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Keokuk Uncovering History During City Hall Clean-Up

Mar 28, 2019

Crews have spent hours removing hundreds of thousands of old documents from Keokuk’s City Hall following the fire that severely damaged the two-story brick building. That process is leading to the discovery of some forgotten pieces of city history.

Mayor Tom Richardson said the city’s insurance provider is paying for the city to digitize its records for future preservation. He said if paper documents must be kept, efforts are being made to clean them up after receiving smoke and water damage.

Just one of several location where Keokuk is storing documents following a fire at City Hall in February.
Credit Mark Bousselot / City of Keokuk

Richardson said most of the documents removed from City Hall have been pretty run-of-the mill—but not all of them. He said one of the most interesting finds was a police log from the 1940’s.

“It is written in long-hand in a leather-bound book in ink,” said Richardson. “It was really amazing because you looked at it and it said who it was, what happened, and then what the sentence was. A lot of them were ‘we ran them out of town.’ And so, back in the 1940’s, I guess it was common not to send them to jail, but rather to just run them out of town.”

Richardson said another interesting item was an original sketch on linen of the city’s railroad bridge across the river. He said it was in a simple black cylinder, so no one would have known what was inside without opening it.

Richardson said the city has also found minutes from city council meetings held in the 1800’s and employment records from the 1920’s. He said the goal is to eventually display the more unique items at the Keokuk Public Library.

The city's insurance provider does not consider City Hall to be a total loss. So the city will have the option to return to the building after a full renovation or to move to a new location. The maximum the city would receive from the insurance company if it moves off-site is about $1.5-million.

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