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Author: Andy Lorentzen AIA
Title: The Edna M. Griffin Building Revitalized
Category: Justice & equity
Description: This video was created to give context to the revitalization of Des Moines’ Edna M. Griffin Building. The video weaves together stories of three individuals: the woman whose civil rights actions cemented the building’s status on the National Register of Historic Places; the woman who worked to support those actions and eventually renamed the building in honor of Ms. Griffin; and the architect who designed solutions to give the building new life while preserving its historic integrity. Edna Griffin became a part of civil rights history in 1948 when she led a campaign to force the Katz Drugstore, in the then-named Flynn Building, to serve African Americans. Seven years before Rosa Parks’ famed bus protest, Edna Griffin protested the Katz Drugstore’s illegal rights violation after she, her infant daughter, and two male friends were refused service at the Katz lunch counter. Katz’s conviction for violating the state’s civil rights law was eventually upheld by the Iowa Supreme Court. As Edna Griffin continued her life of civil rights advocacy, Roxanne Conlin of Des Moines became involved in that advocacy and came to know Ms. Griffin. In 1991, Conlin and her husband purchased the Flynn Building. Ms. Conlin renamed the building for Edna Griffin in 1998, 50 years after the Katz Drugstore incident. The re-naming ensured that Ms. Griffin’s civil rights efforts in Des Moines would be remembered and celebrated. By 2016 when the Conlin group sold the 1885 building, it been renovated and altered several times. Architect Andy Lorentzen worked with the new owner to restore the historic grandeur of the structure and repurpose it to house retail, office and apartment spaces. Mr. Lorentzen became fascinated with the stories of Ms. Griffin and Ms. Conlin and their role in the building’s history. This video makes their interwoven stories available to all.