restorations after coming in ninth in the Vote Your Mainstreet campaign.

Vote Your Mainstreet is a yearly event sponsored by National Geographic, American Express and Delta. This year’s campaign was centered on historic buildings with ties to prominent female figures throughout U.S. history. The Union Block is known for having been the location that Arabelle Mansfield, the first woman to pass the bar in the country, studied and took her law exams.

According to an announcement by the Mt. Pleasant Area Chamber Alliance, the Union Block garnered 64,177 votes, which landed the building in ninth place out of twenty properties from across the country that was in the running for a part of $1.8 million in funding. The overall votes helped the building win an initial $105,000 in funds. An additional $50,000 came as a result of the community’s participation with in-person voting on Oct. 17.

Lisa Oetken, director of Main Street Mt. Pleasant, who spearheaded and oversaw the Union Block’s submission into the competition said receiving the funding is “very exciting.”

“It means that we can do some things that I didn’t think we would ever be able to do,” Oetken added. The funds $105,000 in funds from the competition are directly tied to a restoration project plan that includes updating and restoring the building’s century-old windows as well as making repairs to the east gable.

As of right now, plans for the restorations are slated to begin in the spring. Main Street Mt. Pleasant will receive the first half of the funds at the end of this year and will receive the rest following completion of the restoration project.

The additional $50,000 is not attached to any specific project and Mt. Pleasant Area Chamber Alliance board will meet to determine how to allocate the funds. Oetken mentioned other projects the nonprofit hopes to do with the Union Block including improving acoustics on the third floor, but that it will be up to the board to decide.

Speaking on what receiving the grant funds to restore the building, Oetken said she feels, “it means a lot for the community.”

“I think it shows that we in Mt. Pleasant have always been community minded and forward thinking. We band together, it says a lot that we got to win most in person votes,” Oetken noted.

“From day one, it’s been a community project, and we would not have been able to do the project without the community … I cannot thank the public enough. We know it wasn’t easy sometimes with the voting but they were persistent and it paid off in the end,” Oetken added.

Oetken further explained that taking part in the competition and winning a part of the grant funds will “bring a lot of attention to Mt. Pleasant and the state of Iowa,” which will lead to visitors and potentially, people who may want to move to the area.

“People who have never heard about Mt. Pleasant will know what a cool place it is to live and how committed the citizens are and are willing to rally around any cause,” Oetken said.

Pat White, a board member of the Henry County Heritage Trust, noted that the building is one of the most historic in all of Mt. Pleasant and is representative of a “momentous moment and focal point in women’s history.” White explained that saving the building also helps preserve the town’s history.

She also echoed Oetken’s sentiments about the community’s involvement in the competition, saying, “I think it just shows again how when there is a need, whether it be historic or philanthropic, when a need for this community to pull together, it does. And I think it just speaks volumes.”