Iconic Buildings

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The armory in Fort Dodge was built in 1904, spearheaded by the City’s Commercial Club (Chamber of Commerce) which raised $8,000 to construct the castle-like building that housed the National Guard Regiment and provided a venue for the 56th Regiment Band, the community band and various civic events. The Armory was equipped with a gymnasium, swimming pool and bowling alley.

The Armory Committee was chaired by Captain W. T. Chantland, a Spanish-American War Veteran and worked to raise the money and oversee the project. The architectural firm of Libbe, Nourse and Rasmussen from Des Moines designed the building to resemble an impregnable fortress, with imitation spots for gun placements. Especially durable, hard paving brick was used in the front part. The grand opening and dedication on February 11, 1904 was “the most brilliant function Fort Dodge social life had ever witnessed,” according to the Messenger.

During two world wars, soldiers were drafted at the Armory, and ration books were issued to residents. After Pearl Harbor, many people worried that armories might be attacked, so soldiers were stationed around the building. It was also used to “capture” those who were not obeying gas rationing.

The basement of the Armory was first used as a rifle range; it has also been used as a shower all for horses, skaters, locker room, and restaurants.

By 1927, the Traffic Bureau, C of 1929, Iowa Airways, A. M. Auto Association, Ft. Dodge Grocers Association, and the Geer Dancing Emporium were added to its use. Over the net years, other companies: R. L. Polk Company, Men’s Civic Glee Club, F. D. Drum Corp, Allied Food Stories, F. D. Community Chest, and the Iowa National Guard and many others were housed at the Armory.

In 1903, Fort Dodge secured the regimental band of the Fifty-sixth Regiment, Iowa National Guards. This organization was composed of members from a number of local musical organizations. Under the leadership of Carl Quist, the band reached a high stage of efficiency, and soon became known among the musical organizations of the state. For five years they played at the Iowa State Fair. Three times they were the official band at the head camp of the Modern Woodmen of America, attending the encampments at Indianapolis, St. Louis and Milwaukee. They were the official band of the Iowa delegation to the national convention of the B. P. O. E. held at Detroit in 19 10. They were also the official band for American Day at the Dominion Fair in Calgary, Alberta, during 1908; and were also the official band for Iowa Day at the World's Fair at St. Louis.

During the year 1910 the band was mustered out of the service of the militia, and since that time has maintained its organization under the name of the Iowa Military Band. The Fort Dodge Armory remained the home for the band.

In 1938, the armory was purchased by Larry and Margaret Geer from the Chamber of Commerce and became the Laramar Ballroom. From the 1930’s to the 1960s it became one of Iowa’s premier ballrooms hosting most the famous big bands of the day and the rock and roll bands of the 50s and 60s. When the ‘Big Bands’ and singers were touring the country, as well as the territorial bands, you could find the best of them right here. Such names as Skippy Anderson, Guy Lombardo, Lawrence Welk, Guy Deleo, Leo Piper, Benny Goodman, Kay Kaiser, The Dorsey Brothers, Woody Herman, Al Minke, Jan Gaber, just to name a few, performed here. In the late 1970s, the Laramar was purchased by Dick and Lee Derrig and operated for twelve years as the Twilight Ballroom.

In 1985, the Derrigs sold the Twilight and the ballroom retained its original name as the Laramar. The ballroom continued to offer various events for the next three decades. In recent years, the Laramar has been used for a variety of purposes: as a site for weddings, mixed martial arts bouts and as a Spanish bar with music and dancing, but has struggled for an identity. The Laramar building remains on at its same location but has been used sporadically for various events and is now vacant and for sale.





Blanden Art Museum

1932

920 3rd Ave S

The Blanden Memorial Art Museum was constructed in 1932 as the first art museum in Iowa in the Historic Oak Hill District.  Charles Blanden donated the funding to build the museum. 

Boston Centre

1914

809 Central Ave 

The building that housed the Boston Store at 809 Central Ave., consisted of four floors and a basement for the retail activity and a balcony for the general offices, mail order department, credit department and exchange desk. The third floor also featured a small restaurant and tea room.

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Location: 629 Central Ave.

Construction Timeline: 1907 – 1908

Architect: Liebbe, Nourse and Rasmussen (Des Moines, IA)

Original Owner: First National Bank

Size: Six stories

Purpose of Building: Bank and office suites

Built in 1907-1908, the First National Bank Building is a prominent landmark in Fort Dodge. The history of the First National Bank runs almost parallel with the development of Fort Dodge since 1866. The officers and directors of the First National Bank were among the city's most prominent businessmen, active in city commerce and politics as well as the regionally important gypsum extraction and milling industry. The bank itself was the most prominent financial institution in Fort Dodge. Costing over $200,000 and rising six stories tall, this building was at its completion the city's most celebrated office structure. For almost 60 years, the building housed one of Fort Dodge's most prominent banks--either the First National Bank or the State Bank--on its first floor. And during this time its upper-level offices were occupied by many of the city's most prestigious commercial and professional tenants. Erected by the city's principal financial institution at the height of its affluence, the First National Bank Building played a pivotal role in early Fort Dodge commerce.

Of the three major banks then operating in the city, by far the most prominent was the First National Bank. This institution had been founded on June 16, 1866, with an initial capitalization of $50,000. Its first officers--Charles B. Richards, President; Charles C. Smeltzer, Vice President; and E.G. Morgan, Cashier--and its directors were prominent businessmen and capitalists in the developing town. Most of the bank's early officers and directors were directly involved in the gypsum industry, through both management and investment. Stillman Meservey and Webb Vincent, co-founders of the formative Fort Dodge Plaster Mills, served as bank presidents between 1890 and 1916. Additionally, directors such as Charles Smeltzer, John Duncombe and E.H. Rich were also heavily involved in the gypsum industry.

The bank initially did business from a small one-story brick building on the corner of Seventh Street and First Avenue South. When Richards resigned as president in 1874, his replacement, E.G. Morgan, moved the bank to 610 Central Avenue a year later. Morgan was succeeded by L. Blanden, bank president between 1875 and 1890, and Blanden was in turn succeeded by Stillman Meservey, who served between 1890 and 1902. It was Meservey who presided over the bank's next move in 1892 to larger quarters at the corner of Sixth and Central. After the turn of the century, Meservey turned over management of the bank to Webb Vincent.

After the turn of the 20th Century, with the region's economy booming and Fort Dodge prospering, Vincent, Rich and the other First National directors began considering another move, this time into a multi-story building that the bank would build. The directors intended their building to serve as a landmark in downtown Fort Dodge, befitting the bank's prestigious standing in the community. Planning for a new structure began in 1906, when they purchased a two-story commercial building at the corner of Seventh and Central, a block down and across the street from their existing facility. In August 1906 the Fort Dodge Messenger announced under the headline, "Sky-Scraper Office Building to be Built," that the bank would raze the existing building on the site and construct a five- or six-story structure to house its offices and provide rental office space for many of Fort Dodge's professionals on the upper floors. To design their new building, the bank directors commissioned Liebbe, Nourse and Rasmussen, one of the state's most prestigious architectural firms.

By the end of January 1907 the architects had drafted plans for the new bank building, which would cost more than $100,000. This move on the part of conservative financiers proves the confidence that is felt in Fort Dodge's future.

In April 1907, C.E. Atkinson of Webster City, Iowa, was awarded the contract for the six-story building. Atkinson's crew began work soon thereafter, demolishing the existing structure on the site and excavating for the foundations that spring. Despite minor delays due to material shortages, the contractors completed the new bank building in April 1908.

As the most extravagant office building in town, the First National Bank Building immediately became home to many of the city's lawyers, doctors, realtors, accountants and gypsum companies. The 1917 city directory, for instance, listed fourteen doctors and dentists, twelve lawyers, seven real estate brokers, six insurance companies and an architect among its tenants. During the 1910s and 1920s, the bank continued to do business from its street-level offices as Fort Dodge's strongest financial institution. In September 1915 the First National acquired the Fort Dodge Savings Bank, the third such institution that it had overtaken since the 1880s. A year later Webb Vincent was succeeded as bank president by E.H. Rich, long-time bank director and one of the principal owners of the Iowa Plaster Association.

Sixteen years later the bank failed. In December 1930 the institution had been reorganized as the First State Bank and Trust Company. But First State was one of the many bank failures in the Great Depression. When President Roosevelt declared a bank holiday in March 1933, the bank closed and did not reopen under its own power. As the First National Bank, it had once boasted $8 million in deposits. After years of decline, a downgrading of its charter and a massive run by its depositors in the 1930s, however, the bank's deposited assets had plummeted to only $355,000 when it finally closed its doors. Placed under state receivership,

First State reopened a short time later on a restricted basis, paying out 50 cents on the dollar to depositors while state auditors liquidated a trust fund formed from frozen assets and real estate holdings. In July 1934 First State closed altogether, and a new institution, the State Bank, opened in the original First National Bank Building.

The State Bank took on many of the depositors who had been burned by the First State's closure. The building itself soon became known as the State Bank Building. By that time several other office structures had been built in downtown Fort Dodge, but this building still housed many of the city's professional elite. When the State Bank moved to new suburban quarters in 1966, the downtown building was acquired by Carleton Beh, a Des Moines capitalist and real estate investor. Beh grandly renamed the structure after himself, though by now its clientele had begun to lack the luster of the bank's heyday. Fewer, less prestigious tenants occupied the building in the 1970s, and by 1980 the Beh Building was largely vacant.

The once prominent and prestigious building remained vacant and the interior spaces slowly deteriorated for a number of years until MDI Limited Partnership, out of St. Paul, Minnesota, purchased the building in 2002. MDI rehabilitated the interior and now the building is home to Central Place Apartments, which provides income-based apartments for senior citizens.

Sources:

*Fort Dodge Historical Society

*National Register of Historic Places





Boston Centre.jpg
HISTORY
Carnegie Library

1903

605 1st Ave N. 

Built in 1903, the Carnegie Library was considered one of the best libraries of it time.

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Location: 605 1st Ave N.

Construction Timeline: 1901 - 1903

Architect: Henry Koch

Original Owner: City of Fort Dodge

Size: 2 stories with basement

Purpose of Building: Library

Captain W.H. Johnston is considered the founder of the Fort Dodge Public Library. Captain Johnston had an unselfish commitment to public service and untiring application of his talents to library interests. He was first to establish a private library association in Fort Dodge in 1874. In 1890, the first free public library was opened in Fort Dodge. Captain Johnson induced others to help him in the creation of the small library and reading room in his office. He served gratuitously as the librarian for many years. Nine years later, a group of citizens began planning for a much larger building to house the growing collection of boos. Out of this grew the initiative to build the Fort Dodge Carnegie Library that served the Fort Dodge community for 98 years. The continued desire of the community for high quality library services led to the present Fort Dodge Public Library which largely through the labors of Captain Johnston, has become more than merely a beautiful edifice housing a collection of books, but has developed a deep and genuine taste by the public of Fort Dodge for library advantages.

In June of 1899, Martha Haskell, a local citizen and early library supporter, offered $10,000 for the construction of a new library building. Three other leading citizens, Webb Vincent, O.M. Oleson and George Ringland offered a site on 1st Avenue North and 7th Street and $5,000 if the rest of the community would donate another $8,000. Within three weeks the goal was reached. Shortly after this fundraising campaign, it was discovered a larger sum of money may be available from Andrew Carnegie and his Carnegie Foundation. Carnegie, who made an immense fortune in the steel industry in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, was a nationally known philanthropist that made grants to help communities across the nation construct public libraries. Two prominent Fort Dodgers who lived in Washington D.C., George Roberts, Director of the U. S. Mint, and M. D. O’Connell, Solicitor General of the federal government, were asked to personally contact Carnegie with the city’s request. On Christmas Day 1900, Roberts and O’Connell telegraphed the mayor of Fort Dodge announcing that Carnegie had approved $30,000 for the construction of a new public library building.

The architect for the new building was Henry Koch and the construction was done by Northwestern Building Company – the same architect and construction company that was hired for the new courthouse that was being constructed at the same time.

The building layout was a modification of what was referred to as the “Chariton Plan” which provided for the entrance in the center of the front of the building, a hall leading to the “delivery” room with the stacks directly behind. To one side of the delivery room was a general reading room and to the other was a children’s room. The stone for the new building came in rough from the Black Hills Stone Company, then was smoothed and fashioned on the construction grounds by the cutters. The total cost of the building was $47,293.

The new library was formally dedicated on October 12, 1903. However, from the very beginning, the new building had one major flaw – that being the roof leaked severely, which constantly caused interior damage and staining. For fifteen years, all types of remedial measures were tried to fix the roof, yet all were unsuccessful. In 1919, the library board of trustees committed itself to action to the point of asking two architects to submit repair/improvement plans. T. W. Reely was chosen for the job and recommended that the only real cure would be the addition of a second story, a change which had been allowed for in the original plans in the event more space might be needed in the future.

For the next ten years the proposal was considered, only to be rejected because of a lack of funds and the hope that a cheaper solution might be found. In an attempt to overcome this financial impasse, the state legislators from the county, M. J. Mitchell and C. V. Findlay, who also served as the president of the library board, proposed a bill to the state General Assembly which would give cities in Iowa with a population of 20,000 the power to levy a property tax to provide funds for necessary repairs and alterations to public libraries.

Although the bill passed, nothing was done with the library building until 1929 when the building began to rapidly deteriorate because of the leakage. After 26 years of roof problems, Frank Griffith, a local architect was hired to handle the job of adding a second story, which he estimated the cost at $33,000. However, when the economy and stock market crashed, contractors were eager to get any work they could, and the contract for the second story was awarded to John Smith for only $16,200. Originally, that cost was intended to be covered by a tax payer approved property tax levy, but with the drastically lower bid, the trustees felt that it could come out of the regular budget.

Plans for the new addition called for the west room to serve as the children’s library, which had previously been moved to the basement, a small room on the east to be the board room, a second large room to be an auditorium and another to be used as an art gallery. The construction of the Blanden Gallery changed plans for that gallery room and it became a library for teachers to house reference books, supplemental reading materials and picture collections for classroom use. The second story addition was opened to the public on October 6, 1930.

With the addition of the second floor, the library enjoyed the luxury of having far more space than was needed. In November of 1930, it was decided that the west room in the basement could be used as a museum to collect and preserve data and relics pertaining to Fort Dodge and Webster County history. As the collection expanded, so did the need for more space. In 1934, the adjoining hall was used for the museum and later in 1937, with $1,000 donated by Alice Granger, another room was renovated for additional historical relic exhibit space. The museum remained in those quarters until 1964 when the Fort Museum was established.

The library remained in operation in this building until 2001, when it moved into its new building at 424 Central Ave. The Carnegie building was bought privately and the interior was renovated for market-rate apartments.

Source:

*Roget Natte & Fort Dodge Historical Society





Carnegie Library 1.jpg

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Location: 605 1st Ave N.

Construction Timeline: 1901 - 1903

Architect: Henry Koch

Original Owner: City of Fort Dodge

Size: 2 stories with basement

Purpose of Building: Library

Captain W.H. Johnston is considered the founder of the Fort Dodge Public Library. Captain Johnston had an unselfish commitment to public service and untiring application of his talents to library interests. He was first to establish a private library association in Fort Dodge in 1874. In 1890, the first free public library was opened in Fort Dodge. Captain Johnson induced others to help him in the creation of the small library and reading room in his office. He served gratuitously as the librarian for many years. Nine years later, a group of citizens began planning for a much larger building to house the growing collection of boos. Out of this grew the initiative to build the Fort Dodge Carnegie Library that served the Fort Dodge community for 98 years. The continued desire of the community for high quality library services led to the present Fort Dodge Public Library which largely through the labors of Captain Johnston, has become more than merely a beautiful edifice housing a collection of books, but has developed a deep and genuine taste by the public of Fort Dodge for library advantages.

In June of 1899, Martha Haskell, a local citizen and early library supporter, offered $10,000 for the construction of a new library building. Three other leading citizens, Webb Vincent, O.M. Oleson and George Ringland offered a site on 1st Avenue North and 7th Street and $5,000 if the rest of the community would donate another $8,000. Within three weeks the goal was reached. Shortly after this fundraising campaign, it was discovered a larger sum of money may be available from Andrew Carnegie and his Carnegie Foundation. Carnegie, who made an immense fortune in the steel industry in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, was a nationally known philanthropist that made grants to help communities across the nation construct public libraries. Two prominent Fort Dodgers who lived in Washington D.C., George Roberts, Director of the U. S. Mint, and M. D. O’Connell, Solicitor General of the federal government, were asked to personally contact Carnegie with the city’s request. On Christmas Day 1900, Roberts and O’Connell telegraphed the mayor of Fort Dodge announcing that Carnegie had approved $30,000 for the construction of a new public library building.

The architect for the new building was Henry Koch and the construction was done by Northwestern Building Company – the same architect and construction company that was hired for the new courthouse that was being constructed at the same time.

The building layout was a modification of what was referred to as the “Chariton Plan” which provided for the entrance in the center of the front of the building, a hall leading to the “delivery” room with the stacks directly behind. To one side of the delivery room was a general reading room and to the other was a children’s room. The stone for the new building came in rough from the Black Hills Stone Company, then was smoothed and fashioned on the construction grounds by the cutters. The total cost of the building was $47,293.

The new library was formally dedicated on October 12, 1903. However, from the very beginning, the new building had one major flaw – that being the roof leaked severely, which constantly caused interior damage and staining. For fifteen years, all types of remedial measures were tried to fix the roof, yet all were unsuccessful. In 1919, the library board of trustees committed itself to action to the point of asking two architects to submit repair/improvement plans. T. W. Reely was chosen for the job and recommended that the only real cure would be the addition of a second story, a change which had been allowed for in the original plans in the event more space might be needed in the future.

For the next ten years the proposal was considered, only to be rejected because of a lack of funds and the hope that a cheaper solution might be found. In an attempt to overcome this financial impasse, the state legislators from the county, M. J. Mitchell and C. V. Findlay, who also served as the president of the library board, proposed a bill to the state General Assembly which would give cities in Iowa with a population of 20,000 the power to levy a property tax to provide funds for necessary repairs and alterations to public libraries.

Although the bill passed, nothing was done with the library building until 1929 when the building began to rapidly deteriorate because of the leakage. After 26 years of roof problems, Frank Griffith, a local architect was hired to handle the job of adding a second story, which he estimated the cost at $33,000. However, when the economy and stock market crashed, contractors were eager to get any work they could, and the contract for the second story was awarded to John Smith for only $16,200. Originally, that cost was intended to be covered by a tax payer approved property tax levy, but with the drastically lower bid, the trustees felt that it could come out of the regular budget.

Plans for the new addition called for the west room to serve as the children’s library, which had previously been moved to the basement, a small room on the east to be the board room, a second large room to be an auditorium and another to be used as an art gallery. The construction of the Blanden Gallery changed plans for that gallery room and it became a library for teachers to house reference books, supplemental reading materials and picture collections for classroom use. The second story addition was opened to the public on October 6, 1930.

With the addition of the second floor, the library enjoyed the luxury of having far more space than was needed. In November of 1930, it was decided that the west room in the basement could be used as a museum to collect and preserve data and relics pertaining to Fort Dodge and Webster County history. As the collection expanded, so did the need for more space. In 1934, the adjoining hall was used for the museum and later in 1937, with $1,000 donated by Alice Granger, another room was renovated for additional historical relic exhibit space. The museum remained in those quarters until 1964 when the Fort Museum was established.

The library remained in operation in this building until 2001, when it moved into its new building at 424 Central Ave. The Carnegie building was bought privately and the interior was renovated for market-rate apartments.

Source:

*Roget Natte & Fort Dodge Historical Society





Carver Building

1916

1007 & 1003 Central Ave.

The 8-story high Carver Building, built in 1922, housed over 150 office rooms and suites

First National Bank/Beh Building

1908

629 Central Ave. 

Built in 1908, this was one of Fort Dodge’s most prestigious buildings

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Location: 629 Central Ave.

Construction Timeline: 1907 – 1908

Architect: Liebbe, Nourse and Rasmussen (Des Moines, IA)

Original Owner: First National Bank

Size: Six stories

Purpose of Building: Bank and office suites

Built in 1907-1908, the First National Bank Building is a prominent landmark in Fort Dodge. The history of the First National Bank runs almost parallel with the development of Fort Dodge since 1866. The officers and directors of the First National Bank were among the city's most prominent businessmen, active in city commerce and politics as well as the regionally important gypsum extraction and milling industry. The bank itself was the most prominent financial institution in Fort Dodge. Costing over $200,000 and rising six stories tall, this building was at its completion the city's most celebrated office structure. For almost 60 years, the building housed one of Fort Dodge's most prominent banks--either the First National Bank or the State Bank--on its first floor. And during this time its upper-level offices were occupied by many of the city's most prestigious commercial and professional tenants. Erected by the city's principal financial institution at the height of its affluence, the First National Bank Building played a pivotal role in early Fort Dodge commerce.

Of the three major banks then operating in the city, by far the most prominent was the First National Bank. This institution had been founded on June 16, 1866, with an initial capitalization of $50,000. Its first officers--Charles B. Richards, President; Charles C. Smeltzer, Vice President; and E.G. Morgan, Cashier--and its directors were prominent businessmen and capitalists in the developing town. Most of the bank's early officers and directors were directly involved in the gypsum industry, through both management and investment. Stillman Meservey and Webb Vincent, co-founders of the formative Fort Dodge Plaster Mills, served as bank presidents between 1890 and 1916. Additionally, directors such as Charles Smeltzer, John Duncombe and E.H. Rich were also heavily involved in the gypsum industry.

The bank initially did business from a small one-story brick building on the corner of Seventh Street and First Avenue South. When Richards resigned as president in 1874, his replacement, E.G. Morgan, moved the bank to 610 Central Avenue a year later. Morgan was succeeded by L. Blanden, bank president between 1875 and 1890, and Blanden was in turn succeeded by Stillman Meservey, who served between 1890 and 1902. It was Meservey who presided over the bank's next move in 1892 to larger quarters at the corner of Sixth and Central. After the turn of the century, Meservey turned over management of the bank to Webb Vincent.

After the turn of the 20th Century, with the region's economy booming and Fort Dodge prospering, Vincent, Rich and the other First National directors began considering another move, this time into a multi-story building that the bank would build. The directors intended their building to serve as a landmark in downtown Fort Dodge, befitting the bank's prestigious standing in the community. Planning for a new structure began in 1906, when they purchased a two-story commercial building at the corner of Seventh and Central, a block down and across the street from their existing facility. In August 1906 the Fort Dodge Messenger announced under the headline, "Sky-Scraper Office Building to be Built," that the bank would raze the existing building on the site and construct a five- or six-story structure to house its offices and provide rental office space for many of Fort Dodge's professionals on the upper floors. To design their new building, the bank directors commissioned Liebbe, Nourse and Rasmussen, one of the state's most prestigious architectural firms.

By the end of January 1907 the architects had drafted plans for the new bank building, which would cost more than $100,000. This move on the part of conservative financiers proves the confidence that is felt in Fort Dodge's future.

In April 1907, C.E. Atkinson of Webster City, Iowa, was awarded the contract for the six-story building. Atkinson's crew began work soon thereafter, demolishing the existing structure on the site and excavating for the foundations that spring. Despite minor delays due to material shortages, the contractors completed the new bank building in April 1908.

As the most extravagant office building in town, the First National Bank Building immediately became home to many of the city's lawyers, doctors, realtors, accountants and gypsum companies. The 1917 city directory, for instance, listed fourteen doctors and dentists, twelve lawyers, seven real estate brokers, six insurance companies and an architect among its tenants. During the 1910s and 1920s, the bank continued to do business from its street-level offices as Fort Dodge's strongest financial institution. In September 1915 the First National acquired the Fort Dodge Savings Bank, the third such institution that it had overtaken since the 1880s. A year later Webb Vincent was succeeded as bank president by E.H. Rich, long-time bank director and one of the principal owners of the Iowa Plaster Association.

Sixteen years later the bank failed. In December 1930 the institution had been reorganized as the First State Bank and Trust Company. But First State was one of the many bank failures in the Great Depression. When President Roosevelt declared a bank holiday in March 1933, the bank closed and did not reopen under its own power. As the First National Bank, it had once boasted $8 million in deposits. After years of decline, a downgrading of its charter and a massive run by its depositors in the 1930s, however, the bank's deposited assets had plummeted to only $355,000 when it finally closed its doors. Placed under state receivership,

First State reopened a short time later on a restricted basis, paying out 50 cents on the dollar to depositors while state auditors liquidated a trust fund formed from frozen assets and real estate holdings. In July 1934 First State closed altogether, and a new institution, the State Bank, opened in the original First National Bank Building.

The State Bank took on many of the depositors who had been burned by the First State's closure. The building itself soon became known as the State Bank Building. By that time several other office structures had been built in downtown Fort Dodge, but this building still housed many of the city's professional elite. When the State Bank moved to new suburban quarters in 1966, the downtown building was acquired by Carleton Beh, a Des Moines capitalist and real estate investor. Beh grandly renamed the structure after himself, though by now its clientele had begun to lack the luster of the bank's heyday. Fewer, less prestigious tenants occupied the building in the 1970s, and by 1980 the Beh Building was largely vacant.

The once prominent and prestigious building remained vacant and the interior spaces slowly deteriorated for a number of years until MDI Limited Partnership, out of St. Paul, Minnesota, purchased the building in 2002. MDI rehabilitated the interior and now the building is home to Central Place Apartments, which provides income-based apartments for senior citizens.

Sources:

*Fort Dodge Historical Society

*National Register of Historic Places





first national bank b&w.jpg
Fort Dodge Armory

1904

710 1st Ave N

The armory in Fort Dodge was built in 1904, spearheaded by the City’s Commercial Club (Chamber of Commerce) which raise $8,000 to construct the castle-like building that house the National Guard Regiment and provided a venue for the community  band and various civic events.

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The armory in Fort Dodge was built in 1904, spearheaded by the City’s Commercial Club (Chamber of Commerce) which raised $8,000 to construct the castle-like building that housed the National Guard Regiment and provided a venue for the 56th Regiment Band, the community band and various civic events. The Armory was equipped with a gymnasium, swimming pool and bowling alley.

The Armory Committee was chaired by Captain W. T. Chantland, a Spanish-American War Veteran and worked to raise the money and oversee the project. The architectural firm of Libbe, Nourse and Rasmussen from Des Moines designed the building to resemble an impregnable fortress, with imitation spots for gun placements. Especially durable, hard paving brick was used in the front part. The grand opening and dedication on February 11, 1904 was “the most brilliant function Fort Dodge social life had ever witnessed,” according to the Messenger.

During two world wars, soldiers were drafted at the Armory, and ration books were issued to residents. After Pearl Harbor, many people worried that armories might be attacked, so soldiers were stationed around the building. It was also used to “capture” those who were not obeying gas rationing.

The basement of the Armory was first used as a rifle range; it has also been used as a shower all for horses, skaters, locker room, and restaurants.

By 1927, the Traffic Bureau, C of 1929, Iowa Airways, A. M. Auto Association, Ft. Dodge Grocers Association, and the Geer Dancing Emporium were added to its use. Over the net years, other companies: R. L. Polk Company, Men’s Civic Glee Club, F. D. Drum Corp, Allied Food Stories, F. D. Community Chest, and the Iowa National Guard and many others were housed at the Armory.

In 1903, Fort Dodge secured the regimental band of the Fifty-sixth Regiment, Iowa National Guards. This organization was composed of members from a number of local musical organizations. Under the leadership of Carl Quist, the band reached a high stage of efficiency, and soon became known among the musical organizations of the state. For five years they played at the Iowa State Fair. Three times they were the official band at the head camp of the Modern Woodmen of America, attending the encampments at Indianapolis, St. Louis and Milwaukee. They were the official band of the Iowa delegation to the national convention of the B. P. O. E. held at Detroit in 19 10. They were also the official band for American Day at the Dominion Fair in Calgary, Alberta, during 1908; and were also the official band for Iowa Day at the World's Fair at St. Louis.

During the year 1910 the band was mustered out of the service of the militia, and since that time has maintained its organization under the name of the Iowa Military Band. The Fort Dodge Armory remained the home for the band.

In 1938, the armory was purchased by Larry and Margaret Geer from the Chamber of Commerce and became the Laramar Ballroom. From the 1930’s to the 1960s it became one of Iowa’s premier ballrooms hosting most the famous big bands of the day and the rock and roll bands of the 50s and 60s. When the ‘Big Bands’ and singers were touring the country, as well as the territorial bands, you could find the best of them right here. Such names as Skippy Anderson, Guy Lombardo, Lawrence Welk, Guy Deleo, Leo Piper, Benny Goodman, Kay Kaiser, The Dorsey Brothers, Woody Herman, Al Minke, Jan Gaber, just to name a few, performed here. In the late 1970s, the Laramar was purchased by Dick and Lee Derrig and operated for twelve years as the Twilight Ballroom.

In 1985, the Derrigs sold the Twilight and the ballroom retained its original name as the Laramar. The ballroom continued to offer various events for the next three decades. In recent years, the Laramar has been used for a variety of purposes: as a site for weddings, mixed martial arts bouts and as a Spanish bar with music and dancing, but has struggled for an identity. The Laramar building remains on at its same location but has been used sporadically for various events and is now vacant and for sale.





Laramar Ballroom

1920s

710 1st Ave N

For the thousands who frequented the ballroom over the years, the brick building with loft seating that rings the wooden dance floor holds many special memories.

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Location: 629 Central Ave.

Construction Timeline: 1907 – 1908

Architect: Liebbe, Nourse and Rasmussen (Des Moines, IA)

Original Owner: First National Bank

Size: Six stories

Purpose of Building: Bank and office suites

Built in 1907-1908, the First National Bank Building is a prominent landmark in Fort Dodge. The history of the First National Bank runs almost parallel with the development of Fort Dodge since 1866. The officers and directors of the First National Bank were among the city's most prominent businessmen, active in city commerce and politics as well as the regionally important gypsum extraction and milling industry. The bank itself was the most prominent financial institution in Fort Dodge. Costing over $200,000 and rising six stories tall, this building was at its completion the city's most celebrated office structure. For almost 60 years, the building housed one of Fort Dodge's most prominent banks--either the First National Bank or the State Bank--on its first floor. And during this time its upper-level offices were occupied by many of the city's most prestigious commercial and professional tenants. Erected by the city's principal financial institution at the height of its affluence, the First National Bank Building played a pivotal role in early Fort Dodge commerce.

Of the three major banks then operating in the city, by far the most prominent was the First National Bank. This institution had been founded on June 16, 1866, with an initial capitalization of $50,000. Its first officers--Charles B. Richards, President; Charles C. Smeltzer, Vice President; and E.G. Morgan, Cashier--and its directors were prominent businessmen and capitalists in the developing town. Most of the bank's early officers and directors were directly involved in the gypsum industry, through both management and investment. Stillman Meservey and Webb Vincent, co-founders of the formative Fort Dodge Plaster Mills, served as bank presidents between 1890 and 1916. Additionally, directors such as Charles Smeltzer, John Duncombe and E.H. Rich were also heavily involved in the gypsum industry.

The bank initially did business from a small one-story brick building on the corner of Seventh Street and First Avenue South. When Richards resigned as president in 1874, his replacement, E.G. Morgan, moved the bank to 610 Central Avenue a year later. Morgan was succeeded by L. Blanden, bank president between 1875 and 1890, and Blanden was in turn succeeded by Stillman Meservey, who served between 1890 and 1902. It was Meservey who presided over the bank's next move in 1892 to larger quarters at the corner of Sixth and Central. After the turn of the century, Meservey turned over management of the bank to Webb Vincent.

After the turn of the 20th Century, with the region's economy booming and Fort Dodge prospering, Vincent, Rich and the other First National directors began considering another move, this time into a multi-story building that the bank would build. The directors intended their building to serve as a landmark in downtown Fort Dodge, befitting the bank's prestigious standing in the community. Planning for a new structure began in 1906, when they purchased a two-story commercial building at the corner of Seventh and Central, a block down and across the street from their existing facility. In August 1906 the Fort Dodge Messenger announced under the headline, "Sky-Scraper Office Building to be Built," that the bank would raze the existing building on the site and construct a five- or six-story structure to house its offices and provide rental office space for many of Fort Dodge's professionals on the upper floors. To design their new building, the bank directors commissioned Liebbe, Nourse and Rasmussen, one of the state's most prestigious architectural firms.

By the end of January 1907 the architects had drafted plans for the new bank building, which would cost more than $100,000. This move on the part of conservative financiers proves the confidence that is felt in Fort Dodge's future.

In April 1907, C.E. Atkinson of Webster City, Iowa, was awarded the contract for the six-story building. Atkinson's crew began work soon thereafter, demolishing the existing structure on the site and excavating for the foundations that spring. Despite minor delays due to material shortages, the contractors completed the new bank building in April 1908.

As the most extravagant office building in town, the First National Bank Building immediately became home to many of the city's lawyers, doctors, realtors, accountants and gypsum companies. The 1917 city directory, for instance, listed fourteen doctors and dentists, twelve lawyers, seven real estate brokers, six insurance companies and an architect among its tenants. During the 1910s and 1920s, the bank continued to do business from its street-level offices as Fort Dodge's strongest financial institution. In September 1915 the First National acquired the Fort Dodge Savings Bank, the third such institution that it had overtaken since the 1880s. A year later Webb Vincent was succeeded as bank president by E.H. Rich, long-time bank director and one of the principal owners of the Iowa Plaster Association.

Sixteen years later the bank failed. In December 1930 the institution had been reorganized as the First State Bank and Trust Company. But First State was one of the many bank failures in the Great Depression. When President Roosevelt declared a bank holiday in March 1933, the bank closed and did not reopen under its own power. As the First National Bank, it had once boasted $8 million in deposits. After years of decline, a downgrading of its charter and a massive run by its depositors in the 1930s, however, the bank's deposited assets had plummeted to only $355,000 when it finally closed its doors. Placed under state receivership,

First State reopened a short time later on a restricted basis, paying out 50 cents on the dollar to depositors while state auditors liquidated a trust fund formed from frozen assets and real estate holdings. In July 1934 First State closed altogether, and a new institution, the State Bank, opened in the original First National Bank Building.

The State Bank took on many of the depositors who had been burned by the First State's closure. The building itself soon became known as the State Bank Building. By that time several other office structures had been built in downtown Fort Dodge, but this building still housed many of the city's professional elite. When the State Bank moved to new suburban quarters in 1966, the downtown building was acquired by Carleton Beh, a Des Moines capitalist and real estate investor. Beh grandly renamed the structure after himself, though by now its clientele had begun to lack the luster of the bank's heyday. Fewer, less prestigious tenants occupied the building in the 1970s, and by 1980 the Beh Building was largely vacant.

The once prominent and prestigious building remained vacant and the interior spaces slowly deteriorated for a number of years until MDI Limited Partnership, out of St. Paul, Minnesota, purchased the building in 2002. MDI rehabilitated the interior and now the building is home to Central Place Apartments, which provides income-based apartments for senior citizens.

Sources:

*Fort Dodge Historical Society

*National Register of Historic Places





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Location: 629 Central Ave.

Construction Timeline: 1907 – 1908

Architect: Liebbe, Nourse and Rasmussen (Des Moines, IA)

Original Owner: First National Bank

Size: Six stories

Purpose of Building: Bank and office suites

Built in 1907-1908, the First National Bank Building is a prominent landmark in Fort Dodge. The history of the First National Bank runs almost parallel with the development of Fort Dodge since 1866. The officers and directors of the First National Bank were among the city's most prominent businessmen, active in city commerce and politics as well as the regionally important gypsum extraction and milling industry. The bank itself was the most prominent financial institution in Fort Dodge. Costing over $200,000 and rising six stories tall, this building was at its completion the city's most celebrated office structure. For almost 60 years, the building housed one of Fort Dodge's most prominent banks--either the First National Bank or the State Bank--on its first floor. And during this time its upper-level offices were occupied by many of the city's most prestigious commercial and professional tenants. Erected by the city's principal financial institution at the height of its affluence, the First National Bank Building played a pivotal role in early Fort Dodge commerce.

Of the three major banks then operating in the city, by far the most prominent was the First National Bank. This institution had been founded on June 16, 1866, with an initial capitalization of $50,000. Its first officers--Charles B. Richards, President; Charles C. Smeltzer, Vice President; and E.G. Morgan, Cashier--and its directors were prominent businessmen and capitalists in the developing town. Most of the bank's early officers and directors were directly involved in the gypsum industry, through both management and investment. Stillman Meservey and Webb Vincent, co-founders of the formative Fort Dodge Plaster Mills, served as bank presidents between 1890 and 1916. Additionally, directors such as Charles Smeltzer, John Duncombe and E.H. Rich were also heavily involved in the gypsum industry.

The bank initially did business from a small one-story brick building on the corner of Seventh Street and First Avenue South. When Richards resigned as president in 1874, his replacement, E.G. Morgan, moved the bank to 610 Central Avenue a year later. Morgan was succeeded by L. Blanden, bank president between 1875 and 1890, and Blanden was in turn succeeded by Stillman Meservey, who served between 1890 and 1902. It was Meservey who presided over the bank's next move in 1892 to larger quarters at the corner of Sixth and Central. After the turn of the century, Meservey turned over management of the bank to Webb Vincent.

After the turn of the 20th Century, with the region's economy booming and Fort Dodge prospering, Vincent, Rich and the other First National directors began considering another move, this time into a multi-story building that the bank would build. The directors intended their building to serve as a landmark in downtown Fort Dodge, befitting the bank's prestigious standing in the community. Planning for a new structure began in 1906, when they purchased a two-story commercial building at the corner of Seventh and Central, a block down and across the street from their existing facility. In August 1906 the Fort Dodge Messenger announced under the headline, "Sky-Scraper Office Building to be Built," that the bank would raze the existing building on the site and construct a five- or six-story structure to house its offices and provide rental office space for many of Fort Dodge's professionals on the upper floors. To design their new building, the bank directors commissioned Liebbe, Nourse and Rasmussen, one of the state's most prestigious architectural firms.

By the end of January 1907 the architects had drafted plans for the new bank building, which would cost more than $100,000. This move on the part of conservative financiers proves the confidence that is felt in Fort Dodge's future.

In April 1907, C.E. Atkinson of Webster City, Iowa, was awarded the contract for the six-story building. Atkinson's crew began work soon thereafter, demolishing the existing structure on the site and excavating for the foundations that spring. Despite minor delays due to material shortages, the contractors completed the new bank building in April 1908.

As the most extravagant office building in town, the First National Bank Building immediately became home to many of the city's lawyers, doctors, realtors, accountants and gypsum companies. The 1917 city directory, for instance, listed fourteen doctors and dentists, twelve lawyers, seven real estate brokers, six insurance companies and an architect among its tenants. During the 1910s and 1920s, the bank continued to do business from its street-level offices as Fort Dodge's strongest financial institution. In September 1915 the First National acquired the Fort Dodge Savings Bank, the third such institution that it had overtaken since the 1880s. A year later Webb Vincent was succeeded as bank president by E.H. Rich, long-time bank director and one of the principal owners of the Iowa Plaster Association.

Sixteen years later the bank failed. In December 1930 the institution had been reorganized as the First State Bank and Trust Company. But First State was one of the many bank failures in the Great Depression. When President Roosevelt declared a bank holiday in March 1933, the bank closed and did not reopen under its own power. As the First National Bank, it had once boasted $8 million in deposits. After years of decline, a downgrading of its charter and a massive run by its depositors in the 1930s, however, the bank's deposited assets had plummeted to only $355,000 when it finally closed its doors. Placed under state receivership,

First State reopened a short time later on a restricted basis, paying out 50 cents on the dollar to depositors while state auditors liquidated a trust fund formed from frozen assets and real estate holdings. In July 1934 First State closed altogether, and a new institution, the State Bank, opened in the original First National Bank Building.

The State Bank took on many of the depositors who had been burned by the First State's closure. The building itself soon became known as the State Bank Building. By that time several other office structures had been built in downtown Fort Dodge, but this building still housed many of the city's professional elite. When the State Bank moved to new suburban quarters in 1966, the downtown building was acquired by Carleton Beh, a Des Moines capitalist and real estate investor. Beh grandly renamed the structure after himself, though by now its clientele had begun to lack the luster of the bank's heyday. Fewer, less prestigious tenants occupied the building in the 1970s, and by 1980 the Beh Building was largely vacant.

The once prominent and prestigious building remained vacant and the interior spaces slowly deteriorated for a number of years until MDI Limited Partnership, out of St. Paul, Minnesota, purchased the building in 2002. MDI rehabilitated the interior and now the building is home to Central Place Apartments, which provides income-based apartments for senior citizens.

Sources:

*Fort Dodge Historical Society

*National Register of Historic Places





Municipal Building

1914

819 1st Ave S 

In February of 1914, the commissioners of the city of Fort Dodge unveiled their plan to build a new city hall that would house the various city departments, the police, jail and fire department.

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Sears Building

1916

610 Central Ave.

This eight-story building built in 1916 was the tallest structure in Fort Dodge.

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Location: 629 Central Ave.

Construction Timeline: 1907 – 1908

Architect: Liebbe, Nourse and Rasmussen (Des Moines, IA)

Original Owner: First National Bank

Size: Six stories

Purpose of Building: Bank and office suites

Built in 1907-1908, the First National Bank Building is a prominent landmark in Fort Dodge. The history of the First National Bank runs almost parallel with the development of Fort Dodge since 1866. The officers and directors of the First National Bank were among the city's most prominent businessmen, active in city commerce and politics as well as the regionally important gypsum extraction and milling industry. The bank itself was the most prominent financial institution in Fort Dodge. Costing over $200,000 and rising six stories tall, this building was at its completion the city's most celebrated office structure. For almost 60 years, the building housed one of Fort Dodge's most prominent banks--either the First National Bank or the State Bank--on its first floor. And during this time its upper-level offices were occupied by many of the city's most prestigious commercial and professional tenants. Erected by the city's principal financial institution at the height of its affluence, the First National Bank Building played a pivotal role in early Fort Dodge commerce.

Of the three major banks then operating in the city, by far the most prominent was the First National Bank. This institution had been founded on June 16, 1866, with an initial capitalization of $50,000. Its first officers--Charles B. Richards, President; Charles C. Smeltzer, Vice President; and E.G. Morgan, Cashier--and its directors were prominent businessmen and capitalists in the developing town. Most of the bank's early officers and directors were directly involved in the gypsum industry, through both management and investment. Stillman Meservey and Webb Vincent, co-founders of the formative Fort Dodge Plaster Mills, served as bank presidents between 1890 and 1916. Additionally, directors such as Charles Smeltzer, John Duncombe and E.H. Rich were also heavily involved in the gypsum industry.

The bank initially did business from a small one-story brick building on the corner of Seventh Street and First Avenue South. When Richards resigned as president in 1874, his replacement, E.G. Morgan, moved the bank to 610 Central Avenue a year later. Morgan was succeeded by L. Blanden, bank president between 1875 and 1890, and Blanden was in turn succeeded by Stillman Meservey, who served between 1890 and 1902. It was Meservey who presided over the bank's next move in 1892 to larger quarters at the corner of Sixth and Central. After the turn of the century, Meservey turned over management of the bank to Webb Vincent.

After the turn of the 20th Century, with the region's economy booming and Fort Dodge prospering, Vincent, Rich and the other First National directors began considering another move, this time into a multi-story building that the bank would build. The directors intended their building to serve as a landmark in downtown Fort Dodge, befitting the bank's prestigious standing in the community. Planning for a new structure began in 1906, when they purchased a two-story commercial building at the corner of Seventh and Central, a block down and across the street from their existing facility. In August 1906 the Fort Dodge Messenger announced under the headline, "Sky-Scraper Office Building to be Built," that the bank would raze the existing building on the site and construct a five- or six-story structure to house its offices and provide rental office space for many of Fort Dodge's professionals on the upper floors. To design their new building, the bank directors commissioned Liebbe, Nourse and Rasmussen, one of the state's most prestigious architectural firms.

By the end of January 1907 the architects had drafted plans for the new bank building, which would cost more than $100,000. This move on the part of conservative financiers proves the confidence that is felt in Fort Dodge's future.

In April 1907, C.E. Atkinson of Webster City, Iowa, was awarded the contract for the six-story building. Atkinson's crew began work soon thereafter, demolishing the existing structure on the site and excavating for the foundations that spring. Despite minor delays due to material shortages, the contractors completed the new bank building in April 1908.

As the most extravagant office building in town, the First National Bank Building immediately became home to many of the city's lawyers, doctors, realtors, accountants and gypsum companies. The 1917 city directory, for instance, listed fourteen doctors and dentists, twelve lawyers, seven real estate brokers, six insurance companies and an architect among its tenants. During the 1910s and 1920s, the bank continued to do business from its street-level offices as Fort Dodge's strongest financial institution. In September 1915 the First National acquired the Fort Dodge Savings Bank, the third such institution that it had overtaken since the 1880s. A year later Webb Vincent was succeeded as bank president by E.H. Rich, long-time bank director and one of the principal owners of the Iowa Plaster Association.

Sixteen years later the bank failed. In December 1930 the institution had been reorganized as the First State Bank and Trust Company. But First State was one of the many bank failures in the Great Depression. When President Roosevelt declared a bank holiday in March 1933, the bank closed and did not reopen under its own power. As the First National Bank, it had once boasted $8 million in deposits. After years of decline, a downgrading of its charter and a massive run by its depositors in the 1930s, however, the bank's deposited assets had plummeted to only $355,000 when it finally closed its doors. Placed under state receivership,

First State reopened a short time later on a restricted basis, paying out 50 cents on the dollar to depositors while state auditors liquidated a trust fund formed from frozen assets and real estate holdings. In July 1934 First State closed altogether, and a new institution, the State Bank, opened in the original First National Bank Building.

The State Bank took on many of the depositors who had been burned by the First State's closure. The building itself soon became known as the State Bank Building. By that time several other office structures had been built in downtown Fort Dodge, but this building still housed many of the city's professional elite. When the State Bank moved to new suburban quarters in 1966, the downtown building was acquired by Carleton Beh, a Des Moines capitalist and real estate investor. Beh grandly renamed the structure after himself, though by now its clientele had begun to lack the luster of the bank's heyday. Fewer, less prestigious tenants occupied the building in the 1970s, and by 1980 the Beh Building was largely vacant.

The once prominent and prestigious building remained vacant and the interior spaces slowly deteriorated for a number of years until MDI Limited Partnership, out of St. Paul, Minnesota, purchased the building in 2002. MDI rehabilitated the interior and now the building is home to Central Place Apartments, which provides income-based apartments for senior citizens.

Sources:

*Fort Dodge Historical Society

*National Register of Historic Places





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Location: 605 1st Ave N.

Construction Timeline: 1901 - 1903

Architect: Henry Koch

Original Owner: City of Fort Dodge

Size: 2 stories with basement

Purpose of Building: Library

Captain W.H. Johnston is considered the founder of the Fort Dodge Public Library. Captain Johnston had an unselfish commitment to public service and untiring application of his talents to library interests. He was first to establish a private library association in Fort Dodge in 1874. In 1890, the first free public library was opened in Fort Dodge. Captain Johnson induced others to help him in the creation of the small library and reading room in his office. He served gratuitously as the librarian for many years. Nine years later, a group of citizens began planning for a much larger building to house the growing collection of boos. Out of this grew the initiative to build the Fort Dodge Carnegie Library that served the Fort Dodge community for 98 years. The continued desire of the community for high quality library services led to the present Fort Dodge Public Library which largely through the labors of Captain Johnston, has become more than merely a beautiful edifice housing a collection of books, but has developed a deep and genuine taste by the public of Fort Dodge for library advantages.

In June of 1899, Martha Haskell, a local citizen and early library supporter, offered $10,000 for the construction of a new library building. Three other leading citizens, Webb Vincent, O.M. Oleson and George Ringland offered a site on 1st Avenue North and 7th Street and $5,000 if the rest of the community would donate another $8,000. Within three weeks the goal was reached. Shortly after this fundraising campaign, it was discovered a larger sum of money may be available from Andrew Carnegie and his Carnegie Foundation. Carnegie, who made an immense fortune in the steel industry in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, was a nationally known philanthropist that made grants to help communities across the nation construct public libraries. Two prominent Fort Dodgers who lived in Washington D.C., George Roberts, Director of the U. S. Mint, and M. D. O’Connell, Solicitor General of the federal government, were asked to personally contact Carnegie with the city’s request. On Christmas Day 1900, Roberts and O’Connell telegraphed the mayor of Fort Dodge announcing that Carnegie had approved $30,000 for the construction of a new public library building.

The architect for the new building was Henry Koch and the construction was done by Northwestern Building Company – the same architect and construction company that was hired for the new courthouse that was being constructed at the same time.

The building layout was a modification of what was referred to as the “Chariton Plan” which provided for the entrance in the center of the front of the building, a hall leading to the “delivery” room with the stacks directly behind. To one side of the delivery room was a general reading room and to the other was a children’s room. The stone for the new building came in rough from the Black Hills Stone Company, then was smoothed and fashioned on the construction grounds by the cutters. The total cost of the building was $47,293.

The new library was formally dedicated on October 12, 1903. However, from the very beginning, the new building had one major flaw – that being the roof leaked severely, which constantly caused interior damage and staining. For fifteen years, all types of remedial measures were tried to fix the roof, yet all were unsuccessful. In 1919, the library board of trustees committed itself to action to the point of asking two architects to submit repair/improvement plans. T. W. Reely was chosen for the job and recommended that the only real cure would be the addition of a second story, a change which had been allowed for in the original plans in the event more space might be needed in the future.

For the next ten years the proposal was considered, only to be rejected because of a lack of funds and the hope that a cheaper solution might be found. In an attempt to overcome this financial impasse, the state legislators from the county, M. J. Mitchell and C. V. Findlay, who also served as the president of the library board, proposed a bill to the state General Assembly which would give cities in Iowa with a population of 20,000 the power to levy a property tax to provide funds for necessary repairs and alterations to public libraries.

Although the bill passed, nothing was done with the library building until 1929 when the building began to rapidly deteriorate because of the leakage. After 26 years of roof problems, Frank Griffith, a local architect was hired to handle the job of adding a second story, which he estimated the cost at $33,000. However, when the economy and stock market crashed, contractors were eager to get any work they could, and the contract for the second story was awarded to John Smith for only $16,200. Originally, that cost was intended to be covered by a tax payer approved property tax levy, but with the drastically lower bid, the trustees felt that it could come out of the regular budget.

Plans for the new addition called for the west room to serve as the children’s library, which had previously been moved to the basement, a small room on the east to be the board room, a second large room to be an auditorium and another to be used as an art gallery. The construction of the Blanden Gallery changed plans for that gallery room and it became a library for teachers to house reference books, supplemental reading materials and picture collections for classroom use. The second story addition was opened to the public on October 6, 1930.

With the addition of the second floor, the library enjoyed the luxury of having far more space than was needed. In November of 1930, it was decided that the west room in the basement could be used as a museum to collect and preserve data and relics pertaining to Fort Dodge and Webster County history. As the collection expanded, so did the need for more space. In 1934, the adjoining hall was used for the museum and later in 1937, with $1,000 donated by Alice Granger, another room was renovated for additional historical relic exhibit space. The museum remained in those quarters until 1964 when the Fort Museum was established.

The library remained in operation in this building until 2001, when it moved into its new building at 424 Central Ave. The Carnegie building was bought privately and the interior was renovated for market-rate apartments.

Source:

*Roget Natte & Fort Dodge Historical Society





Snell Building

1915

805 Central Ave.

Built in 1915, the Snell Building was seven stories tall and Fort Dodge’s first “skyscraper.”

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Wahkonsa Hotel

1909

927 Central Ave.

The Wahkonsa Hotel (currently Wahkonsa Manor) is a five-story, plus basement building, featuring symmetrical brick facades with Italian Renaissance Revival-style influenced brick detailing including quoining and relief brickwork.

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The armory in Fort Dodge was built in 1904, spearheaded by the City’s Commercial Club (Chamber of Commerce) which raised $8,000 to construct the castle-like building that housed the National Guard Regiment and provided a venue for the 56th Regiment Band, the community band and various civic events. The Armory was equipped with a gymnasium, swimming pool and bowling alley.

The Armory Committee was chaired by Captain W. T. Chantland, a Spanish-American War Veteran and worked to raise the money and oversee the project. The architectural firm of Libbe, Nourse and Rasmussen from Des Moines designed the building to resemble an impregnable fortress, with imitation spots for gun placements. Especially durable, hard paving brick was used in the front part. The grand opening and dedication on February 11, 1904 was “the most brilliant function Fort Dodge social life had ever witnessed,” according to the Messenger.

During two world wars, soldiers were drafted at the Armory, and ration books were issued to residents. After Pearl Harbor, many people worried that armories might be attacked, so soldiers were stationed around the building. It was also used to “capture” those who were not obeying gas rationing.

The basement of the Armory was first used as a rifle range; it has also been used as a shower all for horses, skaters, locker room, and restaurants.

By 1927, the Traffic Bureau, C of 1929, Iowa Airways, A. M. Auto Association, Ft. Dodge Grocers Association, and the Geer Dancing Emporium were added to its use. Over the net years, other companies: R. L. Polk Company, Men’s Civic Glee Club, F. D. Drum Corp, Allied Food Stories, F. D. Community Chest, and the Iowa National Guard and many others were housed at the Armory.

In 1903, Fort Dodge secured the regimental band of the Fifty-sixth Regiment, Iowa National Guards. This organization was composed of members from a number of local musical organizations. Under the leadership of Carl Quist, the band reached a high stage of efficiency, and soon became known among the musical organizations of the state. For five years they played at the Iowa State Fair. Three times they were the official band at the head camp of the Modern Woodmen of America, attending the encampments at Indianapolis, St. Louis and Milwaukee. They were the official band of the Iowa delegation to the national convention of the B. P. O. E. held at Detroit in 19 10. They were also the official band for American Day at the Dominion Fair in Calgary, Alberta, during 1908; and were also the official band for Iowa Day at the World's Fair at St. Louis.

During the year 1910 the band was mustered out of the service of the militia, and since that time has maintained its organization under the name of the Iowa Military Band. The Fort Dodge Armory remained the home for the band.

In 1938, the armory was purchased by Larry and Margaret Geer from the Chamber of Commerce and became the Laramar Ballroom. From the 1930’s to the 1960s it became one of Iowa’s premier ballrooms hosting most the famous big bands of the day and the rock and roll bands of the 50s and 60s. When the ‘Big Bands’ and singers were touring the country, as well as the territorial bands, you could find the best of them right here. Such names as Skippy Anderson, Guy Lombardo, Lawrence Welk, Guy Deleo, Leo Piper, Benny Goodman, Kay Kaiser, The Dorsey Brothers, Woody Herman, Al Minke, Jan Gaber, just to name a few, performed here. In the late 1970s, the Laramar was purchased by Dick and Lee Derrig and operated for twelve years as the Twilight Ballroom.

In 1985, the Derrigs sold the Twilight and the ballroom retained its original name as the Laramar. The ballroom continued to offer various events for the next three decades. In recent years, the Laramar has been used for a variety of purposes: as a site for weddings, mixed martial arts bouts and as a Spanish bar with music and dancing, but has struggled for an identity. The Laramar building remains on at its same location but has been used sporadically for various events and is now vacant and for sale.





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Location: 605 1st Ave N.

Construction Timeline: 1901 - 1903

Architect: Henry Koch

Original Owner: City of Fort Dodge

Size: 2 stories with basement

Purpose of Building: Library

Captain W.H. Johnston is considered the founder of the Fort Dodge Public Library. Captain Johnston had an unselfish commitment to public service and untiring application of his talents to library interests. He was first to establish a private library association in Fort Dodge in 1874. In 1890, the first free public library was opened in Fort Dodge. Captain Johnson induced others to help him in the creation of the small library and reading room in his office. He served gratuitously as the librarian for many years. Nine years later, a group of citizens began planning for a much larger building to house the growing collection of boos. Out of this grew the initiative to build the Fort Dodge Carnegie Library that served the Fort Dodge community for 98 years. The continued desire of the community for high quality library services led to the present Fort Dodge Public Library which largely through the labors of Captain Johnston, has become more than merely a beautiful edifice housing a collection of books, but has developed a deep and genuine taste by the public of Fort Dodge for library advantages.

In June of 1899, Martha Haskell, a local citizen and early library supporter, offered $10,000 for the construction of a new library building. Three other leading citizens, Webb Vincent, O.M. Oleson and George Ringland offered a site on 1st Avenue North and 7th Street and $5,000 if the rest of the community would donate another $8,000. Within three weeks the goal was reached. Shortly after this fundraising campaign, it was discovered a larger sum of money may be available from Andrew Carnegie and his Carnegie Foundation. Carnegie, who made an immense fortune in the steel industry in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, was a nationally known philanthropist that made grants to help communities across the nation construct public libraries. Two prominent Fort Dodgers who lived in Washington D.C., George Roberts, Director of the U. S. Mint, and M. D. O’Connell, Solicitor General of the federal government, were asked to personally contact Carnegie with the city’s request. On Christmas Day 1900, Roberts and O’Connell telegraphed the mayor of Fort Dodge announcing that Carnegie had approved $30,000 for the construction of a new public library building.

The architect for the new building was Henry Koch and the construction was done by Northwestern Building Company – the same architect and construction company that was hired for the new courthouse that was being constructed at the same time.

The building layout was a modification of what was referred to as the “Chariton Plan” which provided for the entrance in the center of the front of the building, a hall leading to the “delivery” room with the stacks directly behind. To one side of the delivery room was a general reading room and to the other was a children’s room. The stone for the new building came in rough from the Black Hills Stone Company, then was smoothed and fashioned on the construction grounds by the cutters. The total cost of the building was $47,293.

The new library was formally dedicated on October 12, 1903. However, from the very beginning, the new building had one major flaw – that being the roof leaked severely, which constantly caused interior damage and staining. For fifteen years, all types of remedial measures were tried to fix the roof, yet all were unsuccessful. In 1919, the library board of trustees committed itself to action to the point of asking two architects to submit repair/improvement plans. T. W. Reely was chosen for the job and recommended that the only real cure would be the addition of a second story, a change which had been allowed for in the original plans in the event more space might be needed in the future.

For the next ten years the proposal was considered, only to be rejected because of a lack of funds and the hope that a cheaper solution might be found. In an attempt to overcome this financial impasse, the state legislators from the county, M. J. Mitchell and C. V. Findlay, who also served as the president of the library board, proposed a bill to the state General Assembly which would give cities in Iowa with a population of 20,000 the power to levy a property tax to provide funds for necessary repairs and alterations to public libraries.

Although the bill passed, nothing was done with the library building until 1929 when the building began to rapidly deteriorate because of the leakage. After 26 years of roof problems, Frank Griffith, a local architect was hired to handle the job of adding a second story, which he estimated the cost at $33,000. However, when the economy and stock market crashed, contractors were eager to get any work they could, and the contract for the second story was awarded to John Smith for only $16,200. Originally, that cost was intended to be covered by a tax payer approved property tax levy, but with the drastically lower bid, the trustees felt that it could come out of the regular budget.

Plans for the new addition called for the west room to serve as the children’s library, which had previously been moved to the basement, a small room on the east to be the board room, a second large room to be an auditorium and another to be used as an art gallery. The construction of the Blanden Gallery changed plans for that gallery room and it became a library for teachers to house reference books, supplemental reading materials and picture collections for classroom use. The second story addition was opened to the public on October 6, 1930.

With the addition of the second floor, the library enjoyed the luxury of having far more space than was needed. In November of 1930, it was decided that the west room in the basement could be used as a museum to collect and preserve data and relics pertaining to Fort Dodge and Webster County history. As the collection expanded, so did the need for more space. In 1934, the adjoining hall was used for the museum and later in 1937, with $1,000 donated by Alice Granger, another room was renovated for additional historical relic exhibit space. The museum remained in those quarters until 1964 when the Fort Museum was established.

The library remained in operation in this building until 2001, when it moved into its new building at 424 Central Ave. The Carnegie building was bought privately and the interior was renovated for market-rate apartments.

Source:

*Roget Natte & Fort Dodge Historical Society





Warden Plaza Building

1922

908 1st Ave S

The sheer half-block size of downtown Fort Dodge’s Warden Plaza is enough to pique one’s curiosity, but a brief glimpse at the building’s rich history confirms its significant place in the city’s past history.

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Webster County Courthouse

1900

701 Central Ave.

The courthouse when finally turned over to the county, was a plain, two story' stone building, fifty by one hundred feet in size. The basement was used for the county jail, the first floor for offices, and the second floor for the courtroom and court offices.

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Location: 629 Central Ave.

Construction Timeline: 1907 – 1908

Architect: Liebbe, Nourse and Rasmussen (Des Moines, IA)

Original Owner: First National Bank

Size: Six stories

Purpose of Building: Bank and office suites

Built in 1907-1908, the First National Bank Building is a prominent landmark in Fort Dodge. The history of the First National Bank runs almost parallel with the development of Fort Dodge since 1866. The officers and directors of the First National Bank were among the city's most prominent businessmen, active in city commerce and politics as well as the regionally important gypsum extraction and milling industry. The bank itself was the most prominent financial institution in Fort Dodge. Costing over $200,000 and rising six stories tall, this building was at its completion the city's most celebrated office structure. For almost 60 years, the building housed one of Fort Dodge's most prominent banks--either the First National Bank or the State Bank--on its first floor. And during this time its upper-level offices were occupied by many of the city's most prestigious commercial and professional tenants. Erected by the city's principal financial institution at the height of its affluence, the First National Bank Building played a pivotal role in early Fort Dodge commerce.

Of the three major banks then operating in the city, by far the most prominent was the First National Bank. This institution had been founded on June 16, 1866, with an initial capitalization of $50,000. Its first officers--Charles B. Richards, President; Charles C. Smeltzer, Vice President; and E.G. Morgan, Cashier--and its directors were prominent businessmen and capitalists in the developing town. Most of the bank's early officers and directors were directly involved in the gypsum industry, through both management and investment. Stillman Meservey and Webb Vincent, co-founders of the formative Fort Dodge Plaster Mills, served as bank presidents between 1890 and 1916. Additionally, directors such as Charles Smeltzer, John Duncombe and E.H. Rich were also heavily involved in the gypsum industry.

The bank initially did business from a small one-story brick building on the corner of Seventh Street and First Avenue South. When Richards resigned as president in 1874, his replacement, E.G. Morgan, moved the bank to 610 Central Avenue a year later. Morgan was succeeded by L. Blanden, bank president between 1875 and 1890, and Blanden was in turn succeeded by Stillman Meservey, who served between 1890 and 1902. It was Meservey who presided over the bank's next move in 1892 to larger quarters at the corner of Sixth and Central. After the turn of the century, Meservey turned over management of the bank to Webb Vincent.

After the turn of the 20th Century, with the region's economy booming and Fort Dodge prospering, Vincent, Rich and the other First National directors began considering another move, this time into a multi-story building that the bank would build. The directors intended their building to serve as a landmark in downtown Fort Dodge, befitting the bank's prestigious standing in the community. Planning for a new structure began in 1906, when they purchased a two-story commercial building at the corner of Seventh and Central, a block down and across the street from their existing facility. In August 1906 the Fort Dodge Messenger announced under the headline, "Sky-Scraper Office Building to be Built," that the bank would raze the existing building on the site and construct a five- or six-story structure to house its offices and provide rental office space for many of Fort Dodge's professionals on the upper floors. To design their new building, the bank directors commissioned Liebbe, Nourse and Rasmussen, one of the state's most prestigious architectural firms.

By the end of January 1907 the architects had drafted plans for the new bank building, which would cost more than $100,000. This move on the part of conservative financiers proves the confidence that is felt in Fort Dodge's future.

In April 1907, C.E. Atkinson of Webster City, Iowa, was awarded the contract for the six-story building. Atkinson's crew began work soon thereafter, demolishing the existing structure on the site and excavating for the foundations that spring. Despite minor delays due to material shortages, the contractors completed the new bank building in April 1908.

As the most extravagant office building in town, the First National Bank Building immediately became home to many of the city's lawyers, doctors, realtors, accountants and gypsum companies. The 1917 city directory, for instance, listed fourteen doctors and dentists, twelve lawyers, seven real estate brokers, six insurance companies and an architect among its tenants. During the 1910s and 1920s, the bank continued to do business from its street-level offices as Fort Dodge's strongest financial institution. In September 1915 the First National acquired the Fort Dodge Savings Bank, the third such institution that it had overtaken since the 1880s. A year later Webb Vincent was succeeded as bank president by E.H. Rich, long-time bank director and one of the principal owners of the Iowa Plaster Association.

Sixteen years later the bank failed. In December 1930 the institution had been reorganized as the First State Bank and Trust Company. But First State was one of the many bank failures in the Great Depression. When President Roosevelt declared a bank holiday in March 1933, the bank closed and did not reopen under its own power. As the First National Bank, it had once boasted $8 million in deposits. After years of decline, a downgrading of its charter and a massive run by its depositors in the 1930s, however, the bank's deposited assets had plummeted to only $355,000 when it finally closed its doors. Placed under state receivership,

First State reopened a short time later on a restricted basis, paying out 50 cents on the dollar to depositors while state auditors liquidated a trust fund formed from frozen assets and real estate holdings. In July 1934 First State closed altogether, and a new institution, the State Bank, opened in the original First National Bank Building.

The State Bank took on many of the depositors who had been burned by the First State's closure. The building itself soon became known as the State Bank Building. By that time several other office structures had been built in downtown Fort Dodge, but this building still housed many of the city's professional elite. When the State Bank moved to new suburban quarters in 1966, the downtown building was acquired by Carleton Beh, a Des Moines capitalist and real estate investor. Beh grandly renamed the structure after himself, though by now its clientele had begun to lack the luster of the bank's heyday. Fewer, less prestigious tenants occupied the building in the 1970s, and by 1980 the Beh Building was largely vacant.

The once prominent and prestigious building remained vacant and the interior spaces slowly deteriorated for a number of years until MDI Limited Partnership, out of St. Paul, Minnesota, purchased the building in 2002. MDI rehabilitated the interior and now the building is home to Central Place Apartments, which provides income-based apartments for senior citizens.

Sources:

*Fort Dodge Historical Society

*National Register of Historic Places