WINTERSET, Iowa — Winterset’s original high school hasn’t hosted a graduation since 1969. The historic building has been used as a middle school and school administration building, but in 2019 everyone moved out and the community feared it would eventually be torn down. 

“The fear was very real,” Jim Olson, former Winterset mayor and class of ‘64 said. “For Winterset graduates, it’s really a special place.”

Next spring, a new batch of tenants are scheduled to move in. 

“I think they had bids to tear it down and I think we convinced them that saving an old historic structure like this is a thing we like to do in Winterset,” Olson said.

HKG Development is transforming the old school into 27 affordable housing units for seniors 55 and older. 

Framing is already installed in several of the old classrooms. Original wood flooring discovered after linoleum and glue were removed will be restored. Much of the original existing charm will also be refurbished and kept.

The renovation has also turned up unexpected items from the glory days of Winterset High.

“I found a batch of yearbooks from 1969 in a cabinet and basketball jerseys in a closet,” developer Michael Kiernan said.

Basketball jerseys discovered in a storage closed during the renovation of Winterset High School

The cost of rehabbing a building over 100-years-old costs nearly double compared to new construction, Kiernan said.

“It’s roughly a $9.3 million investment into the city of Winterset,” Kiernan said. “It consists of 13 layers of funding that took five years to put together.”

Funding including state and federal historic tax credits, low income housing tax credits, grants and forgivable loans.

The goal of the project is to provide seniors on fixed incomes a place to call home.

“Something Winterset needs is affordable senior housing,” Olson said.

The project is expected to be done by April 2024.

One bedroom apartments will rent for around $500 per month, two-bedroom units will rent for $600 to $700 dollars, Kiernan said.