Iconic Buildings

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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





Blanden Art Museum

1932

920 3rd Ave S

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

Boston Centre

1914

809 Central Ave 

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

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Location: 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





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: 927 Central Ave.

Construction Timeline: 1909 – 1910

Architect: Architectural firm of Liebbe, Nourse & Rasmussen (Des Moines)

Original Owner: Fort Dodge Commercial Club

Size: 65,000 sq/ft

Purpose of Building: First-Class Hotel

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. Situated on Fort Dodge’s historic main street, Central Avenue and South 10th St., the building was developed and constructed by the Fort Dodge Commercial Club in 1909-1910. It had the distinction of being the largest fireproof hotel in Iowa at the time of completion and was considered one of the premier hotels in the state.

The hotel movement had its inception in the Commercial Club when C.V. Findlay, a director, made a motion that President McQuilkin appoint a committee of three to look into the possibility of a hotel being built in Fort Dodge. As a result, the Fort Dodge Hotel Company was formed and the excavation and construction for the new hotel began in August of 1909. Liebbe, Nourse & Rassmussen, architects from Des Moines secured the order for the plans and C.E. Atkinson, the contract for the building’s construction. Cold weather hindered the work on the structure, the winter of 1909-1910 being one of the most severe in many years, however, work progressed steadily until the completion and opening of the hotel in September 1910.

The three person committee who conducted the campaign and oversaw the building process of the hotel were O.M. Oleson, G.W. Mason and A.D. McQuilkin. The other directors of the Fort Dodge Hotel Company were A.R. Loomis, John Hower, T.H. Wright and W.F. Carver.

The following is an excerpt from an article from The Fort Dodge Messenger on September 20, 1910, after the formal opening of the Wahkonsa Hotel.

The Interior View

Both the Central Avenue and the Tenth street entrances admitted people to the main lobby, the office and foyer of the hotel. Here a brilliant spectacle was observed for the roomy place with what hotels rarely have; two street sides admitting plenty of light and affording an excellent view, was brilliant with artificial light and a very gay assemblage in evening dress. The beautiful frescoed walls of light color, the massive leather furniture presented interesting contrast in color, the thick velvet rugs on a tiled floor of most attractive pattern and the marble of the walls and staircase, contributed to make a superlatively good impression.

The orchestra was discovered in an alcove especially provided for such use, on the second floor at the head of the staircase. From here and from the balcony which surrounds the staircase opening, the myriads of flowers and palms scattered about the landings, staircase and foyer, offered a most festive appearance.

The dining room opens directly off of the south end of the foyer and is about equal in length, half of the depth of the building. It is slightly wider than the foyer and to the west of it, through large doors, is discovered the smaller dining room which is finished in a beautiful combination of dark oak and a frieze in grape design on the walls. Panels of woods extend part way up the walls with the frieze above the plate rail. A massive buffet conceals the entrance from the kitchen.

The floors of these two rooms, like the remainder of the ground floor, are tiled. The kitchen section of the hotel lies in the southwest corner.

In the main dining room, the entire east wall is plate glass windows, hung with attractive lace embroidery with heavy monograms. Small English windows are at either side of each large window and can be opened. The south and north sides are supplied with large plate glass mirrors except on the south in the center where a buffet with leaded glass window above, finishes the dining room beautifully.

The Upper Floors

Heavy hall carpets of velvet Brussels cover the upper halls, clear to the top story. The floors are entirely of cement stained to harmonize with the rugs and carpets. Wails are rough plaster and stained in colors that harmonize with the hangings, rugs and mahogany furniture. In some of the bedrooms heavy brass beds vary the general appearance. No wood but mahogany is used in many of the rooms.

Just opposite the elevator on every floor is an alcove furnished attractively for a small parlor, where guests can make themselves at home. On the second floor there is one parlor for women visitors at the hotel, which commands a good view from the east of the building.

The Wahkonsa operated as a first-class hotel for over 60 years (by various owners) until 1972 when it was converted into apartment housing for low-income residents. The Wahkonsa continues to provide affordable housing, with several commercial outfits still in operation on the first floor and basement levels.

Wahkonsa Annex

The Wahkonsa Hotel was first leased to R. W. Johnston and Company, who opened it on

September 17th, 1910. They operated until October 11, 1911, when the lease was transferred to George W. Reynolds. Mr. Reynolds operated tho hotel for two years, and then sold it to A J. Morton on November 10th, 1913. Mr. Morton continued the operation of the hotel until September 9th, 1915, when he sold the property to Theodore G. Warden of Chicago.

Within a few months after Mr. Warden took over the 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 Wahkonsa Annex, four stories in height. There were seven stores on the first floor, one hundred guest rooms on the second and third floors, and the club rooms of the Chamber of Commerce, a ball-room, and a luncheon room took up most of the fourth. The Annex was formally opened for business on January 21st, 1916. Two additional floors were later built on to The Annex when the Warden Plaza was constructed.

The Wahkonsa Hotel was already regarded as one of the best hotels in the state, but with the addition of The Annex, its reputation grew to that of the finest hotel of any city its size in the United States.

Today, the Wahkonsa Annex is empty and has been empty for a number of years. It will be torn down as part of a new downtown revitalization project.

Sources:

*Fort Dodge Historical Society

*Fort Dodge Messenger, 1910

*Fort Dodge Messenger, 1916





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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





Carver Building

1916

1007 & 1003 Central Ave.

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

First National Bank/Beh Building

1908

629 Central Ave. 

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

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Location: 629 Central Ave.

Construction Timeline: 1907 – 1908

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

Original Owner: First National Bank

Size: Six stories

Purpose of Building: Bank and office suites

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources:

*Fort Dodge Historical Society

*National Register of Historic Places





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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Location: 610 Central Ave.

Construction Timeline: 1916 – 1917

Architect: E.O. Damon (Fort Dodge)

Original Owner: E.E. Prusia (Fort Dodge)

Size: 8 stories

Purpose of Building: Prusia Hardware Company

E.E. Prusia, who came to Fort Dodge in 1855, in many ways was the great American success story. His occupation was that of a tin smith, a minor but essential skill on the frontier. He was, however, quick to recognize opportunities as they developed. Every frontier settlement needed blacksmiths and blacksmiths in tum had a need for iron. The closest supplier of iron was in Dubuque, some two hundred miles away with no railroads to deliver it. By the time of the Civil War, Prusia had established himself as the primary wholesaler of the metal in northwestern Iowa. The next logical step was to move into the general hardware business. In 1866 he built his own two story brick store on the site of the current building, only to lose it in a fire in the 1880s. It was rebuilt as a three story structure only to have it too destroyed by fire again in 1914.

Prusia decided to rebuild at the same site, only this time he called for a building which would be the most modern and technologically advanced for the time. It was to be large enough to accommodate the growth that the community's leaders predicted and was to be as fireproof as could be built. A local architect of statewide reputation, E.O. Damon, was employed to design the building. The C.E. Atkinson Construction of Webster City was given the job of contractor. The company previously had built the local Congregational Church, the Loomis Building, the National Bank, the Wahkonsa Hotel, the McQuilkin building, Mercy Hospital and an addition to the Fort Dodge Grocery Company.

Damon responded with a building in the Chicago Commercial style which had been developed in Chicago in the late 1890s. The rapid growth of the cities of the period required additional office and retail enterprises. Land space was at a premium so the best way to build was to build up and create skyscrapers defined in 1900 as any building of five or more stories. This required new building methods and technology. Prior to the 1890s most buildings were constructed with thick load bearing walls. This type of construction limited the height to five or so stories. Architects offered a new model, a building with a skeleton framework of iron, steel, or reinforced concrete which carried the load and with the walls filling in with non-load bearing masonry. The new system allowed for structures of virtually unlimited height.

Damon's first plan was for a seven story building but when the plans were finalized an eighth story was added making it the tallest structure in Fort Dodge. The total square footage was 82,000. The eighth floor was reserved for the company's office and the first floor was to be retail. The second through seventh would be the warehouse area. This explains why there are no windows on the east and west sides of the building except for the eighth floor. Warehouse areas had no need for windows which would just reduce storage space. Windows in the office areas, however, would provide light and ventilation. The windows that were used were double sash windows which could be open to allow for air flow.

In constructing the building, reinforced concrete pillars were used to provide the supporting framework. The walls between the pillars were brick. Since these walls were non-load supporting, windows could easily be installed. The Chicago Commercial Style buildings are characterized by a much greater use of windows than earlier commercial buildings. The Prusia building followed this pattern with seventy windows on the Central Avenue face. With the increase in the number of windows and the reduction in the amount of wall space there was reduced room for architectural decoration. Damon did, however, include some decorative elements; the fancy brick work on the front facade and the ceramic heads of the kings and lions on the top story just below the cornice.

The windows used in the front are called the Chicago style are in sets of three, a large single pane window in the middle, flanked by double pane sash windows, again allowing for ventilation and illumination.

After losing two previous buildings to fire, Prusia was adamant about making the building fireproof. Wood was to be as limited as possible in the basic construction, extra thick concrete and block walls were used to enclose stair wells and elevator shafts and fire proof doors were used at all points of access. Regular window glass was to be rejected where illumination was not a primary consideration in favor of wire glass which in case of a fire would be less likely to blow out and allow for fire or wind drafts.

The construction of buildings exceeding three or four stories required the inclusion of elevators.

This building was designed with two elevators, a passenger elevator and a freight elevator. The freight elevator was made extra-large to allow the entry of a delivery truck. The elevator would carry the truck to the appropriate floor where it would be unloaded, eliminating as much unloading and moving of goods as possible.

Another feature employed was the use of chutes to move goods. A spiral chute allowed boxes to slide from an upper floor to a destination on a lower level. Another chute carried mail and documents.

Prusia wanted the latest technology where possible. The passenger elevator was self-operated with the passenger just pushing the button for the correct floor. Every other building with an elevator depended upon an operator. To facilitate communication among the departments, forty telephones were installed and three trunk lines to the outside were created. A centralized money handling system was installed using a pneumatic tube carrier system. A departmental clerk would send the money by tube to a cashier in the office who would then return the receipt. The system consisted of 2,200 feet of tubing.

The Prusia Company remained in operation in Fort Dodge until 1930 when it declared bankruptcy, a victim of the Depression. For the next six years the building remained empty. In 1935 the building was leased to Sears and Roebuck. Sears had been established as a catalog store in 1886 and it was not until 1925 that it opened its first retail department store. In 1936 it leased and opened the store in the old Prusia Building. Sears made few changes in the building itself which was a tribute to the planning and foresight of Prusia and Damon some twenty years earlier. The telephone system, the elevator system, the pneumatic tube arrangement and the structure as a whole were barely changed. The only apparent change was the installation of a black glass and chrome trim street level facade to suit the art deco taste of the time.

Sears’ grand opening came on November 1936, a welcome economic boost to a city which was suffering through the Great Depression. The new store provided jobs for some 85 local residents.

The Sears store remained downtown until 1965 when the Crossroads Mall opened in East Fort Dodge. The old building remained vacant. Over the years there have been several changes in ownership but none have been able to put together a plan of restoration or usage. In 1969, a referendum for downtown renewal failed to pass. Fires in the meantime destroyed several downtown blocks and buildings. Ed Breen, in the 1970s, led a move to rehabilitate the area by establishing a downtown mall. Part of these proposals called for the demolition of the buildings between the City Square and 9th Street on the north side of Central Avenue and on the south side from the City Square to the Court House. Many of the buildings were demolished and replaced by parking lots, empty lots and two new banks on 9th Street. The Prusia Building was the only historic building in the 600 block north side to survive and it remained vacant.

The Historic Preservation Commission attempted to place the building on the National Register of Historic Places but the City Council rejected the move. However, the downtown district has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places which gives the building Register status.

Today, the Prusia/Sears Building is home to Heartland Senior Housing, which provides 1 & 2 bedroom, income-based rental apartments for senior citizens.

Source:

*Fort Dodge Historical Society





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: 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





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Location: 629 Central Ave.

Construction Timeline: 1907 – 1908

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

Original Owner: First National Bank

Size: Six stories

Purpose of Building: Bank and office suites

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources:

*Fort Dodge Historical Society

*National Register of Historic Places





Municipal Building

1914

819 1st Ave S 

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

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: 610 Central Ave.

Construction Timeline: 1916 – 1917

Architect: E.O. Damon (Fort Dodge)

Original Owner: E.E. Prusia (Fort Dodge)

Size: 8 stories

Purpose of Building: Prusia Hardware Company

E.E. Prusia, who came to Fort Dodge in 1855, in many ways was the great American success story. His occupation was that of a tin smith, a minor but essential skill on the frontier. He was, however, quick to recognize opportunities as they developed. Every frontier settlement needed blacksmiths and blacksmiths in tum had a need for iron. The closest supplier of iron was in Dubuque, some two hundred miles away with no railroads to deliver it. By the time of the Civil War, Prusia had established himself as the primary wholesaler of the metal in northwestern Iowa. The next logical step was to move into the general hardware business. In 1866 he built his own two story brick store on the site of the current building, only to lose it in a fire in the 1880s. It was rebuilt as a three story structure only to have it too destroyed by fire again in 1914.

Prusia decided to rebuild at the same site, only this time he called for a building which would be the most modern and technologically advanced for the time. It was to be large enough to accommodate the growth that the community's leaders predicted and was to be as fireproof as could be built. A local architect of statewide reputation, E.O. Damon, was employed to design the building. The C.E. Atkinson Construction of Webster City was given the job of contractor. The company previously had built the local Congregational Church, the Loomis Building, the National Bank, the Wahkonsa Hotel, the McQuilkin building, Mercy Hospital and an addition to the Fort Dodge Grocery Company.

Damon responded with a building in the Chicago Commercial style which had been developed in Chicago in the late 1890s. The rapid growth of the cities of the period required additional office and retail enterprises. Land space was at a premium so the best way to build was to build up and create skyscrapers defined in 1900 as any building of five or more stories. This required new building methods and technology. Prior to the 1890s most buildings were constructed with thick load bearing walls. This type of construction limited the height to five or so stories. Architects offered a new model, a building with a skeleton framework of iron, steel, or reinforced concrete which carried the load and with the walls filling in with non-load bearing masonry. The new system allowed for structures of virtually unlimited height.

Damon's first plan was for a seven story building but when the plans were finalized an eighth story was added making it the tallest structure in Fort Dodge. The total square footage was 82,000. The eighth floor was reserved for the company's office and the first floor was to be retail. The second through seventh would be the warehouse area. This explains why there are no windows on the east and west sides of the building except for the eighth floor. Warehouse areas had no need for windows which would just reduce storage space. Windows in the office areas, however, would provide light and ventilation. The windows that were used were double sash windows which could be open to allow for air flow.

In constructing the building, reinforced concrete pillars were used to provide the supporting framework. The walls between the pillars were brick. Since these walls were non-load supporting, windows could easily be installed. The Chicago Commercial Style buildings are characterized by a much greater use of windows than earlier commercial buildings. The Prusia building followed this pattern with seventy windows on the Central Avenue face. With the increase in the number of windows and the reduction in the amount of wall space there was reduced room for architectural decoration. Damon did, however, include some decorative elements; the fancy brick work on the front facade and the ceramic heads of the kings and lions on the top story just below the cornice.

The windows used in the front are called the Chicago style are in sets of three, a large single pane window in the middle, flanked by double pane sash windows, again allowing for ventilation and illumination.

After losing two previous buildings to fire, Prusia was adamant about making the building fireproof. Wood was to be as limited as possible in the basic construction, extra thick concrete and block walls were used to enclose stair wells and elevator shafts and fire proof doors were used at all points of access. Regular window glass was to be rejected where illumination was not a primary consideration in favor of wire glass which in case of a fire would be less likely to blow out and allow for fire or wind drafts.

The construction of buildings exceeding three or four stories required the inclusion of elevators.

This building was designed with two elevators, a passenger elevator and a freight elevator. The freight elevator was made extra-large to allow the entry of a delivery truck. The elevator would carry the truck to the appropriate floor where it would be unloaded, eliminating as much unloading and moving of goods as possible.

Another feature employed was the use of chutes to move goods. A spiral chute allowed boxes to slide from an upper floor to a destination on a lower level. Another chute carried mail and documents.

Prusia wanted the latest technology where possible. The passenger elevator was self-operated with the passenger just pushing the button for the correct floor. Every other building with an elevator depended upon an operator. To facilitate communication among the departments, forty telephones were installed and three trunk lines to the outside were created. A centralized money handling system was installed using a pneumatic tube carrier system. A departmental clerk would send the money by tube to a cashier in the office who would then return the receipt. The system consisted of 2,200 feet of tubing.

The Prusia Company remained in operation in Fort Dodge until 1930 when it declared bankruptcy, a victim of the Depression. For the next six years the building remained empty. In 1935 the building was leased to Sears and Roebuck. Sears had been established as a catalog store in 1886 and it was not until 1925 that it opened its first retail department store. In 1936 it leased and opened the store in the old Prusia Building. Sears made few changes in the building itself which was a tribute to the planning and foresight of Prusia and Damon some twenty years earlier. The telephone system, the elevator system, the pneumatic tube arrangement and the structure as a whole were barely changed. The only apparent change was the installation of a black glass and chrome trim street level facade to suit the art deco taste of the time.

Sears’ grand opening came on November 1936, a welcome economic boost to a city which was suffering through the Great Depression. The new store provided jobs for some 85 local residents.

The Sears store remained downtown until 1965 when the Crossroads Mall opened in East Fort Dodge. The old building remained vacant. Over the years there have been several changes in ownership but none have been able to put together a plan of restoration or usage. In 1969, a referendum for downtown renewal failed to pass. Fires in the meantime destroyed several downtown blocks and buildings. Ed Breen, in the 1970s, led a move to rehabilitate the area by establishing a downtown mall. Part of these proposals called for the demolition of the buildings between the City Square and 9th Street on the north side of Central Avenue and on the south side from the City Square to the Court House. Many of the buildings were demolished and replaced by parking lots, empty lots and two new banks on 9th Street. The Prusia Building was the only historic building in the 600 block north side to survive and it remained vacant.

The Historic Preservation Commission attempted to place the building on the National Register of Historic Places but the City Council rejected the move. However, the downtown district has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places which gives the building Register status.

Today, the Prusia/Sears Building is home to Heartland Senior Housing, which provides 1 & 2 bedroom, income-based rental apartments for senior citizens.

Source:

*Fort Dodge Historical Society





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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.”

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





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Location: 610 Central Ave.

Construction Timeline: 1916 – 1917

Architect: E.O. Damon (Fort Dodge)

Original Owner: E.E. Prusia (Fort Dodge)

Size: 8 stories

Purpose of Building: Prusia Hardware Company

E.E. Prusia, who came to Fort Dodge in 1855, in many ways was the great American success story. His occupation was that of a tin smith, a minor but essential skill on the frontier. He was, however, quick to recognize opportunities as they developed. Every frontier settlement needed blacksmiths and blacksmiths in tum had a need for iron. The closest supplier of iron was in Dubuque, some two hundred miles away with no railroads to deliver it. By the time of the Civil War, Prusia had established himself as the primary wholesaler of the metal in northwestern Iowa. The next logical step was to move into the general hardware business. In 1866 he built his own two story brick store on the site of the current building, only to lose it in a fire in the 1880s. It was rebuilt as a three story structure only to have it too destroyed by fire again in 1914.

Prusia decided to rebuild at the same site, only this time he called for a building which would be the most modern and technologically advanced for the time. It was to be large enough to accommodate the growth that the community's leaders predicted and was to be as fireproof as could be built. A local architect of statewide reputation, E.O. Damon, was employed to design the building. The C.E. Atkinson Construction of Webster City was given the job of contractor. The company previously had built the local Congregational Church, the Loomis Building, the National Bank, the Wahkonsa Hotel, the McQuilkin building, Mercy Hospital and an addition to the Fort Dodge Grocery Company.

Damon responded with a building in the Chicago Commercial style which had been developed in Chicago in the late 1890s. The rapid growth of the cities of the period required additional office and retail enterprises. Land space was at a premium so the best way to build was to build up and create skyscrapers defined in 1900 as any building of five or more stories. This required new building methods and technology. Prior to the 1890s most buildings were constructed with thick load bearing walls. This type of construction limited the height to five or so stories. Architects offered a new model, a building with a skeleton framework of iron, steel, or reinforced concrete which carried the load and with the walls filling in with non-load bearing masonry. The new system allowed for structures of virtually unlimited height.

Damon's first plan was for a seven story building but when the plans were finalized an eighth story was added making it the tallest structure in Fort Dodge. The total square footage was 82,000. The eighth floor was reserved for the company's office and the first floor was to be retail. The second through seventh would be the warehouse area. This explains why there are no windows on the east and west sides of the building except for the eighth floor. Warehouse areas had no need for windows which would just reduce storage space. Windows in the office areas, however, would provide light and ventilation. The windows that were used were double sash windows which could be open to allow for air flow.

In constructing the building, reinforced concrete pillars were used to provide the supporting framework. The walls between the pillars were brick. Since these walls were non-load supporting, windows could easily be installed. The Chicago Commercial Style buildings are characterized by a much greater use of windows than earlier commercial buildings. The Prusia building followed this pattern with seventy windows on the Central Avenue face. With the increase in the number of windows and the reduction in the amount of wall space there was reduced room for architectural decoration. Damon did, however, include some decorative elements; the fancy brick work on the front facade and the ceramic heads of the kings and lions on the top story just below the cornice.

The windows used in the front are called the Chicago style are in sets of three, a large single pane window in the middle, flanked by double pane sash windows, again allowing for ventilation and illumination.

After losing two previous buildings to fire, Prusia was adamant about making the building fireproof. Wood was to be as limited as possible in the basic construction, extra thick concrete and block walls were used to enclose stair wells and elevator shafts and fire proof doors were used at all points of access. Regular window glass was to be rejected where illumination was not a primary consideration in favor of wire glass which in case of a fire would be less likely to blow out and allow for fire or wind drafts.

The construction of buildings exceeding three or four stories required the inclusion of elevators.

This building was designed with two elevators, a passenger elevator and a freight elevator. The freight elevator was made extra-large to allow the entry of a delivery truck. The elevator would carry the truck to the appropriate floor where it would be unloaded, eliminating as much unloading and moving of goods as possible.

Another feature employed was the use of chutes to move goods. A spiral chute allowed boxes to slide from an upper floor to a destination on a lower level. Another chute carried mail and documents.

Prusia wanted the latest technology where possible. The passenger elevator was self-operated with the passenger just pushing the button for the correct floor. Every other building with an elevator depended upon an operator. To facilitate communication among the departments, forty telephones were installed and three trunk lines to the outside were created. A centralized money handling system was installed using a pneumatic tube carrier system. A departmental clerk would send the money by tube to a cashier in the office who would then return the receipt. The system consisted of 2,200 feet of tubing.

The Prusia Company remained in operation in Fort Dodge until 1930 when it declared bankruptcy, a victim of the Depression. For the next six years the building remained empty. In 1935 the building was leased to Sears and Roebuck. Sears had been established as a catalog store in 1886 and it was not until 1925 that it opened its first retail department store. In 1936 it leased and opened the store in the old Prusia Building. Sears made few changes in the building itself which was a tribute to the planning and foresight of Prusia and Damon some twenty years earlier. The telephone system, the elevator system, the pneumatic tube arrangement and the structure as a whole were barely changed. The only apparent change was the installation of a black glass and chrome trim street level facade to suit the art deco taste of the time.

Sears’ grand opening came on November 1936, a welcome economic boost to a city which was suffering through the Great Depression. The new store provided jobs for some 85 local residents.

The Sears store remained downtown until 1965 when the Crossroads Mall opened in East Fort Dodge. The old building remained vacant. Over the years there have been several changes in ownership but none have been able to put together a plan of restoration or usage. In 1969, a referendum for downtown renewal failed to pass. Fires in the meantime destroyed several downtown blocks and buildings. Ed Breen, in the 1970s, led a move to rehabilitate the area by establishing a downtown mall. Part of these proposals called for the demolition of the buildings between the City Square and 9th Street on the north side of Central Avenue and on the south side from the City Square to the Court House. Many of the buildings were demolished and replaced by parking lots, empty lots and two new banks on 9th Street. The Prusia Building was the only historic building in the 600 block north side to survive and it remained vacant.

The Historic Preservation Commission attempted to place the building on the National Register of Historic Places but the City Council rejected the move. However, the downtown district has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places which gives the building Register status.

Today, the Prusia/Sears Building is home to Heartland Senior Housing, which provides 1 & 2 bedroom, income-based rental apartments for senior citizens.

Source:

*Fort Dodge Historical Society





Warden Plaza Building

1922

908 1st Ave S

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

Webster County Courthouse

1900

701 Central Ave.

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

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Location: 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





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