Where the heart is: How a Waukon church became a home

By Connor Hopkins

A retired accountant, Londres spends her time restoring antiques. The biggest antique in her collection? Her house.

According to Zillow, there are over 130 houses for sale in the Driftless area. Of those, a few stand out. None, however, seem to be more unique than 201 Allamakee Street in Waukon.
The 1905 building at that address was erected where a prior brick building once stood. In 1869, the First Baptist congregation bought the original brick building and by 1903, had decided they needed a new building. The 1869 building was razed and built was the structure that stands to this day.
Ann Londres has owned the property since 2012. A retired accountant, Londres spends her time restoring antiques. The biggest antique in her collection? Her house. That’s because Londres has been in the process of renovating the home since she moved there almost 10 years ago.
In 2012, Londres was looking to move to be near her father in Kansas, but she “didn’t like the spot.” Once she found the church listed for sale, she knew she had to be there. “I just fell in love with this building,” said Londres. A deciding factor in her move to Waukon was that previous owners of the building were looking for someone to renovate the space. Londres, who already had prior experience in renovation, was willing to take on the project.

Several years later, and nearly $125,000 – over 10 times more than the $16,109 it originally cost to build in 1905 – the church is now in a much better state. In 2017, new 50-year gutters and downspouts were installed. In 2019, half of the exterior brick and stone underwent a procedure known as “tuckpointing,” repairing of the mortar. Also in 2019, one of the large stained-glass windows was repaired and two others were removed that were deemed unable to be restored. For the window that remained, part of the renovation involved reinforcement. On the outside of the window, plexiglass panels were installed to ensure that nothing from outside can damage the stained glass. In the past year, there was also a cement pad poured, footed for a 20×20 garage near the rear entrance of the building.
Additionally, interior repairs have included turning the downstairs fellowship hall into a livable space complete with renovated kitchen, bathroom, living room, office, bedroom and walk-in closet. Most of those features were added by Londres, including removing the stalls from the once-public bathroom and adding a vintage claw-foot tub.
However, Londres made sure not to build any permanent walls, meaning the space is still entirely customizable. She managed this mostly by partitioning the space using furniture, which can easily be moved to change the space. Upstairs, the chapel space is still intact, although currently home to a menagerie of projects to be renovated, including a set of candy dispensers from the original Lansing drug store. Throughout the building, Londres installed many antique light fixtures.
The centerpiece of the chapel is the organ, which has been there since the church was built in 1905. The organ is dedicated to L.W. Hersey, a founder of Waukon State Bank, due in part to his contributions to funding the church’s construction. The organ is also one of 67 in the state of Iowa that were recipients of the Andrew Carnegie fund for organs. The philanthropist donated $750 to the church in 1904 for the purchase of the organ, built by the Hooks-Hastings company. The Boston-based organ builders did well, as the organ can still be played today.
Even further, the original bell – which dates to 1875 – is still in its proper place and is able to be rung. As part of her renovations, Londres noted that she replaced the drop ceiling underneath the belltower with something truer to how the building was originally. Londres mentioned local kids love going up into the belltower and ringing the bell when they visit what used to be their church.
The First Baptist Church of Waukon moved from the building Londres owns in 2008, but members of the former congregation have been helpful along the way, providing Londres with history lessons and encouragement to renovate the church. She still receives visits from former congregation members to this day.

For sale
However, after almost a decade of restoration, it is time for this property to become someone else’s labor of love. Londres is looking to move closer to her family and is seeking to sell the property, but not to just anyone. Londres said she wants someone who will continue renovating the church once she is gone. “All the big stuff is done,” said Londres, “the rest is up to the imagination of the new owner.”
The offering is not just the quarter acre of land and church building, new owners will acquire over a century of history and a space with a lot of potential. 
Londres reported once she moves, she will continue her work restoring antiques and travel.  

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