The Randolph Apartments in Des Moines Iowa is the comingling of three separate eclectic pieces of history in one cohesive and unexpected adaptive reuse. The Randolph hotel (circa 1912), the Youngerman Block (circa 1876) and the Earle and Le Bosquet Block (circa 1896) through careful planning have been given a new lease on life as intimate apartments.
The Randolph Hotel
- Touted as the state’s first absolutely fireproof hotel
- Used post-tension concrete building method which was cutting edge technology of the time
- Unique example of Chicago Commercial Style in part to its tripartite organization
Constructed in 1912, The Hotel Randolph was touted as the State’s first tall and absolutely fireproof hotel. 1912 marked the highest losses of infrastructure due to fires in Des Moines, thus the turn of reinforced concrete construction in Des Moines, with Hotel Randolph being at the forefront of this building method; still widely used today.
Much of the Randolph’s historical character lays in its construction. Designed by H.L. Stevens CO, the building largely applied the use of a reinforced concrete structure. The comingling of steel and concrete was the safest bet against fire.
The buildings double façade and tenets of Chicago Commercial Style make it even more expressive. Chicago Commercial Style is recognized by its tripartite organization of the building façade, or in this case facades, which creates visual organization by sectioning the building. In the case of The Randolph, this is recognized through its solid base, shaft of red brick, and console transition into a cornice the ornamental molding around the wall of a room just below the ceiling.
Owned and developed by James P. Hewitt, a well-known local attorney and district court judge, The Randolph Hotel held a grand opening on January 24, 1912. Due to the hotel’s success, plans for an expansion were already underway by November of 1913. However, owing to a number of hotels springing up following the success of The Randolph, the pressure for additional rooms was lessened and likewise the plans to expand put on hold.
The Youngerman Block
- Built by well-known local stone mason and contractor
- Known for its host of artists and art-related tenants
- Expressive example of Italianate design in architecture
- Use of man-made stone abestine locally manufactured by Youngerman himself
The Youngerman Block, officially referred to as The Conrad Youngerman Block, was constructed in 1876 for commercial use as home to a mix of artistic and creative businesses. Indulging in the essence of its Art Deco character, this building housed an art gallery, photography studio and frame shop. The Youngerman Block’s original occupants are much to thank for its nickname, “the art block.” The Youngerman Block’s tenant occupation would shift in following years, at one point even including a public library.
The Youngerman Block garners its namesake from one of the most prominent builders in Des Moines. Conrad Youngerman learned the stonecutting trade through a three-year apprenticeship prior to moving from Germany to the United States. Also well known for his local brick business which pioneered the production of Abestine, an artificial stone which served as a replacement for then-scarce natural stone options, to which he employed in the construction of The Youngerman Block’s façade.
The building’s intricate design is a prominent example of Late Victorian era. Markers of the Italianate style included the use of many tall windows that were highly ornamented, which is clearly demonstrated through The Youngerman Block’s tall rounded windows, decorative window surrounds, and heavy ornamental keystones. If one looks closely, they may observe the close proximity in which the windows are spaced; this was a popular way of allowing as much light to enter the interior as possible, while working within the engineering constraints of the era.
As part of the abutting Randolph Hotel’s expansion, the upper stories of The Youngerman Block were annexed to the neighboring hotel. Due to a disparity in floor heights, a set of stairs connects Youngerman to Randolph on the 2nd and 3rd stories along with a fire door.
The Earl & LeBosquet Block
- Burned down and was rebuilt
- Original cast iron columns remain
- Designed by local renowned architect C.E. Eastman
- Façade materials provided by local company Platt
The Earle & LeBosquet Block originally came to fruition in 1876 as the Redhead & Wellslager Block. At the time, the building was a cozy three-story brick warehouse that housed the Redhead & Wellslager book and stationary business. Unfortunately, due to the highly flammable nature of the products, a fire ripped through the building in 1896. Given the highly flammable nature of the products housed in the warehouse, the owners of the building suffered a total loss. The owners of the building, Earle & LeBosquet made the decision to rebuild utilizing the few structural elements that remained in place. To this day, one can still see the existing cast iron columns incorporated into the four-story commercial block that was reconstructed after the blaze.
The four-story commercial block was designed by C.E. Eastman, and was reminiscent of the same tripartite design witnessed in The Randolph, a telltale tenet of Chicago Commercial Style. Special recognition is given to the building’s detailed stonework that uses decorative devices of brick and terra cotta forms that draw the eye from storefront to cornice through the use of series of forms and patters.
Peter S. LeBosquet and Ira M. Earle were attorneys in practice of law together.
The Youngerman Block (aka “The Art Block”) was constructed in 1876 for commercial use as home to a mix of artistic and creative businesses. Indulging in the essence of its Art Deco character, this building housed an art gallery, photography studio and frame shop. The Redhead & Wellslager Block, now referred to as the Earle & LeBosquet Block, came to fruition as the home of its namesake’s book and stationary business.
The Redhead & Wellslager building experienced total loss when it caught fire due to the flammable nature of the products housed in the warehouse. The building owners, Earle & LeBosquet made the decision to rebuild while utilizing the few remaining structural elements including incorporating the existing cast iron columns. Hence its present known name, The Earle & LeBosquet Block.
The construction of the Randolph Hotel, the state’s first tall and absolutely fireproof hotel, was completed and its Grand Opening was held on January 24, 1912.
In lieu of the planned expansion for the Randolph Hotel, the upper levels of the Youngerman Block were annexed to the Randolph. Historians speculate that the increase in hotel construction from 1912 – 1920 lessened the demand for Randolph’s expansion and therefore made the chosen option a more sensible one.
With a notable contract with the upper levels, the ground floor façade of the Youngerman Block was remodeled. An Art Deco design was incorporated using new masonry and red ceramic tile block.
The Randolph was refurbished and began offering affordable rental housing.
The Randolph was featured in the National Park Services weekly list as it was officially added to the National Register of Historic Places.
The Randolph ironically suffered a fire on February of 2010.
Developer Sherman Associates acquired the historic Randolph Hotel. Incorporating the mingling of the Court Avenue District and the flair of each buildings rich history. These three historical buildings have been artfully restored with distinctive styles. Each building’s motif captures the surprising design elements results in an eclectic mix of stylish architectural features and characteristics.