Fairfield Arts & Convention Center, photo by Werner Elmker. Learn more here.
Fairfield Cultural District, Fairfield, Iowa
Brought to you by the Fairfield Cultural Alliance
The Fairfield Cultural & Entertainment District has a high concentration of cultural facilities in a mixed-use, compact area of the city. Hundreds of working artists and many art galleries, dance studios, and a variety of restaurants all contribute to cultural and economic development.
The heart of the Fairfield Cultural District is Central Park, the town square.
Central Park is host to a variety of events throughout the year, including the Fairfield Municipal Band weekly summer concerts, the Live on the Square Concert Series, an annual five-day Power Wagon Rally, two annual weekend Classic Car Shows, Kids Day Parade, and many other public rallies and large gatherings.
Downtown Fairfield, anchored by Central Park, acts as a "stage set" with its buildings as the backdrop. Young and old alike enjoy a near constant hubbub of activity, which serves to make the city alive, pulsing to the beat of its culture.
The Fairfield Cultural Alliance organization was appointed by the City of Fairfield to administer the Fairfield Cultural & Entertainment District, subsequent to the State of Iowa certification.
Thanks to John Stimson for his drawing of the Fairfield skyline.
What is a Cultural District?
Fairfield Square, Fairfield First Fridays July 2012. Photo by Werner Elmker
Look at the Iowa Arts Council webpage.
Located in Southeast Iowa, Fairfield is the county seat in the geographical center of Jefferson County.
With almost 10,000 residents, Fairfield has a unique blend of manufacturing and service business diversity that spans over a century of solid growth, and is a major entrepreneurial base for many small businesses and manufacturers. The new Convention Center opened in December 2007.
It is also the home of Maharishi University of Management.
Art and Culture in Fairfield
Fairfield First Fridays Board sponsors Fairfield First Fridays on the first Friday of every month. It was named the Iowa Tourism Event of the Year in October of 2005 by the Iowa Tourism Office and the Travel Federation of America. See the Fairfield First Fridays website.
The Art Walk (the original name of Fairfield First Fridays) was begun by the ArtLife Society (non-profit organization) that supported innovative ideas that encourage living life as a work of art. The ArtLife society provided creative opportunities for community, both supporting existing programs and launching new ones, while Fairfield's Art Walk Board now manages the Fairfield1st Fridays Art Walk.
Many other events take place on the Town Square - municipal band concerts, Live on The Square Summer Concert Series, Kiwanis Kid's Day & Parade, the Italian Fest, the Annual Vintage Power Wagon Rally, Classic Car Shows, and much more.
The Fairfield Cultural District Assets
Hundreds of working artists and many art galleries in Fairfield contribute to cultural and economic development. An example of regional and state recognition for Fairfield's robust art scene is the Fairfield First Fridays, which draws approximately 2000 participants each month and growing.
Want to know more about the creativity and innovation that pervades Fairfield?
See Beth Dalbey's "Unapologetic Fairfield" article in the Aug/Sept/Oct 06 issue of the Des Moines Social Magazine, and an article from the March/April 2006 issue of Iowan Magazine (both are PDF).
Dance studios provide lessons and performances in ballet, jazz, tap, hip hop, katak, belly dancing, ballroom, Latin, Duncan, swing, lyrical, contra, and many more.
A variety of restaurants offer fare for everyone's palette from organic, to ethnic international, to home style. Wood fire cooked pizzas, Indian curries, French pastries, carrot juice, Italian sodas, and café lattes conspire to keep us in the Cultural District.
For most months of the year we are provided with a twice-weekly Farmers' Market rich with live music, face painting, games, pony rides, cooked food, flowers, herbs, plants, and an abundance of produce.
Fairfield benefits from the Alliance created by the Cultural District. It has generated greater collaboration among the numerous cultural organizations, individuals, foundations and non-profit organizations. Both the public and private sectors have benefited from financial incentives, grants, tax credits and co-op marketing dollars. Updated in 2012, the Fairfield Community-Wide Strategic Plan created a road map for the creation of a revived and vibrant downtown, a dynamic growing economy, and to develop Fairfield into a leading center for culture and the arts.
One example: In 2016 the City of Fairfield received a Community Development Block Grant from the Iowa Economic Development Authority for the improvement of the facades of historic buildings surrounding the downtown city square.
Read the FAIRFIELD 2012 COMMUNITY-WIDE STRATEGIC PLAN on the Fairfield website.
New entrance sign, on Business Highway 34, at the east entrance to Fairfield. Photo by Werner Elmker.
Streets included in the Fairfield Cultural District
Fairfield's Square. Photo by Werner Elmker.
View the Cultural District Map below
East-West avenues --
Depot Ave, the north side of the street from 8th St to the former Rock Island railroad tracks (7th St) on the west, and both sides of the street to 3rd St on the East.
Grimes Ave, both sides of the street from the former Rock Island railroad tracks (7th St) on the West to Court St on the East.
Hempstead Ave, both sides of the street from the former Rock Island railroad tracks on the West to Court St on the East, and the south side of Hempstead Ave between Court St and B St.
Briggs Ave, both sides of the street from the former Rock Island railroad tracks on the West to B St on the East.
Broadway Ave, both sides of the street from the former Rock Island railroad tracks on the West to B St, and the south side of Broadway Ave between B St. and one block east of D St.
Burlington Ave, both sides of the street from 3rd St on the West to one block east of D St on the East.
Washington Ave, North side of the street from 3rd St on the West to one block east of D St on the East.
North-South streets --
8th St, east side of 8th St from the BNSF Railroad on the North to Depot Ave on the South.
The former Rock Island Railroad property from the BNSF Railroad on the North to Burlington Ave on the South (previously 7th St).
6th St, both sides of the street from the BNSF Railroad on the North to one-half block south of Broadway Ave on the South.
5th St, both sides of the street from the BNSF Railroad on the North to one-half block south of Broadway Ave on the South.
4th St, both sides of the street from the BNSF Railroad on the North to one-half block south of Broadway Ave on the South.
3rd St, both sides of the street from BNSF Railroad on the North to one-half block south of Broadway Ave on the South, and the east side of 3rd St between one-half block south of Broadway Ave to Washington Ave on the South.
2nd St, both sides of the street from the BNSF Railroad on the North to Washington Ave on the South.
Main St, both sides of the street from the BNSF Railroad on the North to Washington Ave on the South.
Court St, the west side of Court St between the BNSF Railroad on the north to Hempstead Ave, and both sides of the street from Hempstead Ave Washington Ave on the South.
B St, West side of the street from Hempstead Ave on the North to Broadway Ave on the South, and both sides of B St from Broadway Ave to Washington Ave on the South.
C St, both sides of the street from Broadway Ave on the North to Washington Ave on the South.
D St, both sides of the street from Broadway Ave on the North to Washington Ave on the South.
Cultural District in Fairfield, Iowa
Fairfield/Jefferson County Vicinity Map
"Everybody Sings Choir" at the gazebo on the Square. Photo by Werner Elmker
The new Fairfield Arts & Convention Center opened in December 2007.
A 30,000 square-foot performing arts, convention and meeting, visual arts, and arts education facility, it is Southeast Iowa's newest and most comprehensive arts and convention center in the state of Iowa. Details at Fairfield Arts & Convention Center.
Some other performance venues in Fairfield:
Central Park Square Gazebo. Events include band performances in the gazebo. The Square hosts street dances, art shows, car shows, and parades. A Chris Bennett sculpture is next to the gazebo.
Café Paradiso, 101 N Main Street (on the Square). A variety of community presentations. www.cafeparadiso.net.
Revelations, 112 N. Main St. A variety of community presentations.
Morning Star Studio, 51 ½ S. Court St. A variety of community presentations.
More information may be found on the Fairfield First Fridays website, and the Fairfield Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Galleries in Fairfield
In addition to a number of galleries in Fairfield, many retail stores, restaurants and offices have been exhibiting rotating exhibits of paintings, photography, sculpture, prints and film and video.
To see an Online Directory of galleries and art venues in Fairfield, go to the Fairfield First Fridays website.
Historic Buildings in Fairfield (on the Heritage Tour)
Northwest corner of the Fairfield Square. Photo by Werner Elmker..
The numbers below refer to the Heritage Tour building numbers. For more details on these buildings, and many more, go to the Fairfield Heritage Tour website.
NRHP indicates the building is on the National Registry of Historic Places.
LMC indicates a relationship the Louden Machinery Company, a major contributor to farming throughout the world, which then became a leader in industrial material handling devices. It was headquartered in Fairfield from 1867 until 1988. Production moved from Fairfield in 2003. See the Louden Tour website here.
1. Commercial Block, probably 1872.
106, 108, 110 N. Main Street.
Italianate in design, this building is a local rarity for having an original facade that is intact. The cast iron columns and the exuberant arches and capitals were made locally. LMC
2. The Tribune Printing Company, 1915.
101 W. Briggs Ave.
This building, although not its original home, houses one of the three oldest continuous businesses in Iowa (each started in 1847). June 12, 1847 marked the start of the Iowa Sentinel. The Tribune Printing Company is a direct lineal descendant. (Collapsed in June 2014). LMC
4. Jefferson County Courthouse, 1893.
Main St & Briggs Ave.
Built in the fashionable Richardsonian Romanesque style, the courthouse design centered on a 142-foot high corner clock tower, but the top and some other details were removed in 1949 due to wind damage. A new steeple was finally installed on the clock tower in November 2004. NRHP
6. Howard Park,
bounded by Main St, Grimes Ave, Court St. & BNSF RR.
During the Civil War this land was used as a mustering area (see the plaque in the southwest corner). The Franklin School was here from 1868 to 1913. In 1912 the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad bought the land for a new train station and was persuaded to give the remaining land back to the city (with the proviso that it remain a park).
7. McElhinny House, 1851.
300 N. Court Street.
One of the oldest buildings in Fairfield, it perfectly fits the general picture of a two-story clapboard house-type found throughout much of the country from 1830 through 1850. NRHP
8. First Methodist Church, 1924.
201 N. Court Street.
Designed in the Tudor Revival style by Guy Carpenter, an architect with the "Louden Barn Planning Service." Its design included a Louden ventilating system, an early attempt at air-conditioning. LMC
9. Iowa State Bank, 1955.
NE Corner of the Square.
An excellent example of Streamline Moderne design, it replaced the old bank building in 1955. The red lettering on the south side exterior is original, as is the clock, and the blond woodwork interior.
10. Armory, 1910.
122 E. Burlington Ave.
Built by the National Guard, it served Fairfield well until a new armory was built on Stone Street in 1958. Many, many, community events were held here, probably the largest being an appearance in 1934 by Aimee Semple McPherson, one of the most famous female evangelists in the world. About 2500 people waited hours for her to arrive from Des Moines.
11. Wilson Building, 1876.
106, 108 S. Court Street.
Very much unchanged from the original façade, the classic Italianate commercial facade includes cast iron ground floor elevations and bracketed cornices, as does the building next door. NRHP
12. former U. S. Post Office Building, 1876.
110 S. Court Street.
The south wall was recently rebuilt by the owner to help preserve the building - every effort was made to respect the integrity of the building with the choice of appropriate materials and the reuse of corner bricks. NRHP, LMC
13. (former) Fairfield Public Library, 1893.
S. Court St. & E. Washington Ave.
Senator Wilson was the first person to ask Andrew Carnegie, his friend, to subsidize a permanent home for a library. In December 1891 Carnegie agreed, and Wilson donated the land for the new library building. (The library had been in many different locations since its founding in 1853). This marked the first time that Carnegie had funded a library in which he had no personal ties or investments, and led to his funding of 1688 more public libraries throughout the country. (In 1894 there were only about 400 public libraries in the entire country). The Carnegie Museum is still on the third floor (website here). NRHP
19. R. B. & Lizzie Louden House, 1871.
107 W. Washington Ave., at S. 2nd St.
Built in 1871, R.B. and Lizzie Louden purchased this house in 1897. A radical remodel (1928-29) saw the original open, wrap-around porch removed and replaced by the enclosed sun porch and formal entrance. NRHP, LMC
20. Craftsman Style House, c. 1915.
104 S. Second Street.
A good example of the many Craftsman Style houses built in Fairfield. This was a rebellion against the formality and excesses of the Victorian period and the advent of modern industrial design (disguised as a return to nature).
21. Residential Home, c. 1860.
201 W. Washington Ave.
Changed little since its construction in 1860, this workingman's style home, with two stories in front and a one-story rear addition, gave the impression of a larger structure.
22. Greek Revival House, c. 1840's.
105 S. Third Street.
This home has been restored to a near original condition. The transom, sidelights, and the decorative treatment around the front door are distinctive.
26. Broadway (Louden) Building, c. 1892.
607 W. Broadway Avenue.
Formerly the offices and manufacturing plant of Louden Machinery Company, this is the key building on the Louden Tour. Today it contains businesses and living units. NRHP, LMC
27. Louden Depot, rebuilt 1940's.
611 W. Broadway Avenue.
This former train station served the Rock Island Railroad. In 1870 the Fairfield city fathers lobbied the Chicago & Southwestern Railroad (which became the Rock Island) to come through Fairfield instead of Ottumwa to provide competition for the C. B & Q. LMC
30. former Joel Turney and Co. building, 1897.
501 N. 8th Street.
The famous "Charter Oak" farm wagons and others were manufactured here. Founded in 1856, it moved here from Trenton in 1887 and soon became Fairfield's largest industrial employer. The present brick building was built in 1897 after a major fire.
31. Whitney Monuments Company, 1925.
(formally Heston & Anderson)
601 W. Depot Avenue.
This is a typical single-story Louden out-building design with a hollow tile foundation and Louden Ventilators topped by simple arrow-type wind vanes. Inside is an overhead carrier, an early WORKING example of a non-agricultural application of Louden technology. LMC
37. First Church of Christ Scientist, 1926-27.
300 E. Burlington Ave.
Now Saint Gabriel and All Saints Liberal Catholic Church. Designed by Edward C. Peterke, the head architect with the "Louden Barn Planning service", in a Neoclassical style with a classically inspired portico and cast stone relief designs. LMC
38. James A. Beck House, 1896.
401 E. Burlington Ave.
George F. Barber sold building plans via mail order in the U.S. and abroad, which the homeowners chose from a catalog. NRHP
Some Structures of Interest
Chris Bennett public sculptures, in Central Park and in front of the former library building. For more details on these sculptures, go to the Fairfield Heritage Tour website. Look at the Fairfield Square and Building # 13.
State Fair Stone Marker, 4th Street and Grimes Avenue. The first and second Iowa State Fairs were held in Fairfield in 1854 and 1855. A tablet on the stone marker tells the story. Read it on the Fairfield Heritage Trail.
Freight Depot, 4th Street and Depot Avenue. Was used by the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad. Built about 1919. Recently converted to a entertainment venue.
U. S. Post office, 1929. W. Broadway and 2nd St. See the restored murals in the lobby.
Click here to view the Fairfield Heritage Tour website.
Benefits of a Cultural District
Fairfield Arts & Convention Center. Photo by Werner Elmker.
Benefits of being a Cultural District
Cultural Districts are well-recognized, labeled, mixed-use, compact areas of a city in which a high concentration of cultural facilities serves as the anchor. They are established to encourage city and county governments to partner with the local community to enhance the quality of life and enrich the local economy. They can also serve as destinations for visitors and for creative entrepreneurs who want to start businesses.
Fairfield, Iowa, is a superb example of the kind of city to which a Cultural District could bring great benefits. Having Cultural District certification will help draw attention to the cultural, historical and artistic attractions that already exist in Fairfield as well as build on those attractions, by encouraging further preservation of historic structures, promoting its artistic and cultural diversity, and promoting downtown Fairfield as an important regional cultural venue. It will lead to developing organizational, financial and business support systems to enhance the expanding creative economy in Fairfield.
Not coincidently, designation of the Fairfield Cultural District is consistent with the aims and objectives of Fairfield's ten-year Strategic Plan, particularly Goal # 4 - "to cultivate and promote Fairfield's cultural richness and recreational opportunities," and Aim 1B - "to revitalize our community's downtown as a hub of business, government and civic activity"
The impact of Cultural Districts is measurable. The arts and areas with historic structures attract residents and tourists who also support adjacent businesses such as restaurants, lodging, retail and entertainment. The presence of the arts and cultural opportunities enhances property values, the profitability of surrounding businesses and the tax base of the region. These districts attract a diverse and well-educated workforce -- a key incentive for new and relocating businesses. And these districts contribute to the creativity and innovation of a community.
The mere process of applying for and gaining certification as a Cultural District will create greater recognition of and encourage collaboration among Fairfield's many creative organizations, events and historic and cultural facilities. The formation of a Cultural District will bring added support for artists and art-based businesses of all types, and will draw more artists to live and work in the District. More tourists will visit the City, resulting in a vibrant, sustainable economy and a more interesting place to live, eat, shop and recreate.
More than ninety cities in the United States have planned or implemented a cultural district -- positioning the arts at the center of urban revitalization efforts.; A cultural district is a well-recognized, labeled, mixed-use area of a city in which a high concentration of cultural facilities serves as the anchor of attraction. Cultural districts inhabit communities as small as Riverhead, New York (population 8,814) and as large as New York City (7.3 million). Cultural districts boost urban revitalization in many ways:
⚫ Beautify and animate cities
⚫ Provide employment
⚫ Attract residents and tourists to the city
⚫ Complement adjacent businesses
⚫ Enhance property values
⚫ Expand the tax base
⚫ Contribute to a creative, innovative environment.
No two cultural districts are exactly alike; each reflects its city's unique environment, history of land use, urban growth and cultural development.
The impact of cultural districts is measurable: the arts attract residents and tourists who also support adjacent businesses such as restaurants, lodging, retail and parking. The presence of the arts also enhances property values, the profitability of surrounding businesses and the region's tax base.
RAGBRAI riders in front of the Courthouse. Photo by Werner Elmker.
Tax Incentives and other incentives in the Fairfield Cultural District: - (check sources for latest information):
City of Fairfield Property Tax Exemptions:
Excerpted from City of Fairfield Tax Abatement Ordinance No 1001, Sections 3.04.050, 3.04.060, 3.04.070, and 3.04.080
Improvements eligible for exemption include rehabilitation, renovation or improvements to existing structures that result in an increase in the assessed valuation of the property; additions to existing structures; and new construction on vacant land or land with existing structures when constructed in accordance with an approved zoning permit.
Real estate that qualifies includes commercial or industrial property, or property that (when the improvements have been completed) consists of 3 or more separate living quarters with at least 75 percent of the building space used for residential purposes.
Single Family and Duplexes: All qualified real estate assessed as residential property is eligible to receive a one hundred percent (100%) exemption from taxation on the first seventy-five thousand dollars ($75,000) of actual value added by the improvements. The exemption is for a period of three (3) years. Improvements must increase the assessed value by a minimum of 10%.
Multi-family housing: All qualified real estate assessed as residential property is eligible to receive a one hundred percent (100%) exemption from taxation on actual value added by the improvements. The exemption is for a period of ten (10) years. Improvements must increase the assessed value by a minimum of 10%.
Workforce Housing Tax Incentive Program:
WHTIP is further designed to encourage housing development where existing public infrastructure already exists – vacant lots, dilapidated properties, and mixed use buildings to suggest a few. Communities with a severe housing need can work with IEDA to seek designation as a Distressed Workforce Housing Community. This designation allows WHTIP assistance to be provided towards new housing development on previously undeveloped land.
A refund of state sales, service or use taxes paid during construction:
An investment tax credit of up to a maximum of 10% of the investment directly related to the construction or rehabilitation of the housing.* The tax credit is based on the new investment used for the first $150,000 of value for each home or unit. This tax credit is earned when the home or unit is certified for occupancy and can be carried forward for up to five additional years or until depleted, whichever occurs first.
Investment tax credits are fully transferable.
Tax Increment Financing:
The City of Fairfield offers up to 10 years’ worth of TIF rebates to developers undertaking significant housing infrastructure projects. Please contact FEDA for more information.
Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) is a governmental finance tool that the City of Fairfield uses to provide funds to construct public infrastructure, promote development opportunities and expand the future tax base. Upon creation of a tax increment district within an Urban Renewal Area, by ordinance, the assessment base is frozen and the amount of tax revenue available from taxes paid on the difference between the frozen base value and the increased value, if any, can be segregated into a separate fund for the use by the City to pay costs of the proposed urban renewal projects. The increased taxes generated by any new development, above the base value, are distributed to the taxing entities, if not requested by the City, and in any event upon the expiration of the tax increment district.
Developing and Sustaining the Cultural District:
In 2006 The Fairfield Chamber of Commerce worked with local banks to include the Fairfield Cultural District in the Fairfield Revitalization Loan Program. The program offered a maximum loan of one hundred thousand dollars, with a three-year guaranteed fixed rate of 6.25 percent for 2006. The Revitalization Loan Program is a cooperative program between Iowa State Bank, First National Bank, Libertyville Savings Bank and Midwest One Bank of Fairfield. The program provides low interest business loans for retail businesses.
Thanks to Lisco for hosting our website.
Supported in part by a grant from the Fairfield Convention and Visitors Bureau. The new CVB logo and tag line.
The new City of Fairfield logo, introduced Nov 15, 2016