The Moon Block Building/National Willa Cather Center is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and occupies nearly one-half block of historic Webster Street in Red Cloud, Nebraska. Constructed in 1886, the building originally housed retail storefronts on the first floor and business and office space on the second floor. The Willa Cather Foundation purchased the building in 2000, seeing its historical value and potential renovation and restoration for use in expanding the Willa Cather Foundation programs. After nearly 12 years of planning and fundraising, the project was completed in December 2016.
The project utilized both State and Federal Historic Preservation Tax Credits and the design program included a full restoration of the historic exterior of the Moon Block building and expansion of the Willa Cather Foundation spaces, located in the adjacent historic Red Cloud Opera House building. The project scope included offices, classrooms, a bookstore, interpretive exhibit space, retail bays, a greenroom, archival storage and related research spaces, and apartments. A new addition at the rear of the building provided circulation space including HC accessibility and additional code-required means of egress.
The restoration of the façade included re-pointing of the brick, cast-iron restoration, replication and replacement of the entire historic wood storefront system, restoration of the historic sheet metal cornice work, and replacement of the wood windows at the second floor. The restoration also included replacement of all deteriorated masonry, restoration of the cement plaster parge coat, and replacement of the wood windows at both floors at the rear (secondary) facade.
Due to years of neglect, the building interior suffered from severe water infiltration causing the collapse of ceiling and floor systems in numerous locations. Foundation improvements and underpinning were added at the basement level, and a new structural steel framing system was inserted within the existing building to brace and level the structure. The historic tin ceilings, wood trim, and wood doors and transoms were salvaged, restored, and reused to the greatest extent possible. Where appropriate, historic finishes were replicated using the remaining original materials as patterns.