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Ranshaw name preserved

Highway 965 receives honorary title
Jillian Miller, community engagement coordinator for the City of North Liberty, and Communications Director Nick Bergus unveil one of the 18, 11-foot Ranshaw Way street signs to be installed as an honorary name for Highway 965 (photo by Shianne Fisher).

NORTH LIBERTY– It makes sense.
Ranshaw Way, the new honorary alias for Highway 965, once ran alongside 40 acres owned by one of North Liberty’s original settlers with the same name.
“Throughout the conversation, Ranshaw kept kind of making its way up the list,” said North Liberty City Council member Jim Sayre at an unveiling ceremony Friday, Aug. 11, on the lawn of the historic Ranshaw House off Penn Street. “It’s a great name.”
Harlan Ranshaw, the only surviving male to carry on the surname, would agree. The 91-year-old made the two-hour drive from Chariton with carloads of family members to see his name in symbolic lights.
“This is just an unbelievable event,” said Harlan, grandson of Samuel and Emma Ranshaw, who built the house in 1908. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think there would ever be a street with my name on it.”
The induction of Ranshaw Way was the final step in a process that began years ago as wishful thinking and then officially with a renaming committee in 2016.
“The late mayor Tom Salm had this original idea of renaming or co-naming Highway 965,” explained Sayre. “I think it’s pretty cool we’re standing here doing this, sort of living up to one of the many ideas that he had.”
The winning name was handpicked by the nine-person committee from an original list of 76 public suggestions, 30 of them unique. Other possibilities included Heartland, Squash Bend and Opportunity, but it was determined Ranshaw best encompassed the committee’s five criteria: community pride, timelessness, being native to the community, originality and ease of use.
“Ranshaw Way fit into all of the categories and was a way to honor North Liberty’s history,” said Scott Jamison, who spoke on behalf of the Iowa City Chamber of Commerce at the unveiling. He added the name fits with other nearby streets named after early settlers, including Zeller, Stewart and George.
While North Liberty Communications Director Nick Bergus presented the committee’s selection to the city council last October, the co-naming didn’t become final until a 5-0 vote in June, followed by a notification letter to affected property owners.
“The official address will still be Highway 965,” noted City Administrator Ryan Heiar at the June 27 meeting.
Eighteen of the 11-foot signs and about a dozen smaller ones will be installed by the fall, said North Liberty Streets Superintendent Michael Pentecost. He said the department is waiting on hardware and is currently focused on school-related signage and painting.
The signs were originally slated to cost around $3,500, the latest expense in a string of investments in the Ranshaw history.
Nearly $100,000 in renovations has been spent since the City of North Liberty purchased the house in 2004. Initially set to become more parking for the community center, the house was saved by the North Bend Historic Committee, whose members helped get it on the National Register of Historic Places in September 2012.
Harlan, who briefly served on the committee, said he knew the house was something special even as a child.
“I can see why they worked to save that house,” he added.
A Queen Anne Victorian, the Ranshaw House was ahead of its time, with indoor plumbing, gas lighting and soft water, all before those luxuries had become commonplace.
And now, the city is helping to preserve the Ranshaws’ ingenuity and has completed a number of improvements to the home, including new windows, a new roof, front porch repairs, and repainting. Next on the list of renovations is HVAC, plumbing and electrical work, as well as a ramp meeting American Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements.
While the city received a bid on the project from Tricon Construction in June, city council members rejected the proposal, as it came in $64,000 over the engineer’s $150,000 estimate.
“It’s not been unusual at this point in time,” Mulcahey said of the low interest. “A lot of the contractors that do this size of project are really super busy and don’t have time to bid projects.”
The project will be rebid in the fall, and the original October completion will be pushed back, with the end goal to eventually turn the house into a history and/or welcome center– either of which would please Harlan.
“It’s now in the hands of people who love the house and will make it a beautiful and useful home again,” he said.
And although he’ll take the Ranshaw name with him to the grave, it will still live on in the house, as the middle name of his granddaughter, and now as Ranshaw Way– a contribution Sayre thought deserved acknowledgement.
“I’d like to thank the Ranshaw family for your willingness to support the idea and for sharing your name and family history,” he said.