Iconic Buildings

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Charles Granger Blanden had been the mayor of Fort Dodge from 1887 – 1889. He later became a banker in Chicago, and subsequently devoted his time to creating poetry. He was renowned for his poetry, receiving many awards throughout the United States.

Mr. Blanden’s wife Elizabeth was a teacher in Fort Dodge when they lived here. She was the daughter of a Fort Dodge clergyman, Reverend Mills, one time pastor of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church. Later in their lives they moved to California and in 1929, Mrs. Blanden passed away suddenly and unexpectedly.

Mr. Blanden wanted to something to honor his wife’s life and decided to build an art museum, but he wasn’t sure if he should build it in Fort Dodge or in San Diego, California.

A group of ladies that lived in Fort Dodge in the late 1920’s really wanted Mr. Blanden to build the museum here. But at that time, there was a state law that only allowed cities with a population of 50,000 or more people to have a municipal museum. Fort Dodge had around 30,000 people living in it at that time, not enough for a municipal museum. A State Senator from Fort Dodge helped the group and through the Iowa government system, sponsored a law that lowered the population requirement to 20,000 – this way; Fort Dodge could build a museum.

The Blanden Memorial Art Museum was designed by architect E. O. Damon, Jr., of Fort Dodge in 1931 and was modeled after the neo-classical design of the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown, Ohio. The façade (front) of the Blanden was influenced by the architectural design of other builds, such as the Petit Trianon at Versailles near Paris, France.

At the time of the Blanden Memorial Art Musuem’s opening, there were not light fixtures in the galleries, so skylights open to the outside were on the ceilings. These have since been covered, and special light fixtures added that better protect the artwork.

The Blanden Memorial Art Museum continues to be a vibrant art museum in northwest Iowa today. It has multiple exhibits each year, art classes for adults and children, creative community outreach and artist talks throughout the year. The Blanden permanent collection includes the Ann R. Smeltzer Modernist collection of European and American painting and sculpture, the Harold D. Peterson collection of European and American prints, American photography, contemporary American art, Iowa artists and Japanese screens and prints. The Blanden’s mission continues to be to integrate visual arts into everyday life.

Sources:

*Fort Dodge Messenger

*www.blanden.org

*Webster County Historical Society





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. 

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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





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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





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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





Carver Building

1916

1007 & 1003 Central Ave.

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

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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: 908 1st Ave. S

Construction Timeline: 1922 – 1923

Architect: E. O. Damon (Fort Dodge)

Original Owner: Theodora Warden (daughter or Theodore Warden)

Size: 8 stories

Purpose of Building: Retail shops, apartments, office suites

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. The 316,000-square-foot building, located at 908 First Avenue South, represents more than just the architectural skill of E.O. Damon Jr. in combining bricks, mortar and marble; it represents the soul of this Midwest city. From the mid-1920s through 1970, the Warden Plaza Building was the social, economic and political center of Fort Dodge.

The Warden Shops and Apartments are the outgrowth of the original Wahkonsa hotel built by the public spirited men of Fort Dodge, under the name of the Fort Dodge Hotel Company. O. M. Oleson was the principal stock holder of this company. The original building covered two lots at the corner of Central Avenue and Tenth Street, 120 feet on Central Avenue and 140 feet on Tenth Street. It has 165 rooms and four store rooms.

The hotel was first leased to R. W. Johnston and Company, who opened it on September 17th, 1910. On September 9th, 1915, the hotel was sold to Theodore G. Warden of Chicago.

Within a few months after Mr. Warden took over tho Wahkonsa, he decided to enlarge his property, so on April 12th, 1916, he bought the two lots south of the hotel, at the corner of Tenth street and First avenue South. On this property was erected the Annex, four stories in height, which was opened on January 21, 1916.

Early in 1919, Mr. Warden decided that there was an urgent need for kitchenette apartments in Fort Dodge and in May of that year began the construction of three additional floors on the Annex. These floors were completed a year later and contained eighty-five apartment rooms that greatly relieved the housing shortage of the city at that time.

The need for the kitchenette apartments having been demonstrated, and knowing the ever increasing popularity of the specialty shops throughout the country, Mr. Warden decided to erect a building that would offer patrons combined shops, store-rooms and apartments, a combination at that time was rare or unknown in the United States.

Mr. Warden first purchased the three lots just west of his Annex properly on which he proposed to erect the Warden Shops and Apartment building. One of these lots was purchased from Chris Hohn and the other two from the George W. Mason estate.

The excavation for the building began on August 22, 1922. On November 8, 1922, the contract was let to W. J. Zitterell and company for the basement and first floor. They also secured the contract for the super structure, when the other was completed in May, 1923. It took just one year to complete this eight story building.

The new Warden building contained thirty-six shops and five medium sized stores. The three upper floors had 84 apartments, which were mostly of the dinette-kitchenette type, while a few others were labeled "bachelor" type apartments because they did not have the dinette-kitchenette feature. The apartments were seen as ideal living quarters. At that time, every convenience was provided for “eliminating most of the hard work in house-keeping.” The kitchenettes had electric ranges and cabinets; the refrigerators were placed so that the ice, which was furnished for free, could be put in the boxes from a hall; the garbage and waste paper are removed from the hall by the porter.

The first and mezzanine floors were truly a sight to be seen. In addition to the large and beautiful lobby, there were fourteen shops on the first floor that opened on to an eighteen foot L-shaped corridor that faced Ninth street and First avenue South.

On the mezzanine floor was a large and exquisitely furnished lounge that overlooked the lobby. Also on this floor were twenty-two shops of different sizes that opened onto a walk that gave a view of the activities below.

In the basement of the building was a grocery and delicatessen store. The store had a street entrance on Ninth, and an entrance from the apartments. The elevators ran to the basement with a marble hall leading to the grocery. This store was a great convenience for those who lived in the building. They were able to secure their daily needs without leaving the building.

An Amazing Place

“The Warden Plaza was the place to live in Fort Dodge. It was absolutely marvelous,” recalled Drexel Peterson, who was a longtime radio personality for KVFD, which was founded by Ed Breen in the Warden on Christmas Eve 1939 and located there for many years. Peterson and his wife, Ruth, and children Anne and Drexel, Jr., lived in the Warden Apartments from 1945 to 1953, a time when few children lived in the facility.

“It was the only full-service apartment building in Fort Dodge, ant it had elevator and switchboard operators 24 hours a day. There was a head housekeeper, but you took care of your own apartment, and if you had pipe problems in the middle of the night, there was a maintenance man on duty to take care of it,” Peterson said. “There were marvelous people that lived there. Many were doctors, lawyers and people who worked downtown. All in all, it was an amazing place.”

His daughter Anne Miller, who lives in Concord, Mass., has fond memories of living on the fourth floor of the Warden Apartments and exploring the huge building as a child. “As a child I loved it! It used to be the classy place to live. If you didn’t have a house or wanted to live downtown, it was great,” Miller said.

She recalled the beauty salons, barber shops, bakery, drapery shop and “a wonderful place” called the Smoke Shop among other businesses that were located in the north arcade of the Warden Apartments. “The Smoke Shop was like a modern day 7-Eleven. It had pop, chips, cigarettes, cigars, milk, bread, etc., as well as a pinball machine. I wasn’t to hang out there but was sent down to buy bread, milk and pop,” she said.

The mezzanine, which is the floor located between the ground and second floors, “was a fun area as a child,” she said. “It had a huge ornate railing that looked down over the lobby, but half of the open space was filled with offices in the early 1970s.”

On Fort Dodge resident who at one time worked at the Warden as did his father, said the Warden also used to feature a fountain, a marble-adorned front desk, skylights and its own water tower. A well in the basement piped water up to the roof into two 5,000-gallon tanks, which would supply the apartments with water. He added that a Warden resident once told him that there were glass sidewalks in front of the Warden that were illuminated at night and a bowling alley in the basement.

In the fall of 1970, Glen Machovec and William Sergeant bought The Warden from Theodora Westenberger, who was the daughter of Theodore Warden, the original proprietor and visionary of The Warden. The building underwent extensive interior renovations; remodeling the existing apartments and finishing the construction of apartments and office spaces on the third and fourth floors. The office and commercial space on the ground floor and mezzanine remained essentially intact.

In the early 1980’s, many retail businesses were relocating to the Crossroads Mall area on the east side of Fort Dodge, and new office space was being developed in the community. These modifications led to a changing culture in downtown Fort Dodge and the detriment of the Warden Plaza. In 1983, the Warden Plaza was purchased by Real Property Services, a property management company from Carlsbad, California. Unfortunately, this marked the beginning of the slow, but steady demise of the Warden Plaza. In April of 1994, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) foreclosed on the property, due to the owners failing to make payments on the outstanding mortgage of more than $3.5 million.

A few months later, the building was purchased by Barry Smith, a private investor from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Smith had visions of bringing The Warden back to its former glory, however, the cost of the mandatory repairs to the occupied apartments that were needed in order to bring the building up to code along with other issues proved to be too costly for Smith. He sold the property to HLI Properties of Fort Dodge after just two years.

In December of 1996 HLI Properties acquired the ownership and management of The Warden. Deteriorating conditions within the building caused the few remaining tenants to move out of The Warden in 2005 and the building was permanently closed at that time.

From 2005 to 2016, Harvest Baptist Church then the company Corale LLC owned the once iconic building. During this period, The Warden remained vacant and uninhabitable. The interior and exterior became increasingly dilapidated and vandalized.

Fortunately, in June and July of 2016, the City of Fort Dodge was able to take possession of the building as part of a collaborative effort to renovate and restore The Warden back to the grand centerpiece of Fort Dodge that it once was.

For eight decades, the Warden Plaza served as the home for many businesses and organizations, as well as individuals who lived in the Warden apartments. The following is a list of some of the Fort Dodge businesses and organizations that were located in the iconic Warden Plaza building between 1922 – 2000.

· World Travel AAA

· AAA Motor Club of Iowa

· Otis Elevator

· Farmers National Co.

· Xerox

· Eddie Quinn Clothier

· Mid States Commodities Inc.

· Jet Print

· KSMX – Radio Station

· Maiwurm Assoc. – Architects

· Iowa Farms Associates

· Mid States Grain

· Equifax Inc.

· Land and Water Publication

· Bolt Security

· Heights Finance Corp.

· Schlotfeldt Engineering Inc.

· Webster County Red Cross

· Webster Construction

· Louis Rabiner Trust

· W. W. Wilson – Insurance

· One Hour Martinizing

· Household Finance Corp.

· Woodruff – Evans Construction

· Secretarial Answering Service

· Svana’s Imports

· Lakota Girl Scouts

· Bob Singer Insurance Agency

· KVFD – Radio Station

· March of Dimes

· Birthright

· Bergman Photos

· Old Northwest Co. – Insurance

· Mr. Bob’s Shoe Shine

· Aunt Nancy’s Day Care Center

· Comedia Musica Players

· Rasch Construction

· County Furs

· McClure Engineering

· Herbert-Hansen Fur Company

· The Terrace Lounge

· The 34th Club

· Home Federal Savings

· Katy’s Alterations

· Eddie’s Grocery

· Waller-Wendling Assoc. – Insurance

· Stark, Crumley & Jacobs – Attorneys

· Fort Dodge Chamber of Commerce

· City of FD Community Development Office

· Sergeant & Sergeant – Attorneys

· Sample Alley – Women’s Clothing

· Dr. Walter Gower & Dr. Matt Sander’s Office

The Fort Dodge Laboratories occupied the third floor and Quaker Oats occupied the second floor, which were later turned into residential floors.

Warden ownership timeline:

1924 – 1970: Theodora Westenberger (Warden)

1970 – 1983: Warden Plaza Partnership (Glen Machovec & William Sergeant)

1983 – 1994: Real Property Services – Carlsbad, CA

1994 – 1996: Barry B. Smith – Cedar Rapids, IA

1996 – 2005: HLI Properties, Inc. – Fort Dodge, IA

2005 – 2008: Harvest Baptist Church – Fort Dodge, IA

2009 – 2016: Corale LLC

2016 – 2017: City of Fort Dodge

2017 – Present: KDG LLC

Sources:

*The Messenger & Chronicle. November 8, 1924

*Fort Dodge Messenger. October 8, 1970

*Fort Dodge Today. Beth Buehler. February 199





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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: 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





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Location: 819 1st Ave. S

Construction Timeline: 1914 – 1915

Architect: E. O. Damon (Fort Dodge)

Original Owner: City of Fort Dodge

Size: 2 stories with basement

Purpose of Building: Municipal building for all of the city’s departments, police, jail and fire department

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. Up until that point, the city’s offices and departments were scattered around the town.

The city commissioners had their offices in the court house. The police, city jail and central fire station were located in a building one block south of the court house. A half block east of the fire station, the city leased ground for the storing of its hook and ladder truck for the fire department. Across the street from that was the Duncombe Auto Company, where the fire department was able to keep their chemical wagon. In the Keenan building, half a block west of the central fire department was fire station Number 2 for the hose wagon and horses. On the lot next to the Keenan building, a section of open land was rented to store more fire equipment. The city engineer’s office was on the second floor of the Butler and Ryan building on North 7th street, over the Independent Printing Company.

With the increasing population and prominence of Fort Dodge, having one location for the city’s departments was necessary for the efficiency of the city departments operation and the progressive and professional appearance of growing Fort Dodge.

On Tuesday, June 30, 1914, the city commissioners held a public vote on the issuance of $100,000 bonds with which to purchase the site and pay for the construction of a new city hall on First Avenue South and Ninth Street. Women were allowed to participate in this vote, however, separate ballots were printed for men and women. The June 29, 1914 edition of The Fort Dodge Messenger reported the city council planed “a building that will be large enough for future needs. It will contain a modern jail in place of the present quarters that have been condemned repeatedly by grand juries. It will contain adequate quarters for the police department. The fire department apparatus, instead of being housed in various places about the city to the detriment of quick work, will be where it will be instantly available. The city engineer’s office and that of superintendent of sewers and water works will be under one roof with the rest of the departments.”

The proposition for the issuance of bonds for a new city hall passed by a majority of only 56. Men cast a total of 899 votes and women of 124. The men returned a majority of 82, but the women voted down the proposition by 26.

After the passing of the proposition, the city quickly began to advertise and seek out buyers for the $100,000 bonds. However, the outbreak of World War 1, which occurred just days earlier, greatly upset the world financial markets. It was reported there was an urgency to sell American securities by Europeans who had to have the gold that there was no demand for five percent bonds, which was what the city of Fort Dodge was trying to market. On November 16th, the city agreed to sell $80,000 in five percent bonds to C. W. McNear & Company of Chicago. Eight days later, the city contracted with the J. B. Evans Construction Company of Mexico, Missouri, for their bid of $68,920 for the general construction work of the new city hall building. Excavation of the land then construction began shortly thereafter.

Although this project was viewed as a major and necessary improvement for Fort Dodge, a certain aspect of the funding was met with opposition. On August 5, 1915, Charles Trost filed an action asking that Mayor John Ford and Councilmen C. H. Smith and F. W. Collins be restrained from spending more than the approved $100,000 for the new city hall project. Trost claimed to have been “credibly informed” that the project will cost about $120,000 and that the city council intends to pay the $40,000 difference out of the general funds. Trost also alleged that he had information regarding the city paying J. J. Ryan and Richard Snell $27,000 for the site of the new city hall and that Councilman Collins had already negotiated the sale of $3,200 worth of general fund warrants to fulfill obligations in connection with the construction of the building. He also claimed he had information about the city administration’s plan to borrow $40,000 on the city’s credit and issue bonds to be paid from the general fund. Trost believed this was illegal and asked for a restraining order against it.

A few days later, Frank Maher, attorney for the Evans Construction Company, made a public statement saying they were owed a payment from the city for $3,750 for work that had been completed and if they did not receive that payment, work on the city hall would be suspended until payment is made. The next day, Councilmen Collins and Smith addressed the issue and acknowledged that payment had not yet been made. Smith went on to say the usual time for submitting payment requests and estimates was between the tenth and fifteenth of the month and the payment request in question was submitted prior to the permitted timeframe. There was no dispute over the payment request and Smith said it would be processed and taken up in the usual course of business. The payment was made to Evans Construction on the same payment schedule as the six previous payments were made.

On August 17th, the trial of the suit for injunction brought by Charles Trost against the city was held. Before Judge R. M. Wright, testimony was heard from Trost, Councilman F. W. Collins- head of the department of accounts and finance for the city, W. L. Tang- city clerk, and Otto Weiss- city assessor.

The Fort Dodge Messenger reported that late in the hearing, Trost asked for a dismissal of the case. Judge Wright denied this request and said this case was of great concern to the people of Fort Dodge and these issues should be examined. The next day, Judge Wright made his ruling which denied the injunction restraining the city council from using money from the city’s general fund to cover any costs that were more than the voter-approved $100,000 for the city hall project. According to The Fort Dodge Messenger, Judge Wright found the following:

1. That the defendants have been guilty of serious and very reprehend sensible irregularities.

2. That they have made the moneys of one fund perform the function of moneys of another and different fund in the manner not only not contemplated by the statute, but against both its letter and spirit.

3. I do not find, however, that any intentional wrong has been committed by the defendants, nor do I find that, because of such irregularities, any such injury (as complained of) is contemplated by them in the future as would warrant or call for the issuance of a temporary injunction at this time. The application for the writ is, therefore, denied and the plaintiff excepts.

Work on the new city hall continued and became open for business in early December of 1915. The following is from an article in The Fort Dodge Messenger describing the layout of the building.

Fireproof from top to bottom, it will furnish a city hall of adequate size when Fort Dodge reaches a population of 50,000.

In back of the first corridor are rooms for meter reader and repairer, coal bunkers and boiler rooms, a “bull pen” for the police where drunks may be kept and storage quarters under the fire department.

On the first floor opposite the head of the stairs leading to that floor, are the quarters for the city clerk. A long counter faces the lobby. Two private rooms also are provided for the use of the clerk. At the east end of the building are the offices for councilmen and at the other end, are the offices for the mayor and the water department. Opening from the hall near the mayor’s office is the council room.

On the second floor, some rooms will be vacant at the east end of the building to be used when necessary in the future. At the other end of the building are the office of the chief of police and locker room for the patrolmen. Over the city clerk’s office is the court room where police court is held.

The west wing of the building will be for the police. A jail, as complete as any in the middle west, with separate wards for women, juveniles and men, is to be found. The jail is connected with the first floor by a stairway. Underneath the jail is room for the patrol wagon and other police equipment.

In the east wing of the structure is the fire department. The big room on the ground floor with its high ceiling will house the apparatus. The big doors swing our on Ninth Street. On the second floor are the dormitories and gymnasium for the firemen.

In the basement in the rear are driveways and garage rooms. The driveway will also be used by coal wagons and delivery of coal to the bunkers will be easy.

Fort Dodge’s new city hall was considered one of the best in the state and the concept of one building that housed the city administration, police department, jail, city court and fire department was one of the first such municipal buildings in the state. The layout and construction of the building were both seemingly very well done because over the years, virtually no changes or repairs to the building were needed. In 1966, the Fire Department moved to 1515 Central Avenue and is still located here. In the early 1980s, the Fort Dodge Police Department and the Webster County Sheriff’s Department moved into the new constructed County Law Enforcement Center at 701 First Avenue South.

A 1984 renovation plan which was not carried out, called for moving the City Council meeting room to the ground floor on the Ninth Street side of the building.

In 2002, Haila Engineering Group Ltd., of Boone, prepared a plan for renovating the building. The estimated price of that project was $5,485,000. Two years later, that same firm returned with a plan for an entirely new Municipal Building at the corner of Eighth Street and Second Avenue South that would cost between $5 million to $5.8 million. Both plans were rejected.

In 2008, a new roof was installed. In 2011 and 2012, the boilers were replaced, the concrete floor in the boiler room was repaired, a ventilation system was installed and a new electrical service connection was put in place.

In July of 2016 a major interior renovation project was completed. An old garage port that was originally used by the fire department then subsequently housed various city vehicles and abandoned bicycles collected by police officers was transformed into a very modern and accommodating City Council meeting room that can seat an audience of more than 100 people. An elevator was installed in the southeast corner of the building that could provide access to all levels of the building and the original steps on the front of the building were replaced.

Another remodeling project was completed in January of 2018. The Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department offices were moved from the back of the building to an area in the front where the city clerk’s office used to be. The move provided for easier access to the office for walk-in customers.

The utility billing office was remodeled and restrooms the second floor were updated.

Today, the Fort Dodge City Hall / Municipal Building continues to house the offices for the city’s administrative departments. This building is a significant historical and architectural landmark in Fort Dodge. The fact that this structure has, and continues to serve the city as the municipal building without any major repairs or a dire need for more space, serves as a major testament to the city leaders and architects who designed this building for that exact purpose – to be able to adequately serve and meet the needs of Fort Dodge as a municipal building for numerous generations.

Sources:

*The Fort Dodge Messenger. February 24, 1914

*The Fort Dodge Messenger. June 29, 1914

*The Fort Dodge Messenger. July 1, 1914

*The Fort Dodge Messenger. July 2, 1914

*The Fort Dodge Messenger. August 15, 1914

*The Fort Dodge Messenger. November 2, 1914

*The Fort Dodge Messenger. November 24, 1914

*The Fort Dodge Messenger. November 16, 1914

*The Fort Dodge Messenger. August 5, 1915

*The Fort Dodge Messenger. August 9, 1915

*The Fort Dodge Messenger. August 10, 1915

*The Fort Dodge Messenger. August 17, 1915

*The Fort Dodge Messenger. August 18, 1915

*The Fort Dodge Messenger. November 20, 1915

*The Fort Dodge Messenger. January 25, 1916

*The Messenger. February 26, 2008

*The Messenger. July 17, 2016

*The Messenger. April 11, 2017





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: 701 Central Ave.

Construction Timeline: 1900 – 1902

Architect: Henry C. Koch

Original Owner: Webster County

Size: 4 stories

Purpose of Building: Courthouse and city/county government

In 1856, Fort Dodge became the county seat for Webster County. John Duncombe led the movement of petitioning the court for an election to be held to vote on the issue of moving the county seat from Homer to Fort Dodge, with Fort Dodge coming out victorious. The population of Webster county in 1859, according to an old manuscript, had reached about 4,500. The census returns for that year, however, showed but 2,596. Whichever may be correct, a courthouse was needed, and had been talked of ever since the locating of the county seat at Fort Dodge. The question of the building was submitted to the voters the first Monday in April, 1859, and carried by a majority of 200.

Webster county's title to her first courthouse site in Fort Dodge, and which is still the present site, bears date of August 20, 1858. The grantor is Jesse Williams, trustee, by his attorney in fact, William Williams. The name of John F. Duncombe appears in the transaction, as the notary whose seal was affixed to the document.

The contract for the new courthouse was let by the county judge, L. L. Pease, to Jenkins and Merritt, and afterwards they sublet to Sweeney and Tierney. The original contract price was $39,450.00. To this had been added several items making the figure just a little within the $50,000 limit set in the proposition to build. The designs for the building were drawn but various changes were made, however, before the building was completed. The corner stone of the building was laid May 8, 1859.

No sooner was the building begun, however, than trouble commenced. The designs were constantly undergoing change. Many mistakes were made. It was difficult to get labor or material and project became underfunded, which proved a most serious problem. The time of completion had been extended two years and yet the first story was still not finished. The lack of funds to carry on the work proved a most serious problem and the animosities of the county seat fight were still active.

It was at this point that Thomas Snell of the firm of Snell & Taylor, high respected contractors, was urged by the leading citizens of Fort Dodge to undertake the work. This he finally consented to do, and the contract was assigned to his firm, and by them, completed.

Yet with the new contractors the building did not go on so smoothly. Numerous conflicts arose including the delays with the project, the many changes that were made, and accusations of fraud. The underlying problem that seemed to be the foundation of so much distrust and dissatisfaction was the continued hard feelings within the county over the legality of the vote that moved the county seat to Fort Dodge. Bitter personal feelings festered around the county seat fight. At last, worn out with fighting, the county leaders came to their senses, for the time being, intense personal feelings were eventually overcome by better reasoning, and the difficulties were adjusted and the county seat fight was ended.

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. This building during its entire existence was being remodeled and repaired. After a number of years a clock tower was added, and the stairway leading to the courtroom was changed. Still later rooms were fitted up for the federal court offices.

But all these changes could not keep pace with the growth of the county. The county superintendent's office was forced out and across the street to the Doud block. In 1885 Judge Henderson of the district court declared the jail quarters unsanitary and ordered the prisoners confined in the Hamilton county jail. In view of this latter condition. Captain S. J. Benett, a member of the Board of Supervisors, introduced a resolution before that body calling for a vote upon a three mill tax levy to build a jail. On the first submission to the voters of the county it was lost; but the next year upon resubmission it was carried.

The jail when constructed was of brick, two stories in height, and standing at the southeast corner of the courthouse. It contained four cells and corridors, which could also be used for the honest prisoners. The building was not the most confining and several deliveries were made out of it.

The changes in the courthouse were but temporary makeshifts. The conditions were still crowded. During the last session of the Board of Supervisors for the year 1898, and the January session of the following year, the board were besieged with petitions from every county officer telling of the crowded and unsafe condition of the county vaults. A new courthouse seemed absolutely necessary. A committee consisting of S. J. Bennett, Andrew Hannon, Swan Johnson, and T. J. Ryan were appointed by the board to investigate the conditions and to make a report at the April session. At this session the committee reported in favor of building a new courthouse. The board, however, took no action upon the matter during that session. Again in September the committee reported in favor of a new building and most strongly urged that it be started at once. This time the board unanimously adopted the resolution and ordered it submitted to the voters at the general election to be held November 7, 1899. The vote stood 2,394 for and 1,146 against, being a majority of 1,248 in favor of building.

Many people favored the construction of the new building upon a larger site, and for this reason wanted the old site sold and a new one purchased with the proceeds. Investigation, however, showed that the deed by which the county acquired the site, made it revert back to the original owner, when it ceased to be used for courthouse purposes. Rather than lose this valuable property it was deemed best to build upon the old site.

Plans for the new four-story building were submitted to the board February 1, 1900. The new stone building represented a significant expansion over its predecessor. After a careful consideration those submitted by H. C. Koch & Co., of Milwaukee. were accepted. Later the contract for the building was let to the Northern Building Company of Minneapolis at their bid of $99,720.00 and Mr. C. B. Hepler of Fort Dodge was appointed as superintendent of construction. The contract called for the completion of the building by November 1, 1901. This time was later extended to March 1, 1902. The formal dedication of the building was held Friday, September 12, 1902, and on the following Monday the county officials moved into their new home. The building was accepted by the board October 11, 1902.

The razing of the old building and the constructing of the new courthouse building was due to the work of Captain S. J. Bennett, chairman of the building committee. He devoted practically his entire time to the task; and in the efficient public work, which he did. He won the approval of every loyal citizen and taxpayer of the county.

On September 11, 1902, the county officers were all at home in their new quarters, and during the evening a concert was given by the Fort Dodge Military Band. The formal dedication was held the next morning. Special trains brought people from all parts of the county. Senator Jonathan P. Dolliver acted as presiding officer and made the first address. He was followed by Senator T. D. Healy, and Hon. R. M. Wright. Proud as were many of the younger citizens of the county of the structure, which they had helped to build, their pride could not equal that of those pioneers, who had outlived the decay of two courthouses, and who out of the wildness had wrought the means with which to frame the magnificent county home. They were the true builders.

Today, the courthouse is the site of much local and regional government business and offices for the state courts of the Second Judicial District.

Sources:

*The Fort Dodge Messenger. September 12, 1902

*The Fort Dodge Messenger. December 13, 1902

*The History of Fort Dodge and Webster County… by H.M. Pratt

History of Courthouse Restoration

Year Phase Amount

1980 Specifications for Courthouse Repair and Jail Removal from the Courthouse $98,780.60

1985-1986 Exterior Restoration $313,888.70
*Cleaning & repair of Limestone
*Restoration of copper clock tower
*Replacement of flat and sloped roof areas
*Replacement of exterior atrium skylight

1987 Phase I Renovation $113,966.00
*Data processing department – 4th floor
*Replacement of electrical panels/services to all floors

1988-1989 Phase II Renovation $465,345.00
*County Engineers Office – 4th floor
*Three Judges Chambers – 4th floor
*Main entry – 1st floor
*Rework Atrium handrails – 2nd and 3rd floors
*Main District Courtroom – 3rd floor

1991-1992 Phase III Renovation $202,477.80
*District Court Administrator Office – 4th floor

1993-1994 Phase IV Renovation $593,870.80
*County Treasurer Office – 1st floor
*Motor Vehicle Department – 1st floor
*Small Claims Court Office – 1st floor
*Sprinkler Main Entrance
*Central Cooling Equipment installed

1997-present Final Renovation Phase V $2,500,000.00
*Renovate 2nd floor – County Offices
*Renovate 3rd floor – Judicial Spaces
*Handicapped accessible restrooms – 2nd & 3rd floors
*Handicapped accessible elevator
*Completion of sprinkler system
*Completion of central cooling system

Grand Total $4,288,328.90





sears 1.jpg

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Location: 701 Central Ave.

Construction Timeline: 1900 – 1902

Architect: Henry C. Koch

Original Owner: Webster County

Size: 4 stories

Purpose of Building: Courthouse and city/county government

In 1856, Fort Dodge became the county seat for Webster County. John Duncombe led the movement of petitioning the court for an election to be held to vote on the issue of moving the county seat from Homer to Fort Dodge, with Fort Dodge coming out victorious. The population of Webster county in 1859, according to an old manuscript, had reached about 4,500. The census returns for that year, however, showed but 2,596. Whichever may be correct, a courthouse was needed, and had been talked of ever since the locating of the county seat at Fort Dodge. The question of the building was submitted to the voters the first Monday in April, 1859, and carried by a majority of 200.

Webster county's title to her first courthouse site in Fort Dodge, and which is still the present site, bears date of August 20, 1858. The grantor is Jesse Williams, trustee, by his attorney in fact, William Williams. The name of John F. Duncombe appears in the transaction, as the notary whose seal was affixed to the document.

The contract for the new courthouse was let by the county judge, L. L. Pease, to Jenkins and Merritt, and afterwards they sublet to Sweeney and Tierney. The original contract price was $39,450.00. To this had been added several items making the figure just a little within the $50,000 limit set in the proposition to build. The designs for the building were drawn but various changes were made, however, before the building was completed. The corner stone of the building was laid May 8, 1859.

No sooner was the building begun, however, than trouble commenced. The designs were constantly undergoing change. Many mistakes were made. It was difficult to get labor or material and project became underfunded, which proved a most serious problem. The time of completion had been extended two years and yet the first story was still not finished. The lack of funds to carry on the work proved a most serious problem and the animosities of the county seat fight were still active.

It was at this point that Thomas Snell of the firm of Snell & Taylor, high respected contractors, was urged by the leading citizens of Fort Dodge to undertake the work. This he finally consented to do, and the contract was assigned to his firm, and by them, completed.

Yet with the new contractors the building did not go on so smoothly. Numerous conflicts arose including the delays with the project, the many changes that were made, and accusations of fraud. The underlying problem that seemed to be the foundation of so much distrust and dissatisfaction was the continued hard feelings within the county over the legality of the vote that moved the county seat to Fort Dodge. Bitter personal feelings festered around the county seat fight. At last, worn out with fighting, the county leaders came to their senses, for the time being, intense personal feelings were eventually overcome by better reasoning, and the difficulties were adjusted and the county seat fight was ended.

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. This building during its entire existence was being remodeled and repaired. After a number of years a clock tower was added, and the stairway leading to the courtroom was changed. Still later rooms were fitted up for the federal court offices.

But all these changes could not keep pace with the growth of the county. The county superintendent's office was forced out and across the street to the Doud block. In 1885 Judge Henderson of the district court declared the jail quarters unsanitary and ordered the prisoners confined in the Hamilton county jail. In view of this latter condition. Captain S. J. Benett, a member of the Board of Supervisors, introduced a resolution before that body calling for a vote upon a three mill tax levy to build a jail. On the first submission to the voters of the county it was lost; but the next year upon resubmission it was carried.

The jail when constructed was of brick, two stories in height, and standing at the southeast corner of the courthouse. It contained four cells and corridors, which could also be used for the honest prisoners. The building was not the most confining and several deliveries were made out of it.

The changes in the courthouse were but temporary makeshifts. The conditions were still crowded. During the last session of the Board of Supervisors for the year 1898, and the January session of the following year, the board were besieged with petitions from every county officer telling of the crowded and unsafe condition of the county vaults. A new courthouse seemed absolutely necessary. A committee consisting of S. J. Bennett, Andrew Hannon, Swan Johnson, and T. J. Ryan were appointed by the board to investigate the conditions and to make a report at the April session. At this session the committee reported in favor of building a new courthouse. The board, however, took no action upon the matter during that session. Again in September the committee reported in favor of a new building and most strongly urged that it be started at once. This time the board unanimously adopted the resolution and ordered it submitted to the voters at the general election to be held November 7, 1899. The vote stood 2,394 for and 1,146 against, being a majority of 1,248 in favor of building.

Many people favored the construction of the new building upon a larger site, and for this reason wanted the old site sold and a new one purchased with the proceeds. Investigation, however, showed that the deed by which the county acquired the site, made it revert back to the original owner, when it ceased to be used for courthouse purposes. Rather than lose this valuable property it was deemed best to build upon the old site.

Plans for the new four-story building were submitted to the board February 1, 1900. The new stone building represented a significant expansion over its predecessor. After a careful consideration those submitted by H. C. Koch & Co., of Milwaukee. were accepted. Later the contract for the building was let to the Northern Building Company of Minneapolis at their bid of $99,720.00 and Mr. C. B. Hepler of Fort Dodge was appointed as superintendent of construction. The contract called for the completion of the building by November 1, 1901. This time was later extended to March 1, 1902. The formal dedication of the building was held Friday, September 12, 1902, and on the following Monday the county officials moved into their new home. The building was accepted by the board October 11, 1902.

The razing of the old building and the constructing of the new courthouse building was due to the work of Captain S. J. Bennett, chairman of the building committee. He devoted practically his entire time to the task; and in the efficient public work, which he did. He won the approval of every loyal citizen and taxpayer of the county.

On September 11, 1902, the county officers were all at home in their new quarters, and during the evening a concert was given by the Fort Dodge Military Band. The formal dedication was held the next morning. Special trains brought people from all parts of the county. Senator Jonathan P. Dolliver acted as presiding officer and made the first address. He was followed by Senator T. D. Healy, and Hon. R. M. Wright. Proud as were many of the younger citizens of the county of the structure, which they had helped to build, their pride could not equal that of those pioneers, who had outlived the decay of two courthouses, and who out of the wildness had wrought the means with which to frame the magnificent county home. They were the true builders.

Today, the courthouse is the site of much local and regional government business and offices for the state courts of the Second Judicial District.

Sources:

*The Fort Dodge Messenger. September 12, 1902

*The Fort Dodge Messenger. December 13, 1902

*The History of Fort Dodge and Webster County… by H.M. Pratt

History of Courthouse Restoration

Year Phase Amount

1980 Specifications for Courthouse Repair and Jail Removal from the Courthouse $98,780.60

1985-1986 Exterior Restoration $313,888.70
*Cleaning & repair of Limestone
*Restoration of copper clock tower
*Replacement of flat and sloped roof areas
*Replacement of exterior atrium skylight

1987 Phase I Renovation $113,966.00
*Data processing department – 4th floor
*Replacement of electrical panels/services to all floors

1988-1989 Phase II Renovation $465,345.00
*County Engineers Office – 4th floor
*Three Judges Chambers – 4th floor
*Main entry – 1st floor
*Rework Atrium handrails – 2nd and 3rd floors
*Main District Courtroom – 3rd floor

1991-1992 Phase III Renovation $202,477.80
*District Court Administrator Office – 4th floor

1993-1994 Phase IV Renovation $593,870.80
*County Treasurer Office – 1st floor
*Motor Vehicle Department – 1st floor
*Small Claims Court Office – 1st floor
*Sprinkler Main Entrance
*Central Cooling Equipment installed

1997-present Final Renovation Phase V $2,500,000.00
*Renovate 2nd floor – County Offices
*Renovate 3rd floor – Judicial Spaces
*Handicapped accessible restrooms – 2nd & 3rd floors
*Handicapped accessible elevator
*Completion of sprinkler system
*Completion of central cooling system

Grand Total $4,288,328.90





Snell Building

1915

805 Central Ave.

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

snell 1.jpg
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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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





wahkonsa 3.jpg

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Location: 701 Central Ave.

Construction Timeline: 1900 – 1902

Architect: Henry C. Koch

Original Owner: Webster County

Size: 4 stories

Purpose of Building: Courthouse and city/county government

In 1856, Fort Dodge became the county seat for Webster County. John Duncombe led the movement of petitioning the court for an election to be held to vote on the issue of moving the county seat from Homer to Fort Dodge, with Fort Dodge coming out victorious. The population of Webster county in 1859, according to an old manuscript, had reached about 4,500. The census returns for that year, however, showed but 2,596. Whichever may be correct, a courthouse was needed, and had been talked of ever since the locating of the county seat at Fort Dodge. The question of the building was submitted to the voters the first Monday in April, 1859, and carried by a majority of 200.

Webster county's title to her first courthouse site in Fort Dodge, and which is still the present site, bears date of August 20, 1858. The grantor is Jesse Williams, trustee, by his attorney in fact, William Williams. The name of John F. Duncombe appears in the transaction, as the notary whose seal was affixed to the document.

The contract for the new courthouse was let by the county judge, L. L. Pease, to Jenkins and Merritt, and afterwards they sublet to Sweeney and Tierney. The original contract price was $39,450.00. To this had been added several items making the figure just a little within the $50,000 limit set in the proposition to build. The designs for the building were drawn but various changes were made, however, before the building was completed. The corner stone of the building was laid May 8, 1859.

No sooner was the building begun, however, than trouble commenced. The designs were constantly undergoing change. Many mistakes were made. It was difficult to get labor or material and project became underfunded, which proved a most serious problem. The time of completion had been extended two years and yet the first story was still not finished. The lack of funds to carry on the work proved a most serious problem and the animosities of the county seat fight were still active.

It was at this point that Thomas Snell of the firm of Snell & Taylor, high respected contractors, was urged by the leading citizens of Fort Dodge to undertake the work. This he finally consented to do, and the contract was assigned to his firm, and by them, completed.

Yet with the new contractors the building did not go on so smoothly. Numerous conflicts arose including the delays with the project, the many changes that were made, and accusations of fraud. The underlying problem that seemed to be the foundation of so much distrust and dissatisfaction was the continued hard feelings within the county over the legality of the vote that moved the county seat to Fort Dodge. Bitter personal feelings festered around the county seat fight. At last, worn out with fighting, the county leaders came to their senses, for the time being, intense personal feelings were eventually overcome by better reasoning, and the difficulties were adjusted and the county seat fight was ended.

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. This building during its entire existence was being remodeled and repaired. After a number of years a clock tower was added, and the stairway leading to the courtroom was changed. Still later rooms were fitted up for the federal court offices.

But all these changes could not keep pace with the growth of the county. The county superintendent's office was forced out and across the street to the Doud block. In 1885 Judge Henderson of the district court declared the jail quarters unsanitary and ordered the prisoners confined in the Hamilton county jail. In view of this latter condition. Captain S. J. Benett, a member of the Board of Supervisors, introduced a resolution before that body calling for a vote upon a three mill tax levy to build a jail. On the first submission to the voters of the county it was lost; but the next year upon resubmission it was carried.

The jail when constructed was of brick, two stories in height, and standing at the southeast corner of the courthouse. It contained four cells and corridors, which could also be used for the honest prisoners. The building was not the most confining and several deliveries were made out of it.

The changes in the courthouse were but temporary makeshifts. The conditions were still crowded. During the last session of the Board of Supervisors for the year 1898, and the January session of the following year, the board were besieged with petitions from every county officer telling of the crowded and unsafe condition of the county vaults. A new courthouse seemed absolutely necessary. A committee consisting of S. J. Bennett, Andrew Hannon, Swan Johnson, and T. J. Ryan were appointed by the board to investigate the conditions and to make a report at the April session. At this session the committee reported in favor of building a new courthouse. The board, however, took no action upon the matter during that session. Again in September the committee reported in favor of a new building and most strongly urged that it be started at once. This time the board unanimously adopted the resolution and ordered it submitted to the voters at the general election to be held November 7, 1899. The vote stood 2,394 for and 1,146 against, being a majority of 1,248 in favor of building.

Many people favored the construction of the new building upon a larger site, and for this reason wanted the old site sold and a new one purchased with the proceeds. Investigation, however, showed that the deed by which the county acquired the site, made it revert back to the original owner, when it ceased to be used for courthouse purposes. Rather than lose this valuable property it was deemed best to build upon the old site.

Plans for the new four-story building were submitted to the board February 1, 1900. The new stone building represented a significant expansion over its predecessor. After a careful consideration those submitted by H. C. Koch & Co., of Milwaukee. were accepted. Later the contract for the building was let to the Northern Building Company of Minneapolis at their bid of $99,720.00 and Mr. C. B. Hepler of Fort Dodge was appointed as superintendent of construction. The contract called for the completion of the building by November 1, 1901. This time was later extended to March 1, 1902. The formal dedication of the building was held Friday, September 12, 1902, and on the following Monday the county officials moved into their new home. The building was accepted by the board October 11, 1902.

The razing of the old building and the constructing of the new courthouse building was due to the work of Captain S. J. Bennett, chairman of the building committee. He devoted practically his entire time to the task; and in the efficient public work, which he did. He won the approval of every loyal citizen and taxpayer of the county.

On September 11, 1902, the county officers were all at home in their new quarters, and during the evening a concert was given by the Fort Dodge Military Band. The formal dedication was held the next morning. Special trains brought people from all parts of the county. Senator Jonathan P. Dolliver acted as presiding officer and made the first address. He was followed by Senator T. D. Healy, and Hon. R. M. Wright. Proud as were many of the younger citizens of the county of the structure, which they had helped to build, their pride could not equal that of those pioneers, who had outlived the decay of two courthouses, and who out of the wildness had wrought the means with which to frame the magnificent county home. They were the true builders.

Today, the courthouse is the site of much local and regional government business and offices for the state courts of the Second Judicial District.

Sources:

*The Fort Dodge Messenger. September 12, 1902

*The Fort Dodge Messenger. December 13, 1902

*The History of Fort Dodge and Webster County… by H.M. Pratt

History of Courthouse Restoration

Year Phase Amount

1980 Specifications for Courthouse Repair and Jail Removal from the Courthouse $98,780.60

1985-1986 Exterior Restoration $313,888.70
*Cleaning & repair of Limestone
*Restoration of copper clock tower
*Replacement of flat and sloped roof areas
*Replacement of exterior atrium skylight

1987 Phase I Renovation $113,966.00
*Data processing department – 4th floor
*Replacement of electrical panels/services to all floors

1988-1989 Phase II Renovation $465,345.00
*County Engineers Office – 4th floor
*Three Judges Chambers – 4th floor
*Main entry – 1st floor
*Rework Atrium handrails – 2nd and 3rd floors
*Main District Courtroom – 3rd floor

1991-1992 Phase III Renovation $202,477.80
*District Court Administrator Office – 4th floor

1993-1994 Phase IV Renovation $593,870.80
*County Treasurer Office – 1st floor
*Motor Vehicle Department – 1st floor
*Small Claims Court Office – 1st floor
*Sprinkler Main Entrance
*Central Cooling Equipment installed

1997-present Final Renovation Phase V $2,500,000.00
*Renovate 2nd floor – County Offices
*Renovate 3rd floor – Judicial Spaces
*Handicapped accessible restrooms – 2nd & 3rd floors
*Handicapped accessible elevator
*Completion of sprinkler system
*Completion of central cooling system

Grand Total $4,288,328.90





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.

warden.jpg
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.

webster county courthouse 1.jpg

Read More


Location: 701 Central Ave.

Construction Timeline: 1900 – 1902

Architect: Henry C. Koch

Original Owner: Webster County

Size: 4 stories

Purpose of Building: Courthouse and city/county government

In 1856, Fort Dodge became the county seat for Webster County. John Duncombe led the movement of petitioning the court for an election to be held to vote on the issue of moving the county seat from Homer to Fort Dodge, with Fort Dodge coming out victorious. The population of Webster county in 1859, according to an old manuscript, had reached about 4,500. The census returns for that year, however, showed but 2,596. Whichever may be correct, a courthouse was needed, and had been talked of ever since the locating of the county seat at Fort Dodge. The question of the building was submitted to the voters the first Monday in April, 1859, and carried by a majority of 200.

Webster county's title to her first courthouse site in Fort Dodge, and which is still the present site, bears date of August 20, 1858. The grantor is Jesse Williams, trustee, by his attorney in fact, William Williams. The name of John F. Duncombe appears in the transaction, as the notary whose seal was affixed to the document.

The contract for the new courthouse was let by the county judge, L. L. Pease, to Jenkins and Merritt, and afterwards they sublet to Sweeney and Tierney. The original contract price was $39,450.00. To this had been added several items making the figure just a little within the $50,000 limit set in the proposition to build. The designs for the building were drawn but various changes were made, however, before the building was completed. The corner stone of the building was laid May 8, 1859.

No sooner was the building begun, however, than trouble commenced. The designs were constantly undergoing change. Many mistakes were made. It was difficult to get labor or material and project became underfunded, which proved a most serious problem. The time of completion had been extended two years and yet the first story was still not finished. The lack of funds to carry on the work proved a most serious problem and the animosities of the county seat fight were still active.

It was at this point that Thomas Snell of the firm of Snell & Taylor, high respected contractors, was urged by the leading citizens of Fort Dodge to undertake the work. This he finally consented to do, and the contract was assigned to his firm, and by them, completed.

Yet with the new contractors the building did not go on so smoothly. Numerous conflicts arose including the delays with the project, the many changes that were made, and accusations of fraud. The underlying problem that seemed to be the foundation of so much distrust and dissatisfaction was the continued hard feelings within the county over the legality of the vote that moved the county seat to Fort Dodge. Bitter personal feelings festered around the county seat fight. At last, worn out with fighting, the county leaders came to their senses, for the time being, intense personal feelings were eventually overcome by better reasoning, and the difficulties were adjusted and the county seat fight was ended.

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. This building during its entire existence was being remodeled and repaired. After a number of years a clock tower was added, and the stairway leading to the courtroom was changed. Still later rooms were fitted up for the federal court offices.

But all these changes could not keep pace with the growth of the county. The county superintendent's office was forced out and across the street to the Doud block. In 1885 Judge Henderson of the district court declared the jail quarters unsanitary and ordered the prisoners confined in the Hamilton county jail. In view of this latter condition. Captain S. J. Benett, a member of the Board of Supervisors, introduced a resolution before that body calling for a vote upon a three mill tax levy to build a jail. On the first submission to the voters of the county it was lost; but the next year upon resubmission it was carried.

The jail when constructed was of brick, two stories in height, and standing at the southeast corner of the courthouse. It contained four cells and corridors, which could also be used for the honest prisoners. The building was not the most confining and several deliveries were made out of it.

The changes in the courthouse were but temporary makeshifts. The conditions were still crowded. During the last session of the Board of Supervisors for the year 1898, and the January session of the following year, the board were besieged with petitions from every county officer telling of the crowded and unsafe condition of the county vaults. A new courthouse seemed absolutely necessary. A committee consisting of S. J. Bennett, Andrew Hannon, Swan Johnson, and T. J. Ryan were appointed by the board to investigate the conditions and to make a report at the April session. At this session the committee reported in favor of building a new courthouse. The board, however, took no action upon the matter during that session. Again in September the committee reported in favor of a new building and most strongly urged that it be started at once. This time the board unanimously adopted the resolution and ordered it submitted to the voters at the general election to be held November 7, 1899. The vote stood 2,394 for and 1,146 against, being a majority of 1,248 in favor of building.

Many people favored the construction of the new building upon a larger site, and for this reason wanted the old site sold and a new one purchased with the proceeds. Investigation, however, showed that the deed by which the county acquired the site, made it revert back to the original owner, when it ceased to be used for courthouse purposes. Rather than lose this valuable property it was deemed best to build upon the old site.

Plans for the new four-story building were submitted to the board February 1, 1900. The new stone building represented a significant expansion over its predecessor. After a careful consideration those submitted by H. C. Koch & Co., of Milwaukee. were accepted. Later the contract for the building was let to the Northern Building Company of Minneapolis at their bid of $99,720.00 and Mr. C. B. Hepler of Fort Dodge was appointed as superintendent of construction. The contract called for the completion of the building by November 1, 1901. This time was later extended to March 1, 1902. The formal dedication of the building was held Friday, September 12, 1902, and on the following Monday the county officials moved into their new home. The building was accepted by the board October 11, 1902.

The razing of the old building and the constructing of the new courthouse building was due to the work of Captain S. J. Bennett, chairman of the building committee. He devoted practically his entire time to the task; and in the efficient public work, which he did. He won the approval of every loyal citizen and taxpayer of the county.

On September 11, 1902, the county officers were all at home in their new quarters, and during the evening a concert was given by the Fort Dodge Military Band. The formal dedication was held the next morning. Special trains brought people from all parts of the county. Senator Jonathan P. Dolliver acted as presiding officer and made the first address. He was followed by Senator T. D. Healy, and Hon. R. M. Wright. Proud as were many of the younger citizens of the county of the structure, which they had helped to build, their pride could not equal that of those pioneers, who had outlived the decay of two courthouses, and who out of the wildness had wrought the means with which to frame the magnificent county home. They were the true builders.

Today, the courthouse is the site of much local and regional government business and offices for the state courts of the Second Judicial District.

Sources:

*The Fort Dodge Messenger. September 12, 1902

*The Fort Dodge Messenger. December 13, 1902

*The History of Fort Dodge and Webster County… by H.M. Pratt

History of Courthouse Restoration

Year Phase Amount

1980 Specifications for Courthouse Repair and Jail Removal from the Courthouse $98,780.60

1985-1986 Exterior Restoration $313,888.70
*Cleaning & repair of Limestone
*Restoration of copper clock tower
*Replacement of flat and sloped roof areas
*Replacement of exterior atrium skylight

1987 Phase I Renovation $113,966.00
*Data processing department – 4th floor
*Replacement of electrical panels/services to all floors

1988-1989 Phase II Renovation $465,345.00
*County Engineers Office – 4th floor
*Three Judges Chambers – 4th floor
*Main entry – 1st floor
*Rework Atrium handrails – 2nd and 3rd floors
*Main District Courtroom – 3rd floor

1991-1992 Phase III Renovation $202,477.80
*District Court Administrator Office – 4th floor

1993-1994 Phase IV Renovation $593,870.80
*County Treasurer Office – 1st floor
*Motor Vehicle Department – 1st floor
*Small Claims Court Office – 1st floor
*Sprinkler Main Entrance
*Central Cooling Equipment installed

1997-present Final Renovation Phase V $2,500,000.00
*Renovate 2nd floor – County Offices
*Renovate 3rd floor – Judicial Spaces
*Handicapped accessible restrooms – 2nd & 3rd floors
*Handicapped accessible elevator
*Completion of sprinkler system
*Completion of central cooling system

Grand Total $4,288,328.90