A waiting game for Hopkins and Willard buildings

Jonathan Hull, owner and operator of Willard’s Furs and Fashions, said his building sustained roof damage and broken windows from the tornado. He has cut back on the amount of inventory in his store.

The Hopkins and Willard buildings have more similarities than merely a shared history of being located in downtown Marshalltown — they also share a common wall. But severe damage sustained to the Hopkins Building during the July 19 tornado has disrupted business as usual for Willard’s Furs and Fashions, with the fate of both buildings intertwined.

Willard’s has been located at 36 W. Main St. since 1864, founded by Hiram Willard, current owner Jonathan Hull’s great-great grandfather. The Hopkins Building was home to Chalet on Main, 32 W. Main St. and Boost Mobile, 34 W. Main St. Chalet on Main will reopen in Conrad.

Part of the Hopkins Building collapsed on the Willard Building’s roof, which destroyed the latter’s heating and cooling system, requiring the top to be covered with tarps.

“When the tornado came, it literally lifted the roof hatch — it probably weighs 75-100 pounds — from the back to the front of the building, and unfortunately that’s when the wall (of the Hopkins Building) caved in,” Hull said.

The two buildings share a west/east wall, known as a common wall, which means if the Hopkins building is ever renovated or torn down, that wall has to remain standing and be reinforced to keep the Willard Building structurally sound. The Hopkins Building only runs approximately half the length of the Willard Building, and is bordered by a parking lot.

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Sue Clark, owner of the Hopkins Building, has spent the nearly two months since the tornado meeting with her insurance company, contractors and engineers to formulate a plan moving forward.

“I want to get (Hull) taken care of as soon as possible,” Clark said. “I will make the wall better.”

Clark said she does not plan on tearing the structure down.

“It’s a historic site and I want to preserve it and sell it,” she said.

Hull said the experience has been a waiting game.

“My insurance company has covered costs that I’ve incurred so far for repairs — I had a lot of broken windows — but they’ve got to know that the wall is going to be fixed because until that is stable and secure and rebuilt, they aren’t going to replace my roof, because if they did it could fall in again,” he said.

Hull also said the construction work in the downtown has also caused a slowing in business.

“There are too many uncertainties going forward here, and I think part of the problem is going to be a year or two or even more where you’re going to have accessibility issues in the downtown where people possibly are going to have a hard time getting around,” he said. “I may be fenced off just like McGregors (when repairs to the wall are made) and that makes it tough for people to come.”

Hull said contrary to rumors he has heard, he has no intention of closing down his family business.

“I am not closing. Structurally my building is still very good. There’s not any mortar problems, so that’s why I really want to fix it because it’s still a good building; its got a lot of character,” he said. “It was built in 1933 after the original building was torn down.”

While he has not ordered anymore ready-to-wear-items, he is keeping the fur side of his business going, as well as tuxedo rentals.

“I’m still doing tuxedo rentals and have booked weddings into next year,” he said. “I can still sell, clean and store furs too. But I don’t want to worry about merchandise (clothing) on my shelves, wondering if people will be able to get down here and get in — I don’t want to risk that.”


Contact Sara Jordan-Heintz at

641-753-6611 or sjordan@timesrepublican.com