Iconic Places

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For most of its 115 years, this joint was jumpin' – On January 30, 1959, the Laramar Ballroom was hoppin’ when the Winter Dance Party and its headliners – Buddy Holly and the Crickets, the Big Bopper, Ritchie Valens, and Dion and the Belmonts - performed on its stage on a cold, snowy night in Fort Dodge.

It was the Laramar Ballroom, and some 1,000 fans crowded into the downtown building at 710 First Avenue North to watch, dance and sing along as the musicians played their hit songs - never imagining that a few days later, in the early hours of Feb. 3, 1959, three of them – Holly, J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson Jr. and Valens — would die in a plane crash after performing at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake.

"The whole show was great. Little did we know that this was the last time we would see them,” said Wes Trickel, of Fort Dodge, who was at the Laramar with his wife, Bertha, that night and got to meet Richardson and Valens. “We were so sad when we heard the news that we all never wanted to believe what had happened.”

That tragic moment on a wintry night in a cornfield north of Clear Lake was “the day the music died” as Don McLean would sing in his 1971 classic "American Pie.”

But until the last few years, there was still plenty of music left to play at the Laramar - later known as the Plamor and then the Twilight Ballroom before becoming the Laramar again. The old brick building that started as the Fort Dodge Armory in 1904 is now vacant and for sale.

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. For some, it was where they met their future spouse.

Many of the top performers of the day – playing all genre of music - mesmerized their audiences. And newbies to the dance floor were introduced to the “trap.” A trap would be set up by three or more girls or three or more boys, who would wander through the dance floor and surround a dancing couple. If it was a guy trap, the girl dancing would choose one of those in the trap or stay with her partner. If it was a girl trap, the guy dancing would choose one of those in trap or stay with his partner.

Some remember a Laramar bouncer of the late 1960s - John Matuszak, an All American football player at Fort Dodge Junior College for one season who later became the No. 1 pick in the 1973 NFL draft. Big John played several years for the Oakland Raiders of the NFL and then went on to appear on television and in movies (He died in 1989 at age 38).


The history of the Laramar Ballroom began in 1903 when the Armory in Fort Dodge was built, spearheaded by the City’s Commercial Club (Chamber of Commerce). $8,000 was raised to construct the castle-like building that housed the National Guard Regiment and provided a venue for the 56th Regiment Band, the community band and various civic events. The Armory was equipped with a gymnasium and a bowling alley. The basement was first used as a rifle range; it has also been used as a shower all for horses, skaters, locker room, and restaurants.

The building was designed to resemble an impregnable fortress, with imitation spots for gun placements. Especially durable, hard paving brick was used in the front part. The grand opening and dedication on February 11, 1904 was “the most brilliant function Fort Dodge social life had ever witnessed,” according to the Messenger.

In the 1920s, the Armory also offered commercial space for various businesses and organizations. By 1927, the Traffic Bureau, C of 1929, Iowa Airways, A. M. Auto Association, Ft. Dodge Grocers Association, and the Geer Dancing Emporium were added to its use. Over the years, other companies: R. L. Polk Company, Men’s Civic Glee Club, F. D. Drum Corp, Allied Food Stories, F. D. Community Chest, and the Iowa National Guard and many others would be located there.

During the two World Wars, soldiers were drafted at the Armory and ration books were issued there to Fort Dodge residents. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, many were worried that armories would be attacked so soldiers were stationed around the building. Over the years, the Armory was the scene of many charity balls, police and firemen's balls, craft shows, reunions, banquets, dance parties and much more.

Music has always been part of the building's DNA from the outset, when it was built so the Company G, 56th Infantry would have a place for a regimental band under the direction of Carl Quist to rehearse and perform.

The end of World War I marked an upswing across the country in ballrooms where people would gather to dance to the new music of the times. The Jazz Era was where they got their start and the 1930s and 40s were the highpoint of the ballroom era. Ballrooms, some elegant and some plain, could be found in the biggest cities or smallest rural areas. All shared a common denominator of music and dancing.

Gradually, it became an entertainment center. As a dance hall, its fame was legendary in Iowa. The first dance was held in 1925. When the ‘Big Bands’ and singers were touring the country, as well as the territorial bands and other musical performers, one could find the best of them at the Armory or later at the Laramar. Such names as Lawrence Welk, Guy Lombardo, Glen Miller Orchestra, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Skippy Anderson, Guy Deleo, Leo Piper, Benny Goodman, Kay Kaiser, The Dorsey Brothers, Woody Herman, Al Minke, Jan Gaber, Johnny Cash and others all performed at the Laramar.

The Armory was purchased by Larry and Margaret Geer from the Chamber of Commerce around the time they were married in 1938. Larry Geer had operated the ballroom at the armory since the 1920s, possibly before. Their first names – Larry and Margaret — were merged to create the name Laramar. Geer said that at one of Welk's appearances, his father had to loan Welk enough money for gas so he and his five-piece band to get to their next stop. The biggest crowd was brought in by Guy Lombardo when a record 2,400 were crowded in elbow to elbow. The Geers sold the business around 1964, when it became the Plamor for the next eight years.

In the '50s-'60s teen era, performers Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and the Big Bopper performed at the Laramar just three days before the fatal plane crash in 1959 during the ‘Winter Dance Party’ tour. Some other stars that appeared at the Laramar included: Johnny Cash, Barbara Mandrell, Del Shannon, Gary Lewis & the Playboys, Bobby Vee, the Coasters, Tommy James and the Shondells, Freddie Cannon, Jimmy Clanton, the Crew Cuts, the Everly Brothers, the Diamonds, the Fabulous Flippers, and the famous Midwest band, the Rumbles, among others.


Over the years, there have been charity balls, Police and Fireman’s Balls, craft showers, wedding receptions, class reunions, banquets, and so much more. This building is truly a part of Fort Dodge history.

Geer was 15 at the time of the Winter Dance Party performance in 1959 and as the son of the owners, it was not his first chance to be around big stars. One of his lasting memories was helping Johnny Cash climb through a back window and back stairway to his dressing room one night, to get through the crowds."

About 1,000 people were on hand that night 60 years ago, with the balcony reserved for adult spectators and the dance floor for teens only, Geer said. The 11 performers arrived late on an old bus that didn't have a heater that worked. One of the members of Holly's Crickets band was future country star Waylon Jennings.

The book, “The Day the Music Died: The Last Tour of Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens - and the Fatal Air Crash That Took Their Lives" detailed the musicians' appearance at the Laramar.

The ballroom's next owners were Dick and Lee Derrig. Dick had worked at the ballroom under two different owners prior to buying the building. Dick and his wife Lee loved the ballroom and when they had the opportunity, they took the leap into proprietorship. Dick and Lee began running the ballroom as The Twilight on New Year’s Eve 1972. In 1979, Dick and Lee actually purchased the ballroom. For twelve years, they had a great reputation for bringing quality entertainment to Fort Dodge. People would come not just from Fort Dodge but also miles from the surrounding towns to enjoy the fun.

The Twilight Ballroom was always known as ‘the Fun Spot and rock n' roll wasn't all the Laramar offered as there were old-time dances on Thursday nights with waltzes, swing, polkas and even square dances. Thursdays at the Twilight was the place to be for great big bands and ballroom dancing. Some favorite big bands Dick and Lee brought to you are: Jeff & Eddie Skeets, Kenny Hofer, Erv Reutzel, Jack Schultz, Al Godfredsen, Jan Garber, Don Glasser, Greg Spevak, Billy Redman, Riney Rinehart, Vern Claussen, Al Pierson (currently director of Guy Lombardo orchestra), Wayne King, Don Hoy, Ted Weems, Sammy Jensen, Russ Morgan (under direction of Jack Morgan), and many others.

On Saturdays, you would find 50s and 60s rock n roll. Many ‘oldies’ bands that Dick and Lee brought back for repeat performances here were: The Cleavettes, The Do’s & The Dont’s, Rockin’ Hollywoods, American Grease, Faze Four, Hot Moose & Da Sharks, Spirits of the Past, Sundown, Travelin’ Band, Studebaker, Reflections, Last Shades of Dawn, Nifty Fifties, White Sidewalls, The Backbeats, Buckeye, Phoenix, Fantasia, Vixen, and so many more; too numerous to name them all who also donated their time for benefits. Aside from the local and regional bands, Dick and Lee also brought their share of major recording artists from the 50s and 60s to town: Tommy James & the Shondells, Bobby Vee, The Coasters, and Gary Lewis & the Playboys.

Lee was also well known in town for her cake decorating. The Twilight was pretty much ‘one-stop shopping’ for wedding receptions. You could pick out your cake, decorations, food, and entertainment. Dick and Lee took care of most of the decorating for you as well as the clean-up. Reunions, retirement and anniversary parties, charity events, craft shows, and other benefits were also held here. They donated the ballroom for use and many bands donated their time for benefits held here. The Twilight was simply the place to have a big event. Crowds would gather for some of the dances, filling the main floor and the balcony both. The Fireman’s Balls and the Policeman’s Balls used to always be held at the Twilight and they were always packed!

People liked Dick and Lee and how they managed and promoted the Twilight Ballroom. The Twilight enjoyed a good reputation. There were very few problems or disturbances. People, young and old, were there to have fun.

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

Sometime between 2001 – 2013, Jorge Blanco, whose family owned Blanco roofing business in Fort Dodge, purchased the Laramar. Since that time, the Laramar has been used sporadically for various events and is now vacant and for sale. The hope of many is that someone will purchase the building, restore it and bring it back as a recreational asset for our community, like it once was.

Sources:
*Messenger Spotlight…. January 30, 2019 by Paul Stevens
*Twilight Ballroom Memories… 1972-1985… Dick and Lee Derrig
*www.iowarockandroll.co/ballrooms
*www.rockandrollroadmap.com





HISTORY
Bennett Viaduct

1910

The 1,492 foot long bridge connected the two sections of Fort Dodge; at 3rd Street, then going west across the Des Moines River and connecting at G Street in “West” Fort Dodge.

Blanden Art Museum

1932

920 3rd Ave S

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

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In 1844, the first YMCA was opened in London, England, by George Williams, a farmer-turned-department store worker who was troubled by how many young men in London were coping with the hazards of life on the streets. This first YMCA offered something unique for its time.

In the United States, the first YMCA was founded in Boston, MA. by a retired Boston sea captain Thomas Valentine Sullivan. Sullivan noticed a similar need to create a safe “home away from home” for sailors and merchants. Inspired by the stories of the YMCA in England, Sullivan led the formation of the first U.S. YMCA at the Old South Church in Boston on December 29, 1851.

With so many young men moving to cities from rural areas, YMCA housing was started in the 1860’s for the purpose of giving these young men safe and affordable lodging and opportunities for recreation so they could have a healthy release from their difficult lives. Facilities included gyms, auditoriums and hotel-like rooms. Chicago’s Farwell Hall, the first known YMCA dormitory, was completed in 1867. Between 1922 and 1940, YMCA accommodations grew from approximately 55,000 rooms to more than 100,000, more than any hotel chain at the time.

In Fort Dodge, a group of Fort Dodge businessmen organized a YMCA and was incorporated it in 1891. The first location (unknown) had a fire in January of 1892. The YMCA then lease a few rooms over C.E. Black’s meat market. In February of 1892, John Parsons offered one of his lots for a new building. A campaign for a new YMCA began but only $2,000 was raised and the project never got off the ground. In July 1894, a special meeting was held to discuss renting rooms in George W. Mason’s building, above Craft’s grocery store, located at the corner of Central Avenue and 9th Street. The rooms would be used a reading and lecture rooms and a room for games. A shower and tub baths would also be added to the location. These new rooms were opened in August of 1894.

In November of 1897 -with the need for more space, the board members of the YMCA agreed to lease the 2nd and 3rd floors of the new Sanderson Building that was nearing the completion for being built. Sanderson Building was located one door east of the Post Office on Central Avenue, (today this would be on the 900 block on Central Avenue). The new building was being built for the Sanderson Candy Factory, which later become the Fort Dodge Candy Factory. The YMCA officially opened its doors in the Sanderson Building in February of 1898. This new site provided five rooms on the second floor; Director’s room, two reading rooms, the secretary’s office and a game room. On the third floor, there was 51 x 39 ft. gymnasium with gallery seating for 70 people and five bath rooms. The rooms of the second floor were also used for socialization and meetings for prayer. F.A. Garrison was the board president. J.G. Early was the board secretary. Other charter board members included E.H. Rich, C.W. Ackerman, C.H. Smith, S.A. Smith, L.L. Leighton, C. Craft, W.U. Turpin, E.E. Prusia, E. Berschein, T.H Wright, J.F. Nelson, J.J. Rutke, T.E. Deereaux, and F. Gates.

In September of 1909, O.M. Oleson, a renowned Fort Dodge businessman and philanthropist, announced that he would be donating property for the location of a new building for the YMCA . The location would be on north side of 1st Avenue North and North 6th Street, across the street from the former Fort Dodge Carnegie Library.

In October, a group of Fort Dodge business leaders led a fundraising campaign to raise $70,000 to build a new YMCA building. Ten days later on November 5, 1909, it was announced that over $76,000 had been raised or pledged for the new building. The preliminary floor plans for the new YMCA included:

* Sub-basement: locker rooms with bath/shower rooms, swimming pool, and bowling alley

* First floor: offices, parlors, reading and recreation rooms, 45 x 78 foot gymnasium with a raised running track above gymnasium and a cafeteria

* Second floor: dormitories, educational department and a large room/ banqueting hall which may be cut into smaller class rooms when needed.

* Third floor: more dormitories, which will be one of the chief sources of income (44 dormitories total)

Construction of new building began on March 10, 1910. Jensen Construction Company was retained as the general contractor. On February 18, 1911, the new YMCA building opened.

At the time, M. W. Parsons, state secretary for the YMCA, declared that Fort Dodge had the finest YMCA building in the state and that it is the largest project carried to successful conclusion through popular subscription and pledges.

No doubt, from the day it was built until 1964, the Fort Dodge YMCA was considered a wonderful recreational asset for the community. The building had a magnificent gymnasium with two main baskets and four baskets on the side walls. It also had an indoor pool that was used by kids and adults alike. This original Y had Family Nights when women and girls could come and swim and participate with their family. The Y even had a lunch counter where kids and adults could grab a snack, maybe even a bowl of chili before going home. The YMCA was truly a great place for fun, exercise and socialization.

The original building that opened in 1911, operated until 1964. By this time, the original YMCA facility had aged and was no longer large enough to accommodate the needs of the members. Board members and community leaders began the planning for a new and larger facility. The cost was estimated to be close to one million dollars. Again, this money was raised through a community fundraising campaign led by Ed Breen, Fred Seifer, Herb Bennett, Board Chairman George Gildemeister and Glen Davies who was the YMCA executive director.

In January of 1965, the new YMCA facility opened it doors at the corner of 15th Street and 1st Avenue South. It was Glen Davies who led the lobbying for construction of a new YMCA when the original building, at the time, was over 50 years old and in desperate need of updates. By engaging the community about need and importance of a new facility, Davies and the campaign committee were successful raising the necessary funds. Glen Davies was highly respected throughout the community as a person who loved community work, physical activity, people and most of all kids.

During this period of transition from the original YMCA to the new facility, Glen Davies served as the Y’s executive director from 1957 to 1966 and Bruce Wilde was the physical director and was instrumental in establishing a volleyball program. Jerry Patterson was the youth sports directors for several years and established the YMCA Teener Baseball Program. Many of the “Teener” baseball games were played at Jerry’s own Patterson Field.

In Fort Dodge, the YMCA remained affiliated with the YMCA of America until 2010. Due to a new partnership with Iowa Central Community College that offered additional fitness services to college students and the general public, the YMCA was converted to the Fort Dodge Community Recreation Center. An obscure policy of the National YMCA would not approve this successful partnership with Iowa Central Community College because the fitness facility on its campus did not allow those under age 18 to use it. This led to the ending of the Fort Dodge YMCA’s storied relationship with the national YMCA.

Today, the Fort Dodge REC remains a strong and active organization providing a wide range of recreation and fitness programs through its four locations. Besides the main building at 15th Street and 1st Avenue South, there is an exercise facility at Iowa Central Community College, a multipurpose cross training facility at the old Fareway Store location at Second Avenue South and Seventh Street, and a 24-hour fitness center at Fifth Avenue South and 21st Street that was purchased from Snap Fitness in 2015.

Youth programs designed for kindergarteners through sixth-graders, in partnership with the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, are basketball, flag football, martial arts, aquatic programs, soccer and baseball. Adults are offered more than 50 different fitness classes that include Pilates, cycle, step, boot camp, yoga, core strengthening, Zumba and blast.

The REC has found heightened interest among senior citizens in using the pool for low-impact exercise and has increased the number of water fitness classes. Adults continue to use the gymnasium for basketball, volleyball and a new and very popular activity, pickleball.

Sources:

*Messenger Spotlight…. by Paul Stevene

*Messenger newspaper





City Square and Gazebo

1851

The “Square” has been a gathering place since Fort Dodge was first settled.  In the year 1851, the square extended down to what is now 3rd Street and the area was used as a parade ground for the garrison of soldiers who were stationed at the nearby fort that was located north of the Square. 

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The “Square” has been a gathering place since Fort Dodge was first settled. In the year 1851, the square extended down to what is now 3rd Street and the area was used as a parade ground for the garrison of soldiers who were stationed at the nearby fort that was located north of the Square.

In the 1870’s, gas lights were installed on the Square. In the early 1880’s, the public Square (as it was known then) was an unpaved market place where farmers got together with their loads of grain and racks of hay, etc. It was dusty and muddy, with no trees or sidewalks except the board walks in front of the stores that lined the square.

Horses were unhitched and tied to the back of the wagons when farmers came to town. There was always a supply of hay and oats in the wagon box for the horses and each farmer brought a bucket to provide his team with water.

When it was decided to improve the square around 1896, the “Hay Market” (as it was often called) was moved to the northwest corner of what is now Central Avenue and 3rd Street. Local citizens who wanted to improve the area stated that its original state was an “eyesore and an embarrassment” to the city, and that people visiting Fort Dodge would be disgusted by the appearance of the Square. There was some discussion of placing a fountain in the park, similar to the fountain in Lincoln Park in Chicago, but on a smaller scale.

It took some convincing, but the City moved forward to begin improvements, although without the fountain. There were specific setback requirements and dimensions, so that its look would be appealing. A scale house was constructed at that site and a weighmaster employed. Businesses that surrounded the area were:

The original Duncombe house (where the Eilers Hotel later stood)

Porter home, Carrie Morrison Drake Home

Albee home (where the Hotel Fort Dodger later stood)

Newberry Livery Barn

Colby Livery Barn

Dunning Livery Barn

Koch’s Harness Shop

Robertson Hardware

Granger and Mitchell’s farm implement company

Furlong & Brennan’s store

Ford Farm Implement Store

Dan Farrel’s Grocery and Shoe Repair Shop

J.C. Parsons feed, hay and grocery store

Down & Scally Grocery

LS Kennedy Grocery

William Robinson Grocery

H.A. Platt’s Grocery

A restaurant (and later, Sackett & Haire Drug)

Billiard Hall

Arnold building

Robinson Building

Around 1907, a band stand was constructed on the Square. Architect J.H. Albright created the main plans, with Frank Griffith also participating. The band stand stood 6.5 feet off the ground and was octagonal in shape, with pillars standing at each point to support the roof. Trees were planted and sidewalks installed. It was used for speakers, politicians’ visits and band concerts.

In May of 1910, residents gathered in the City Square to view Halley’s Comet.

Around 1917, more discussion was held regarding construction of a larger, covered structure. This was eventually built and remained at the location for decades. Most notably, this is where Karl L. King hosted some of his earliest concerts.

Local resident S.S. “Pinky” Beers was one of the original members of the Karl L. King Band at the age of fourteen. He said that when the band performed concerts in the band stand, people would park their cars around the square and blow their horns to let the band members know they liked the music. The louder they blew, the better the band played. Pinky also stated that it was difficult to march in a parade in the area after it rained because the streets were made of wooden blocks, and “the wooden blocks would float away and you’d trip over them and couldn’t play very well.”

A new band stand was constructed in 1929 for a cost of $4,635 (approximately $68,000 in 2019).

Eventually, the City Square’s band shell took second place to the newly constructed Oleson Park Band Shell in the late 1930’s. The Oleson Park Band Shell was a magnificent, larger and award winning structure which hosted the Karl L. King Band for decades.

The City Square was the location that presidential candidate John F. Kennedy visited and addressed the residents in 1960.

A replacement band shell/gazebo was constructed in 1993 with the help of the Fort Dodge Questers. In 2001, a new library was built on the City Square, replacing the Carnegie Library on 1st Avenue North.

Sources:

*The Messenger, interviewing Mrs. Myrtle Parsons, 1958

*The Messenger

*Webster County Historical Society





Dodger Stadium

1939

Dodger Stadium stands as one of the most impressive high school outdoor sports facilities in the state.

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Dodger Stadium stands as one of the most impressive high school outdoor sports facilities in the state. A vision of Board of Education President O.C. Pfaff, Dodger Stadium was the product of FDR's Works Progress Administration which put millions of unemployed to work in the wake of the Great Depression, constructing public buildings and roads.

Work began on the stadium in 1939 with workers using 385,000 salvaged bricks from the fire-destroyed Lincoln Junior High building on the corner of First Avenue North and Tenth Street. With an additional 60,000 bricks from a demolished soybean plant, two permanent spectator stands were constructed, as well as Pfaff's recommended 1O-foot high wall around the perimeter of the property. The total cost of the facility was $150,000.

The football stadium was dedicated October 4, 1940, when the Fort Dodge Dodgers played rival Boone and won the contest, 13-7.

With permanent seating for 5,000, Dodger Stadium has been the host site for both St. Edmond High School and Iowa Central Community College football teams, Dodgers’ boys and girl’s track and soccer teams and state marching band competitions.

Dodger Field/ J.H. Nitzke track has been host for the Dodger Relays and other boys and girl’s track and field meets since 1940. Although running surfaces have changed and school records broken, it remains a prime location for invitational and other large events. During the summer 2010, a new track timing system was installed allowing district meets to continue at the stadium. In 2016, the all-weather track was re-surfaced offering an outstanding venue for regional track meets.

The adjacent tennis courts, also part of the original plan, are continuously used for school and community tennis meets. New tennis courts were completed in 2010, then resurfaced in 2019.

The Dodger Baseball Field, designed by renowned hitting coach, Lew Fonesca, resembles a miniature version of the Chicago Cubs’ Wrigley Field with its brick ivy-covered outfield walls. The inaugural game played on Dodger Baseball Field was on April 9th, 1942, when the Chicago White Sox played an exhibition game against their rival, the Chicago Cubs. An estimated 8,500 fans — from five states and 75 Iowa counties came and watched that memorable game. That still stands as the largest crowd for an athletic event in Fort Dodge history. In 1993, in honor of the longtime and legendary coach who produced a number of great teams, the baseball field was renamed Ed McNeil Field.

But there’s much more to Dodger Stadium than footballs, baseballs, soccer balls and track cleats used by thousands of athletes over the years.

Each May since shortly after the stadium was built, Fort Dodge Senior High has held graduation ceremonies for its seniors and their families inside the stadium. An estimated 25,000 seniors have taken part over those years.

The Stadium is host to the FDSH Band Invitational there and the state band tournament in the fall, the North Central Area for Special Olympics Iowa Track and Field event; the National Guard, State Patrol and Fort Dodge Police Department use it for physical training testing and youth tackle football games are played in the legendary stadium on weekends in the fall.

From 1946 to 1959, an event called The Harvest Festival was held in Dodger Stadium. The three-day festival featured performances by the Karl King Band and featured circus-like acts, motorcycles racing around in a cage, horses diving into a small pool of water and fireworks. In 1947, an estimated 35,000 people attended the festival over the course of three days.

Improvements and upgrades to Dodger Stadium have helped keep it one of the iconic sporting venues in Iowa. The west press box was renovated to include separate booths for the press and scouts, scoreboard operators and coach-to-bench communications. A second floor video-taping station assists both the athletic and marching band programs. In 2008, the sod/natural grass on the football field was replaced with new, state-of-the-art synthetic turf (field turf) to improve the quality and durability of the playing field. A new football scoreboard was installed in 2010.

Continued improvements to Ed McNeil Field include a digital scoreboard in 1994, new batting cages, lights were installed in 2015, which now allowed for night games and the latest addition has been an elevated, permanent grandstand with seating for up to 300 people, along with improvements for the concession stand and press box.

Dodger Stadium is not only an iconic and renowned sporting venue, but also a significant piece of Fort Dodge history and source of great pride for the community.

Source: Fort Dodge Senior High School Alumni Directory 2013

Source: The Messenger. “If Dodger Stadium bricks could talk…” July 2, 2017

Today, Dodger Stadium continues to be recognized as one of the most iconic and beautiful high school stadiums in Iowa.

*The Works Progress Administration (WPA) was an ambitious employment and infrastructure program created by President Roosevelt in 1935, during the bleakest years of the Great Depression. Over its eight years of existence, the WPA put roughly 8.5 million Americans to work. Perhaps best known for its public works projects, the WPA also sponsored projects in the arts – the agency employed tens of thousands of actors, musicians, writers and other artists.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the WPA with an executive order on May 6, 1935. It was part of his New Deal plan to lift the country out of the Great Depression by reforming the financial system and restoring the economy to pre-Depression levels. The unemployment rate in 1935 was at a staggering 20 percent. The WPA was designed to provide relief for the unemployed by providing jobs and income for millions of Americans. At its height in late 1938, more than 3.3 million Americans worked for the WPA. Source: www.history.com





Fort Dodge High Bridge

1901

One of the most massive bridges in Central Iowa crosses high above the Des Moines River and a neighborhood in Fort Dodge. 

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Also called the Chicago Great Western Railroad Viaduct

One of the most massive bridges in Central Iowa crosses high above the Des Moines River and a neighborhood in Fort Dodge. Construction on the bridge began in 1901. The rationale for the bridge was to avoid the large grades that would otherwise be required in Fort Dodge.

By 1902, the bridge would be complete and open for service. The west approach consists of 11 spans, resting on large steel towers. The east approach consists of 19 spans of the same design.

The four main spans of the bridge are massive Baltimore Deck Trusses which are significant as a relatively uncommon truss design and are aesthetically pleasing due to the complex geometry. These four main spans carry the bridge over the river and other features on the east side of the river. These trusses consist of 7 panels each, with pinned connections. The system of main spans are flanked on each end by an extremely long series of deck plate girder spans supported by steel bents of a design that are sometimes called "towers" on large high level railroad bridges like this one.

Another unique piece of the bridge is the towers on which the trusses sit. These towers rest on large stone piers below. The approach towers rest on simple stone bases. The bridge not only crosses the Des Moines River, but also several streets and a rail yard.

In 1886, the Mason City and Fort Dodge Railroad began construction on a 72 mile line between Mason City, Iowa and Fort Dodge, Iowa. The route served as a diagonal railroad in an area otherwise dominated by a gridline rail network. Due to the success, the route was expanded in 1903. Another 133 miles was built towards Council Bluffs, Iowa. In 1905, the route had attracted the Chicago Great Western Railway which purchased the line to access the Missouri River town of Council Bluffs. The line served as the quickest way between Mason City and Council Bluffs. The rationale for the Fort Dodge High Bridge was to avoid the large grades that would otherwise be required in Fort Dodge.

The is massive Fort Dodge High Bridge is considered the second largest railroad bridge in the state of Iowa. The extremely long length of the bridge, combined with rare multi-span pin-connected Baltimore deck truss spans, and the age of this 1902 bridge make it an extremely significant engineering achievement that is both historically and technologically significant.

The Des Moines River Valley has had several large high bridges, past and present. This is one of the larger structures. In this area, the Kate Shelley High Bridge in Boone County gets the most recognition because it has the distinction of being the tallest and longest known double-track railroad bridge. However, the Fort Dodge structure is actually longer than the

Kate Shelley Bridge, and has four trusses compared to one.

The Kate Shelley Bridge in Boone, Iowa, is similar in configuration to the Fort Dodge Railroad Bridge except that it has only a single truss span instead of four. It is unfortunate that the Fort Dodge High Bridge has not received more attention, since both bridges are extremely important historic bridges, and both deserve attention and research. While the Fort Dodge High Bridge may not have the record-breaking statistic, it is actually 54 feet long than the Kate Shelley Bridge. The Fort Dodge High Bridge is over a half mile long (2,719 feet long) and 182 feet high and only a couple years newer than the Kate Shelley Bridge.

The Chicago Great Western Railway had a history of financial struggles almost since its beginnings. This rail line’s history included Fort Dodge. In 1886 the Mason City & Fort Dodge Line completed the rail line between Mason City and Fort Dodge, connecting the two communities by rail. Work to extend the rail line to Omaha began a year later and was finally

competed in 1903. Thirty-eight years later, the Mason City & Fort Dodge Line was merged into the Chicago Great Western Railway in 1941. The rail line’s last passenger train ran from Omaha, through Fort Dodge, to St. Paul on September 29, 1965. Three years later, the Chicago Great Western Railway merged into the Chicago & North Western Railway on July 1st, 1968.

The Chicago and North Western Railway was acquired by the Union Pacific Railroad on June 23, 1995. Today, the Fort Dodge High Bridge continues to serve the Union Pacific Railroad. UP trains can be seen today crossing the Fort Dodge High Bridge at a speed of 10mph.

Sources:

*John Marvig Railroad Bridge Photography

*Historicbridges.org

*Chicago and North Western Historical Society

*industrialsceneryblogspot.com





Harlan Rogers Park

1967

1628 Nelson Avenue

Harlan and Hazel Rogers Ball Park  is one of the best athletic and recreational facilities in the state. In 1967, Harlan and Hazel Rogers donated the land for the baseball and softball diamonds at Rogers Sports Complex which now host the Iowa High School Girls Softball Tournament.

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The Young Woman's Christian Association was organized July 8, 1909. Mrs. John P. Dolliver was the first president and served until October, 1910, when she resigned and Mrs. George Ringland was elected president. The work was conducted for a time in the frame building just north of the Commercial National Bank building on Central Avenue. In the fall of 1909, the Reynolds property on the corner of First avenue north and Ninth street was purchased, and became the home of the YWCA, and is still there today. At the time of buying the location, $13,000.00 of the purchase price was raised by subscriptions, of which $10,000.00 was paid for the site. Later the lot adjoining on the west was purchased at a cost of $4,500.00. On January 17, 1913, the mortgage on the YWCA building was paid. An event celebrating the “burning of the mortgage” was held on January 21, 1913 with Dr. Sarah Kime in charge of the ceremony.

The three-story building was designed to house permanent and transient women. With dorm style private housing throughout, residents shared kitchen, laundry, bath and lounge space. The building also included club rooms and a gymnasium with showers. Thirty-six rooms were available for rent by women coming into the community for education and employment.

The directors at that time were: Mrs. George Ringland, president; Mrs. J. I. Rutledge, first vice president; Mrs. E. H. Williams, second vice president ; Mrs. W. H. Blakely, corresponding secretary ; Mrs. Charles Findlay, recording secretary, and Dr. Sarah Kime, treasurer. The remaining board of directors included Mesdames Anna Beatty, W. H. Blakely, C. V. Findlay, J. F. Russell, E. H. Williams, D. M. Woodard, George H. Williams, F. B. Olney, G. L. Lindquist, and Phillip Dorr.

During the year 1912-13, there were 126 girls were enrolled in YWCA programs. By 1930, the membership of the YWCA totaled 700 women. From 1915 to 1943, the YWCA Cafeteria served 3 meal daily. Meals were provided a nourishment for low income and transient women and for the women living at the Y. The cafeteria continued serving meals until 1961. During its peak of operation, the YWCA Cafeteria was recognized as a social center for motorists and the traveling public.

Nationally, since its beginnings in the 1860’s, the YWCA has advocated for women’s economic advancement, empowerment, health, fitness and well-being, education and leadership development. In Fort Dodge, YWCA programs and offerings have evolved with the changing needs and interests of women and girls in the area. Early classes and clubs involved “working girls.” The YWCA began the Fort Dodge Business and Professional Women's Club, the Fort Dodge Business Girl's Club, and the Young Adult Club. The woman's movement saw great participation by the Girl Reserves in Fort Dodge, and most notably the Black Girl Reserves. From their inception, YWCA programs have been visionary -- encouraging every woman and girl to perform at her maximum level to achieve self-sufficiency, maintain healthy habits, empower herself and work toward resolving racial justice issues.

The YWCA has served thousands of women and children in its 100+ years in Fort Dodge, and will continue to serve for many years to come. Today, the YWCA Center for Life Empowerment operates a Licensed Residential Treatment Center for women. The Center is a state licensed substance abuse treatment facility, which functions to provide clinically managed residential treatment for women and women with children. The organization also provides intensive and extended outpatient care both females and males. Treatment is directed toward applying recovery skills, preventing relapse, promoting personally responsibility, skills, and reintegrating the resident into the world of work, education, and family life.

The YWCA supports and directs clients by offering guidance in all aspects of their recovery. It encourage a comprehensive approach to goal setting, development of life skills, physical and mental health, employment, vocational or education enrichment and family support. The YWCA remains dedicated to empowering women and women with children by supporting their recovery and reunifying their families.





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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For most of its 115 years, this joint was jumpin' – On January 30, 1959, the Laramar Ballroom was hoppin’ when the Winter Dance Party and its headliners – Buddy Holly and the Crickets, the Big Bopper, Ritchie Valens, and Dion and the Belmonts - performed on its stage on a cold, snowy night in Fort Dodge.

It was the Laramar Ballroom, and some 1,000 fans crowded into the downtown building at 710 First Avenue North to watch, dance and sing along as the musicians played their hit songs - never imagining that a few days later, in the early hours of Feb. 3, 1959, three of them – Holly, J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson Jr. and Valens — would die in a plane crash after performing at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake.

"The whole show was great. Little did we know that this was the last time we would see them,” said Wes Trickel, of Fort Dodge, who was at the Laramar with his wife, Bertha, that night and got to meet Richardson and Valens. “We were so sad when we heard the news that we all never wanted to believe what had happened.”

That tragic moment on a wintry night in a cornfield north of Clear Lake was “the day the music died” as Don McLean would sing in his 1971 classic "American Pie.”

But until the last few years, there was still plenty of music left to play at the Laramar - later known as the Plamor and then the Twilight Ballroom before becoming the Laramar again. The old brick building that started as the Fort Dodge Armory in 1904 is now vacant and for sale.

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. For some, it was where they met their future spouse.

Many of the top performers of the day – playing all genre of music - mesmerized their audiences. And newbies to the dance floor were introduced to the “trap.” A trap would be set up by three or more girls or three or more boys, who would wander through the dance floor and surround a dancing couple. If it was a guy trap, the girl dancing would choose one of those in the trap or stay with her partner. If it was a girl trap, the guy dancing would choose one of those in trap or stay with his partner.

Some remember a Laramar bouncer of the late 1960s - John Matuszak, an All American football player at Fort Dodge Junior College for one season who later became the No. 1 pick in the 1973 NFL draft. Big John played several years for the Oakland Raiders of the NFL and then went on to appear on television and in movies (He died in 1989 at age 38).


The history of the Laramar Ballroom began in 1903 when the Armory in Fort Dodge was built, spearheaded by the City’s Commercial Club (Chamber of Commerce). $8,000 was raised to construct the castle-like building that housed the National Guard Regiment and provided a venue for the 56th Regiment Band, the community band and various civic events. The Armory was equipped with a gymnasium and a bowling alley. The basement was first used as a rifle range; it has also been used as a shower all for horses, skaters, locker room, and restaurants.

The building was designed to resemble an impregnable fortress, with imitation spots for gun placements. Especially durable, hard paving brick was used in the front part. The grand opening and dedication on February 11, 1904 was “the most brilliant function Fort Dodge social life had ever witnessed,” according to the Messenger.

In the 1920s, the Armory also offered commercial space for various businesses and organizations. By 1927, the Traffic Bureau, C of 1929, Iowa Airways, A. M. Auto Association, Ft. Dodge Grocers Association, and the Geer Dancing Emporium were added to its use. Over the years, other companies: R. L. Polk Company, Men’s Civic Glee Club, F. D. Drum Corp, Allied Food Stories, F. D. Community Chest, and the Iowa National Guard and many others would be located there.

During the two World Wars, soldiers were drafted at the Armory and ration books were issued there to Fort Dodge residents. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, many were worried that armories would be attacked so soldiers were stationed around the building. Over the years, the Armory was the scene of many charity balls, police and firemen's balls, craft shows, reunions, banquets, dance parties and much more.

Music has always been part of the building's DNA from the outset, when it was built so the Company G, 56th Infantry would have a place for a regimental band under the direction of Carl Quist to rehearse and perform.

The end of World War I marked an upswing across the country in ballrooms where people would gather to dance to the new music of the times. The Jazz Era was where they got their start and the 1930s and 40s were the highpoint of the ballroom era. Ballrooms, some elegant and some plain, could be found in the biggest cities or smallest rural areas. All shared a common denominator of music and dancing.

Gradually, it became an entertainment center. As a dance hall, its fame was legendary in Iowa. The first dance was held in 1925. When the ‘Big Bands’ and singers were touring the country, as well as the territorial bands and other musical performers, one could find the best of them at the Armory or later at the Laramar. Such names as Lawrence Welk, Guy Lombardo, Glen Miller Orchestra, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Skippy Anderson, Guy Deleo, Leo Piper, Benny Goodman, Kay Kaiser, The Dorsey Brothers, Woody Herman, Al Minke, Jan Gaber, Johnny Cash and others all performed at the Laramar.

The Armory was purchased by Larry and Margaret Geer from the Chamber of Commerce around the time they were married in 1938. Larry Geer had operated the ballroom at the armory since the 1920s, possibly before. Their first names – Larry and Margaret — were merged to create the name Laramar. Geer said that at one of Welk's appearances, his father had to loan Welk enough money for gas so he and his five-piece band to get to their next stop. The biggest crowd was brought in by Guy Lombardo when a record 2,400 were crowded in elbow to elbow. The Geers sold the business around 1964, when it became the Plamor for the next eight years.

In the '50s-'60s teen era, performers Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and the Big Bopper performed at the Laramar just three days before the fatal plane crash in 1959 during the ‘Winter Dance Party’ tour. Some other stars that appeared at the Laramar included: Johnny Cash, Barbara Mandrell, Del Shannon, Gary Lewis & the Playboys, Bobby Vee, the Coasters, Tommy James and the Shondells, Freddie Cannon, Jimmy Clanton, the Crew Cuts, the Everly Brothers, the Diamonds, the Fabulous Flippers, and the famous Midwest band, the Rumbles, among others.


Over the years, there have been charity balls, Police and Fireman’s Balls, craft showers, wedding receptions, class reunions, banquets, and so much more. This building is truly a part of Fort Dodge history.

Geer was 15 at the time of the Winter Dance Party performance in 1959 and as the son of the owners, it was not his first chance to be around big stars. One of his lasting memories was helping Johnny Cash climb through a back window and back stairway to his dressing room one night, to get through the crowds."

About 1,000 people were on hand that night 60 years ago, with the balcony reserved for adult spectators and the dance floor for teens only, Geer said. The 11 performers arrived late on an old bus that didn't have a heater that worked. One of the members of Holly's Crickets band was future country star Waylon Jennings.

The book, “The Day the Music Died: The Last Tour of Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens - and the Fatal Air Crash That Took Their Lives" detailed the musicians' appearance at the Laramar.

The ballroom's next owners were Dick and Lee Derrig. Dick had worked at the ballroom under two different owners prior to buying the building. Dick and his wife Lee loved the ballroom and when they had the opportunity, they took the leap into proprietorship. Dick and Lee began running the ballroom as The Twilight on New Year’s Eve 1972. In 1979, Dick and Lee actually purchased the ballroom. For twelve years, they had a great reputation for bringing quality entertainment to Fort Dodge. People would come not just from Fort Dodge but also miles from the surrounding towns to enjoy the fun.

The Twilight Ballroom was always known as ‘the Fun Spot and rock n' roll wasn't all the Laramar offered as there were old-time dances on Thursday nights with waltzes, swing, polkas and even square dances. Thursdays at the Twilight was the place to be for great big bands and ballroom dancing. Some favorite big bands Dick and Lee brought to you are: Jeff & Eddie Skeets, Kenny Hofer, Erv Reutzel, Jack Schultz, Al Godfredsen, Jan Garber, Don Glasser, Greg Spevak, Billy Redman, Riney Rinehart, Vern Claussen, Al Pierson (currently director of Guy Lombardo orchestra), Wayne King, Don Hoy, Ted Weems, Sammy Jensen, Russ Morgan (under direction of Jack Morgan), and many others.

On Saturdays, you would find 50s and 60s rock n roll. Many ‘oldies’ bands that Dick and Lee brought back for repeat performances here were: The Cleavettes, The Do’s & The Dont’s, Rockin’ Hollywoods, American Grease, Faze Four, Hot Moose & Da Sharks, Spirits of the Past, Sundown, Travelin’ Band, Studebaker, Reflections, Last Shades of Dawn, Nifty Fifties, White Sidewalls, The Backbeats, Buckeye, Phoenix, Fantasia, Vixen, and so many more; too numerous to name them all who also donated their time for benefits. Aside from the local and regional bands, Dick and Lee also brought their share of major recording artists from the 50s and 60s to town: Tommy James & the Shondells, Bobby Vee, The Coasters, and Gary Lewis & the Playboys.

Lee was also well known in town for her cake decorating. The Twilight was pretty much ‘one-stop shopping’ for wedding receptions. You could pick out your cake, decorations, food, and entertainment. Dick and Lee took care of most of the decorating for you as well as the clean-up. Reunions, retirement and anniversary parties, charity events, craft shows, and other benefits were also held here. They donated the ballroom for use and many bands donated their time for benefits held here. The Twilight was simply the place to have a big event. Crowds would gather for some of the dances, filling the main floor and the balcony both. The Fireman’s Balls and the Policeman’s Balls used to always be held at the Twilight and they were always packed!

People liked Dick and Lee and how they managed and promoted the Twilight Ballroom. The Twilight enjoyed a good reputation. There were very few problems or disturbances. People, young and old, were there to have fun.

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

Sometime between 2001 – 2013, Jorge Blanco, whose family owned Blanco roofing business in Fort Dodge, purchased the Laramar. Since that time, the Laramar has been used sporadically for various events and is now vacant and for sale. The hope of many is that someone will purchase the building, restore it and bring it back as a recreational asset for our community, like it once was.

Sources:
*Messenger Spotlight…. January 30, 2019 by Paul Stevens
*Twilight Ballroom Memories… 1972-1985… Dick and Lee Derrig
*www.iowarockandroll.co/ballrooms
*www.rockandrollroadmap.com





Oleson Park Band Shell

1938

1400 Oleson Park Ave

The Oleson Park Band Shell marked a major departure from the small gazebo type bandstands which were constructed in the U.S. after the Civil War. 

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For most of its 115 years, this joint was jumpin' – On January 30, 1959, the Laramar Ballroom was hoppin’ when the Winter Dance Party and its headliners – Buddy Holly and the Crickets, the Big Bopper, Ritchie Valens, and Dion and the Belmonts - performed on its stage on a cold, snowy night in Fort Dodge.

It was the Laramar Ballroom, and some 1,000 fans crowded into the downtown building at 710 First Avenue North to watch, dance and sing along as the musicians played their hit songs - never imagining that a few days later, in the early hours of Feb. 3, 1959, three of them – Holly, J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson Jr. and Valens — would die in a plane crash after performing at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake.

"The whole show was great. Little did we know that this was the last time we would see them,” said Wes Trickel, of Fort Dodge, who was at the Laramar with his wife, Bertha, that night and got to meet Richardson and Valens. “We were so sad when we heard the news that we all never wanted to believe what had happened.”

That tragic moment on a wintry night in a cornfield north of Clear Lake was “the day the music died” as Don McLean would sing in his 1971 classic "American Pie.”

But until the last few years, there was still plenty of music left to play at the Laramar - later known as the Plamor and then the Twilight Ballroom before becoming the Laramar again. The old brick building that started as the Fort Dodge Armory in 1904 is now vacant and for sale.

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. For some, it was where they met their future spouse.

Many of the top performers of the day – playing all genre of music - mesmerized their audiences. And newbies to the dance floor were introduced to the “trap.” A trap would be set up by three or more girls or three or more boys, who would wander through the dance floor and surround a dancing couple. If it was a guy trap, the girl dancing would choose one of those in the trap or stay with her partner. If it was a girl trap, the guy dancing would choose one of those in trap or stay with his partner.

Some remember a Laramar bouncer of the late 1960s - John Matuszak, an All American football player at Fort Dodge Junior College for one season who later became the No. 1 pick in the 1973 NFL draft. Big John played several years for the Oakland Raiders of the NFL and then went on to appear on television and in movies (He died in 1989 at age 38).


The history of the Laramar Ballroom began in 1903 when the Armory in Fort Dodge was built, spearheaded by the City’s Commercial Club (Chamber of Commerce). $8,000 was raised to construct the castle-like building that housed the National Guard Regiment and provided a venue for the 56th Regiment Band, the community band and various civic events. The Armory was equipped with a gymnasium and a bowling alley. The basement was first used as a rifle range; it has also been used as a shower all for horses, skaters, locker room, and restaurants.

The building was designed to resemble an impregnable fortress, with imitation spots for gun placements. Especially durable, hard paving brick was used in the front part. The grand opening and dedication on February 11, 1904 was “the most brilliant function Fort Dodge social life had ever witnessed,” according to the Messenger.

In the 1920s, the Armory also offered commercial space for various businesses and organizations. By 1927, the Traffic Bureau, C of 1929, Iowa Airways, A. M. Auto Association, Ft. Dodge Grocers Association, and the Geer Dancing Emporium were added to its use. Over the years, other companies: R. L. Polk Company, Men’s Civic Glee Club, F. D. Drum Corp, Allied Food Stories, F. D. Community Chest, and the Iowa National Guard and many others would be located there.

During the two World Wars, soldiers were drafted at the Armory and ration books were issued there to Fort Dodge residents. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, many were worried that armories would be attacked so soldiers were stationed around the building. Over the years, the Armory was the scene of many charity balls, police and firemen's balls, craft shows, reunions, banquets, dance parties and much more.

Music has always been part of the building's DNA from the outset, when it was built so the Company G, 56th Infantry would have a place for a regimental band under the direction of Carl Quist to rehearse and perform.

The end of World War I marked an upswing across the country in ballrooms where people would gather to dance to the new music of the times. The Jazz Era was where they got their start and the 1930s and 40s were the highpoint of the ballroom era. Ballrooms, some elegant and some plain, could be found in the biggest cities or smallest rural areas. All shared a common denominator of music and dancing.

Gradually, it became an entertainment center. As a dance hall, its fame was legendary in Iowa. The first dance was held in 1925. When the ‘Big Bands’ and singers were touring the country, as well as the territorial bands and other musical performers, one could find the best of them at the Armory or later at the Laramar. Such names as Lawrence Welk, Guy Lombardo, Glen Miller Orchestra, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Skippy Anderson, Guy Deleo, Leo Piper, Benny Goodman, Kay Kaiser, The Dorsey Brothers, Woody Herman, Al Minke, Jan Gaber, Johnny Cash and others all performed at the Laramar.

The Armory was purchased by Larry and Margaret Geer from the Chamber of Commerce around the time they were married in 1938. Larry Geer had operated the ballroom at the armory since the 1920s, possibly before. Their first names – Larry and Margaret — were merged to create the name Laramar. Geer said that at one of Welk's appearances, his father had to loan Welk enough money for gas so he and his five-piece band to get to their next stop. The biggest crowd was brought in by Guy Lombardo when a record 2,400 were crowded in elbow to elbow. The Geers sold the business around 1964, when it became the Plamor for the next eight years.

In the '50s-'60s teen era, performers Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and the Big Bopper performed at the Laramar just three days before the fatal plane crash in 1959 during the ‘Winter Dance Party’ tour. Some other stars that appeared at the Laramar included: Johnny Cash, Barbara Mandrell, Del Shannon, Gary Lewis & the Playboys, Bobby Vee, the Coasters, Tommy James and the Shondells, Freddie Cannon, Jimmy Clanton, the Crew Cuts, the Everly Brothers, the Diamonds, the Fabulous Flippers, and the famous Midwest band, the Rumbles, among others.


Over the years, there have been charity balls, Police and Fireman’s Balls, craft showers, wedding receptions, class reunions, banquets, and so much more. This building is truly a part of Fort Dodge history.

Geer was 15 at the time of the Winter Dance Party performance in 1959 and as the son of the owners, it was not his first chance to be around big stars. One of his lasting memories was helping Johnny Cash climb through a back window and back stairway to his dressing room one night, to get through the crowds."

About 1,000 people were on hand that night 60 years ago, with the balcony reserved for adult spectators and the dance floor for teens only, Geer said. The 11 performers arrived late on an old bus that didn't have a heater that worked. One of the members of Holly's Crickets band was future country star Waylon Jennings.

The book, “The Day the Music Died: The Last Tour of Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens - and the Fatal Air Crash That Took Their Lives" detailed the musicians' appearance at the Laramar.

The ballroom's next owners were Dick and Lee Derrig. Dick had worked at the ballroom under two different owners prior to buying the building. Dick and his wife Lee loved the ballroom and when they had the opportunity, they took the leap into proprietorship. Dick and Lee began running the ballroom as The Twilight on New Year’s Eve 1972. In 1979, Dick and Lee actually purchased the ballroom. For twelve years, they had a great reputation for bringing quality entertainment to Fort Dodge. People would come not just from Fort Dodge but also miles from the surrounding towns to enjoy the fun.

The Twilight Ballroom was always known as ‘the Fun Spot and rock n' roll wasn't all the Laramar offered as there were old-time dances on Thursday nights with waltzes, swing, polkas and even square dances. Thursdays at the Twilight was the place to be for great big bands and ballroom dancing. Some favorite big bands Dick and Lee brought to you are: Jeff & Eddie Skeets, Kenny Hofer, Erv Reutzel, Jack Schultz, Al Godfredsen, Jan Garber, Don Glasser, Greg Spevak, Billy Redman, Riney Rinehart, Vern Claussen, Al Pierson (currently director of Guy Lombardo orchestra), Wayne King, Don Hoy, Ted Weems, Sammy Jensen, Russ Morgan (under direction of Jack Morgan), and many others.

On Saturdays, you would find 50s and 60s rock n roll. Many ‘oldies’ bands that Dick and Lee brought back for repeat performances here were: The Cleavettes, The Do’s & The Dont’s, Rockin’ Hollywoods, American Grease, Faze Four, Hot Moose & Da Sharks, Spirits of the Past, Sundown, Travelin’ Band, Studebaker, Reflections, Last Shades of Dawn, Nifty Fifties, White Sidewalls, The Backbeats, Buckeye, Phoenix, Fantasia, Vixen, and so many more; too numerous to name them all who also donated their time for benefits. Aside from the local and regional bands, Dick and Lee also brought their share of major recording artists from the 50s and 60s to town: Tommy James & the Shondells, Bobby Vee, The Coasters, and Gary Lewis & the Playboys.

Lee was also well known in town for her cake decorating. The Twilight was pretty much ‘one-stop shopping’ for wedding receptions. You could pick out your cake, decorations, food, and entertainment. Dick and Lee took care of most of the decorating for you as well as the clean-up. Reunions, retirement and anniversary parties, charity events, craft shows, and other benefits were also held here. They donated the ballroom for use and many bands donated their time for benefits held here. The Twilight was simply the place to have a big event. Crowds would gather for some of the dances, filling the main floor and the balcony both. The Fireman’s Balls and the Policeman’s Balls used to always be held at the Twilight and they were always packed!

People liked Dick and Lee and how they managed and promoted the Twilight Ballroom. The Twilight enjoyed a good reputation. There were very few problems or disturbances. People, young and old, were there to have fun.

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

Sometime between 2001 – 2013, Jorge Blanco, whose family owned Blanco roofing business in Fort Dodge, purchased the Laramar. Since that time, the Laramar has been used sporadically for various events and is now vacant and for sale. The hope of many is that someone will purchase the building, restore it and bring it back as a recreational asset for our community, like it once was.

Sources:
*Messenger Spotlight…. January 30, 2019 by Paul Stevens
*Twilight Ballroom Memories… 1972-1985… Dick and Lee Derrig
*www.iowarockandroll.co/ballrooms
*www.rockandrollroadmap.com





Treloar's Inn

1928

North 15th Street

The most legendary of all the Fort Dodge restaurants was Treloar’s Inn.  In its day, Treloar’s Inn was known all over the mid-west and seated over 500 people. It all began with a 120 square foot building.

Read More


For most of its 115 years, this joint was jumpin' – On January 30, 1959, the Laramar Ballroom was hoppin’ when the Winter Dance Party and its headliners – Buddy Holly and the Crickets, the Big Bopper, Ritchie Valens, and Dion and the Belmonts - performed on its stage on a cold, snowy night in Fort Dodge.

It was the Laramar Ballroom, and some 1,000 fans crowded into the downtown building at 710 First Avenue North to watch, dance and sing along as the musicians played their hit songs - never imagining that a few days later, in the early hours of Feb. 3, 1959, three of them – Holly, J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson Jr. and Valens — would die in a plane crash after performing at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake.

"The whole show was great. Little did we know that this was the last time we would see them,” said Wes Trickel, of Fort Dodge, who was at the Laramar with his wife, Bertha, that night and got to meet Richardson and Valens. “We were so sad when we heard the news that we all never wanted to believe what had happened.”

That tragic moment on a wintry night in a cornfield north of Clear Lake was “the day the music died” as Don McLean would sing in his 1971 classic "American Pie.”

But until the last few years, there was still plenty of music left to play at the Laramar - later known as the Plamor and then the Twilight Ballroom before becoming the Laramar again. The old brick building that started as the Fort Dodge Armory in 1904 is now vacant and for sale.

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. For some, it was where they met their future spouse.

Many of the top performers of the day – playing all genre of music - mesmerized their audiences. And newbies to the dance floor were introduced to the “trap.” A trap would be set up by three or more girls or three or more boys, who would wander through the dance floor and surround a dancing couple. If it was a guy trap, the girl dancing would choose one of those in the trap or stay with her partner. If it was a girl trap, the guy dancing would choose one of those in trap or stay with his partner.

Some remember a Laramar bouncer of the late 1960s - John Matuszak, an All American football player at Fort Dodge Junior College for one season who later became the No. 1 pick in the 1973 NFL draft. Big John played several years for the Oakland Raiders of the NFL and then went on to appear on television and in movies (He died in 1989 at age 38).


The history of the Laramar Ballroom began in 1903 when the Armory in Fort Dodge was built, spearheaded by the City’s Commercial Club (Chamber of Commerce). $8,000 was raised to construct the castle-like building that housed the National Guard Regiment and provided a venue for the 56th Regiment Band, the community band and various civic events. The Armory was equipped with a gymnasium and a bowling alley. The basement was first used as a rifle range; it has also been used as a shower all for horses, skaters, locker room, and restaurants.

The building was designed to resemble an impregnable fortress, with imitation spots for gun placements. Especially durable, hard paving brick was used in the front part. The grand opening and dedication on February 11, 1904 was “the most brilliant function Fort Dodge social life had ever witnessed,” according to the Messenger.

In the 1920s, the Armory also offered commercial space for various businesses and organizations. By 1927, the Traffic Bureau, C of 1929, Iowa Airways, A. M. Auto Association, Ft. Dodge Grocers Association, and the Geer Dancing Emporium were added to its use. Over the years, other companies: R. L. Polk Company, Men’s Civic Glee Club, F. D. Drum Corp, Allied Food Stories, F. D. Community Chest, and the Iowa National Guard and many others would be located there.

During the two World Wars, soldiers were drafted at the Armory and ration books were issued there to Fort Dodge residents. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, many were worried that armories would be attacked so soldiers were stationed around the building. Over the years, the Armory was the scene of many charity balls, police and firemen's balls, craft shows, reunions, banquets, dance parties and much more.

Music has always been part of the building's DNA from the outset, when it was built so the Company G, 56th Infantry would have a place for a regimental band under the direction of Carl Quist to rehearse and perform.

The end of World War I marked an upswing across the country in ballrooms where people would gather to dance to the new music of the times. The Jazz Era was where they got their start and the 1930s and 40s were the highpoint of the ballroom era. Ballrooms, some elegant and some plain, could be found in the biggest cities or smallest rural areas. All shared a common denominator of music and dancing.

Gradually, it became an entertainment center. As a dance hall, its fame was legendary in Iowa. The first dance was held in 1925. When the ‘Big Bands’ and singers were touring the country, as well as the territorial bands and other musical performers, one could find the best of them at the Armory or later at the Laramar. Such names as Lawrence Welk, Guy Lombardo, Glen Miller Orchestra, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Skippy Anderson, Guy Deleo, Leo Piper, Benny Goodman, Kay Kaiser, The Dorsey Brothers, Woody Herman, Al Minke, Jan Gaber, Johnny Cash and others all performed at the Laramar.

The Armory was purchased by Larry and Margaret Geer from the Chamber of Commerce around the time they were married in 1938. Larry Geer had operated the ballroom at the armory since the 1920s, possibly before. Their first names – Larry and Margaret — were merged to create the name Laramar. Geer said that at one of Welk's appearances, his father had to loan Welk enough money for gas so he and his five-piece band to get to their next stop. The biggest crowd was brought in by Guy Lombardo when a record 2,400 were crowded in elbow to elbow. The Geers sold the business around 1964, when it became the Plamor for the next eight years.

In the '50s-'60s teen era, performers Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and the Big Bopper performed at the Laramar just three days before the fatal plane crash in 1959 during the ‘Winter Dance Party’ tour. Some other stars that appeared at the Laramar included: Johnny Cash, Barbara Mandrell, Del Shannon, Gary Lewis & the Playboys, Bobby Vee, the Coasters, Tommy James and the Shondells, Freddie Cannon, Jimmy Clanton, the Crew Cuts, the Everly Brothers, the Diamonds, the Fabulous Flippers, and the famous Midwest band, the Rumbles, among others.


Over the years, there have been charity balls, Police and Fireman’s Balls, craft showers, wedding receptions, class reunions, banquets, and so much more. This building is truly a part of Fort Dodge history.

Geer was 15 at the time of the Winter Dance Party performance in 1959 and as the son of the owners, it was not his first chance to be around big stars. One of his lasting memories was helping Johnny Cash climb through a back window and back stairway to his dressing room one night, to get through the crowds."

About 1,000 people were on hand that night 60 years ago, with the balcony reserved for adult spectators and the dance floor for teens only, Geer said. The 11 performers arrived late on an old bus that didn't have a heater that worked. One of the members of Holly's Crickets band was future country star Waylon Jennings.

The book, “The Day the Music Died: The Last Tour of Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens - and the Fatal Air Crash That Took Their Lives" detailed the musicians' appearance at the Laramar.

The ballroom's next owners were Dick and Lee Derrig. Dick had worked at the ballroom under two different owners prior to buying the building. Dick and his wife Lee loved the ballroom and when they had the opportunity, they took the leap into proprietorship. Dick and Lee began running the ballroom as The Twilight on New Year’s Eve 1972. In 1979, Dick and Lee actually purchased the ballroom. For twelve years, they had a great reputation for bringing quality entertainment to Fort Dodge. People would come not just from Fort Dodge but also miles from the surrounding towns to enjoy the fun.

The Twilight Ballroom was always known as ‘the Fun Spot and rock n' roll wasn't all the Laramar offered as there were old-time dances on Thursday nights with waltzes, swing, polkas and even square dances. Thursdays at the Twilight was the place to be for great big bands and ballroom dancing. Some favorite big bands Dick and Lee brought to you are: Jeff & Eddie Skeets, Kenny Hofer, Erv Reutzel, Jack Schultz, Al Godfredsen, Jan Garber, Don Glasser, Greg Spevak, Billy Redman, Riney Rinehart, Vern Claussen, Al Pierson (currently director of Guy Lombardo orchestra), Wayne King, Don Hoy, Ted Weems, Sammy Jensen, Russ Morgan (under direction of Jack Morgan), and many others.

On Saturdays, you would find 50s and 60s rock n roll. Many ‘oldies’ bands that Dick and Lee brought back for repeat performances here were: The Cleavettes, The Do’s & The Dont’s, Rockin’ Hollywoods, American Grease, Faze Four, Hot Moose & Da Sharks, Spirits of the Past, Sundown, Travelin’ Band, Studebaker, Reflections, Last Shades of Dawn, Nifty Fifties, White Sidewalls, The Backbeats, Buckeye, Phoenix, Fantasia, Vixen, and so many more; too numerous to name them all who also donated their time for benefits. Aside from the local and regional bands, Dick and Lee also brought their share of major recording artists from the 50s and 60s to town: Tommy James & the Shondells, Bobby Vee, The Coasters, and Gary Lewis & the Playboys.

Lee was also well known in town for her cake decorating. The Twilight was pretty much ‘one-stop shopping’ for wedding receptions. You could pick out your cake, decorations, food, and entertainment. Dick and Lee took care of most of the decorating for you as well as the clean-up. Reunions, retirement and anniversary parties, charity events, craft shows, and other benefits were also held here. They donated the ballroom for use and many bands donated their time for benefits held here. The Twilight was simply the place to have a big event. Crowds would gather for some of the dances, filling the main floor and the balcony both. The Fireman’s Balls and the Policeman’s Balls used to always be held at the Twilight and they were always packed!

People liked Dick and Lee and how they managed and promoted the Twilight Ballroom. The Twilight enjoyed a good reputation. There were very few problems or disturbances. People, young and old, were there to have fun.

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

Sometime between 2001 – 2013, Jorge Blanco, whose family owned Blanco roofing business in Fort Dodge, purchased the Laramar. Since that time, the Laramar has been used sporadically for various events and is now vacant and for sale. The hope of many is that someone will purchase the building, restore it and bring it back as a recreational asset for our community, like it once was.

Sources:
*Messenger Spotlight…. January 30, 2019 by Paul Stevens
*Twilight Ballroom Memories… 1972-1985… Dick and Lee Derrig
*www.iowarockandroll.co/ballrooms
*www.rockandrollroadmap.com





Ringland/Smeltzer House

1903

1019 2nd Ave. S

Spencer Beman designed a home for the Ringlands that exhibited Jacobethan Revival architecture, which featured unique brickwork, tall chimneys, multiple gables and rectangular window frames with leaded glass panes.

Read More


In 1844, the first YMCA was opened in London, England, by George Williams, a farmer-turned-department store worker who was troubled by how many young men in London were coping with the hazards of life on the streets. This first YMCA offered something unique for its time.

In the United States, the first YMCA was founded in Boston, MA. by a retired Boston sea captain Thomas Valentine Sullivan. Sullivan noticed a similar need to create a safe “home away from home” for sailors and merchants. Inspired by the stories of the YMCA in England, Sullivan led the formation of the first U.S. YMCA at the Old South Church in Boston on December 29, 1851.

With so many young men moving to cities from rural areas, YMCA housing was started in the 1860’s for the purpose of giving these young men safe and affordable lodging and opportunities for recreation so they could have a healthy release from their difficult lives. Facilities included gyms, auditoriums and hotel-like rooms. Chicago’s Farwell Hall, the first known YMCA dormitory, was completed in 1867. Between 1922 and 1940, YMCA accommodations grew from approximately 55,000 rooms to more than 100,000, more than any hotel chain at the time.

In Fort Dodge, a group of Fort Dodge businessmen organized a YMCA and was incorporated it in 1891. The first location (unknown) had a fire in January of 1892. The YMCA then lease a few rooms over C.E. Black’s meat market. In February of 1892, John Parsons offered one of his lots for a new building. A campaign for a new YMCA began but only $2,000 was raised and the project never got off the ground. In July 1894, a special meeting was held to discuss renting rooms in George W. Mason’s building, above Craft’s grocery store, located at the corner of Central Avenue and 9th Street. The rooms would be used a reading and lecture rooms and a room for games. A shower and tub baths would also be added to the location. These new rooms were opened in August of 1894.

In November of 1897 -with the need for more space, the board members of the YMCA agreed to lease the 2nd and 3rd floors of the new Sanderson Building that was nearing the completion for being built. Sanderson Building was located one door east of the Post Office on Central Avenue, (today this would be on the 900 block on Central Avenue). The new building was being built for the Sanderson Candy Factory, which later become the Fort Dodge Candy Factory. The YMCA officially opened its doors in the Sanderson Building in February of 1898. This new site provided five rooms on the second floor; Director’s room, two reading rooms, the secretary’s office and a game room. On the third floor, there was 51 x 39 ft. gymnasium with gallery seating for 70 people and five bath rooms. The rooms of the second floor were also used for socialization and meetings for prayer. F.A. Garrison was the board president. J.G. Early was the board secretary. Other charter board members included E.H. Rich, C.W. Ackerman, C.H. Smith, S.A. Smith, L.L. Leighton, C. Craft, W.U. Turpin, E.E. Prusia, E. Berschein, T.H Wright, J.F. Nelson, J.J. Rutke, T.E. Deereaux, and F. Gates.

In September of 1909, O.M. Oleson, a renowned Fort Dodge businessman and philanthropist, announced that he would be donating property for the location of a new building for the YMCA . The location would be on north side of 1st Avenue North and North 6th Street, across the street from the former Fort Dodge Carnegie Library.

In October, a group of Fort Dodge business leaders led a fundraising campaign to raise $70,000 to build a new YMCA building. Ten days later on November 5, 1909, it was announced that over $76,000 had been raised or pledged for the new building. The preliminary floor plans for the new YMCA included:

* Sub-basement: locker rooms with bath/shower rooms, swimming pool, and bowling alley

* First floor: offices, parlors, reading and recreation rooms, 45 x 78 foot gymnasium with a raised running track above gymnasium and a cafeteria

* Second floor: dormitories, educational department and a large room/ banqueting hall which may be cut into smaller class rooms when needed.

* Third floor: more dormitories, which will be one of the chief sources of income (44 dormitories total)

Construction of new building began on March 10, 1910. Jensen Construction Company was retained as the general contractor. On February 18, 1911, the new YMCA building opened.

At the time, M. W. Parsons, state secretary for the YMCA, declared that Fort Dodge had the finest YMCA building in the state and that it is the largest project carried to successful conclusion through popular subscription and pledges.

No doubt, from the day it was built until 1964, the Fort Dodge YMCA was considered a wonderful recreational asset for the community. The building had a magnificent gymnasium with two main baskets and four baskets on the side walls. It also had an indoor pool that was used by kids and adults alike. This original Y had Family Nights when women and girls could come and swim and participate with their family. The Y even had a lunch counter where kids and adults could grab a snack, maybe even a bowl of chili before going home. The YMCA was truly a great place for fun, exercise and socialization.

The original building that opened in 1911, operated until 1964. By this time, the original YMCA facility had aged and was no longer large enough to accommodate the needs of the members. Board members and community leaders began the planning for a new and larger facility. The cost was estimated to be close to one million dollars. Again, this money was raised through a community fundraising campaign led by Ed Breen, Fred Seifer, Herb Bennett, Board Chairman George Gildemeister and Glen Davies who was the YMCA executive director.

In January of 1965, the new YMCA facility opened it doors at the corner of 15th Street and 1st Avenue South. It was Glen Davies who led the lobbying for construction of a new YMCA when the original building, at the time, was over 50 years old and in desperate need of updates. By engaging the community about need and importance of a new facility, Davies and the campaign committee were successful raising the necessary funds. Glen Davies was highly respected throughout the community as a person who loved community work, physical activity, people and most of all kids.

During this period of transition from the original YMCA to the new facility, Glen Davies served as the Y’s executive director from 1957 to 1966 and Bruce Wilde was the physical director and was instrumental in establishing a volleyball program. Jerry Patterson was the youth sports directors for several years and established the YMCA Teener Baseball Program. Many of the “Teener” baseball games were played at Jerry’s own Patterson Field.

In Fort Dodge, the YMCA remained affiliated with the YMCA of America until 2010. Due to a new partnership with Iowa Central Community College that offered additional fitness services to college students and the general public, the YMCA was converted to the Fort Dodge Community Recreation Center. An obscure policy of the National YMCA would not approve this successful partnership with Iowa Central Community College because the fitness facility on its campus did not allow those under age 18 to use it. This led to the ending of the Fort Dodge YMCA’s storied relationship with the national YMCA.

Today, the Fort Dodge REC remains a strong and active organization providing a wide range of recreation and fitness programs through its four locations. Besides the main building at 15th Street and 1st Avenue South, there is an exercise facility at Iowa Central Community College, a multipurpose cross training facility at the old Fareway Store location at Second Avenue South and Seventh Street, and a 24-hour fitness center at Fifth Avenue South and 21st Street that was purchased from Snap Fitness in 2015.

Youth programs designed for kindergarteners through sixth-graders, in partnership with the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, are basketball, flag football, martial arts, aquatic programs, soccer and baseball. Adults are offered more than 50 different fitness classes that include Pilates, cycle, step, boot camp, yoga, core strengthening, Zumba and blast.

The REC has found heightened interest among senior citizens in using the pool for low-impact exercise and has increased the number of water fitness classes. Adults continue to use the gymnasium for basketball, volleyball and a new and very popular activity, pickleball.

Sources:

*Messenger Spotlight…. by Paul Stevene

*Messenger newspaper





The Vincent House

1872

824 3rd Avenue South

Located at 824 3rd Avenue South in the historic Oak Hill District in Fort Dodge, The Vincent House speaks of the compelling history of the very beginnings of the city.

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In 1844, the first YMCA was opened in London, England, by George Williams, a farmer-turned-department store worker who was troubled by how many young men in London were coping with the hazards of life on the streets. This first YMCA offered something unique for its time.

In the United States, the first YMCA was founded in Boston, MA. by a retired Boston sea captain Thomas Valentine Sullivan. Sullivan noticed a similar need to create a safe “home away from home” for sailors and merchants. Inspired by the stories of the YMCA in England, Sullivan led the formation of the first U.S. YMCA at the Old South Church in Boston on December 29, 1851.

With so many young men moving to cities from rural areas, YMCA housing was started in the 1860’s for the purpose of giving these young men safe and affordable lodging and opportunities for recreation so they could have a healthy release from their difficult lives. Facilities included gyms, auditoriums and hotel-like rooms. Chicago’s Farwell Hall, the first known YMCA dormitory, was completed in 1867. Between 1922 and 1940, YMCA accommodations grew from approximately 55,000 rooms to more than 100,000, more than any hotel chain at the time.

In Fort Dodge, a group of Fort Dodge businessmen organized a YMCA and was incorporated it in 1891. The first location (unknown) had a fire in January of 1892. The YMCA then lease a few rooms over C.E. Black’s meat market. In February of 1892, John Parsons offered one of his lots for a new building. A campaign for a new YMCA began but only $2,000 was raised and the project never got off the ground. In July 1894, a special meeting was held to discuss renting rooms in George W. Mason’s building, above Craft’s grocery store, located at the corner of Central Avenue and 9th Street. The rooms would be used a reading and lecture rooms and a room for games. A shower and tub baths would also be added to the location. These new rooms were opened in August of 1894.

In November of 1897 -with the need for more space, the board members of the YMCA agreed to lease the 2nd and 3rd floors of the new Sanderson Building that was nearing the completion for being built. Sanderson Building was located one door east of the Post Office on Central Avenue, (today this would be on the 900 block on Central Avenue). The new building was being built for the Sanderson Candy Factory, which later become the Fort Dodge Candy Factory. The YMCA officially opened its doors in the Sanderson Building in February of 1898. This new site provided five rooms on the second floor; Director’s room, two reading rooms, the secretary’s office and a game room. On the third floor, there was 51 x 39 ft. gymnasium with gallery seating for 70 people and five bath rooms. The rooms of the second floor were also used for socialization and meetings for prayer. F.A. Garrison was the board president. J.G. Early was the board secretary. Other charter board members included E.H. Rich, C.W. Ackerman, C.H. Smith, S.A. Smith, L.L. Leighton, C. Craft, W.U. Turpin, E.E. Prusia, E. Berschein, T.H Wright, J.F. Nelson, J.J. Rutke, T.E. Deereaux, and F. Gates.

In September of 1909, O.M. Oleson, a renowned Fort Dodge businessman and philanthropist, announced that he would be donating property for the location of a new building for the YMCA . The location would be on north side of 1st Avenue North and North 6th Street, across the street from the former Fort Dodge Carnegie Library.

In October, a group of Fort Dodge business leaders led a fundraising campaign to raise $70,000 to build a new YMCA building. Ten days later on November 5, 1909, it was announced that over $76,000 had been raised or pledged for the new building. The preliminary floor plans for the new YMCA included:

* Sub-basement: locker rooms with bath/shower rooms, swimming pool, and bowling alley

* First floor: offices, parlors, reading and recreation rooms, 45 x 78 foot gymnasium with a raised running track above gymnasium and a cafeteria

* Second floor: dormitories, educational department and a large room/ banqueting hall which may be cut into smaller class rooms when needed.

* Third floor: more dormitories, which will be one of the chief sources of income (44 dormitories total)

Construction of new building began on March 10, 1910. Jensen Construction Company was retained as the general contractor. On February 18, 1911, the new YMCA building opened.

At the time, M. W. Parsons, state secretary for the YMCA, declared that Fort Dodge had the finest YMCA building in the state and that it is the largest project carried to successful conclusion through popular subscription and pledges.

No doubt, from the day it was built until 1964, the Fort Dodge YMCA was considered a wonderful recreational asset for the community. The building had a magnificent gymnasium with two main baskets and four baskets on the side walls. It also had an indoor pool that was used by kids and adults alike. This original Y had Family Nights when women and girls could come and swim and participate with their family. The Y even had a lunch counter where kids and adults could grab a snack, maybe even a bowl of chili before going home. The YMCA was truly a great place for fun, exercise and socialization.

The original building that opened in 1911, operated until 1964. By this time, the original YMCA facility had aged and was no longer large enough to accommodate the needs of the members. Board members and community leaders began the planning for a new and larger facility. The cost was estimated to be close to one million dollars. Again, this money was raised through a community fundraising campaign led by Ed Breen, Fred Seifer, Herb Bennett, Board Chairman George Gildemeister and Glen Davies who was the YMCA executive director.

In January of 1965, the new YMCA facility opened it doors at the corner of 15th Street and 1st Avenue South. It was Glen Davies who led the lobbying for construction of a new YMCA when the original building, at the time, was over 50 years old and in desperate need of updates. By engaging the community about need and importance of a new facility, Davies and the campaign committee were successful raising the necessary funds. Glen Davies was highly respected throughout the community as a person who loved community work, physical activity, people and most of all kids.

During this period of transition from the original YMCA to the new facility, Glen Davies served as the Y’s executive director from 1957 to 1966 and Bruce Wilde was the physical director and was instrumental in establishing a volleyball program. Jerry Patterson was the youth sports directors for several years and established the YMCA Teener Baseball Program. Many of the “Teener” baseball games were played at Jerry’s own Patterson Field.

In Fort Dodge, the YMCA remained affiliated with the YMCA of America until 2010. Due to a new partnership with Iowa Central Community College that offered additional fitness services to college students and the general public, the YMCA was converted to the Fort Dodge Community Recreation Center. An obscure policy of the National YMCA would not approve this successful partnership with Iowa Central Community College because the fitness facility on its campus did not allow those under age 18 to use it. This led to the ending of the Fort Dodge YMCA’s storied relationship with the national YMCA.

Today, the Fort Dodge REC remains a strong and active organization providing a wide range of recreation and fitness programs through its four locations. Besides the main building at 15th Street and 1st Avenue South, there is an exercise facility at Iowa Central Community College, a multipurpose cross training facility at the old Fareway Store location at Second Avenue South and Seventh Street, and a 24-hour fitness center at Fifth Avenue South and 21st Street that was purchased from Snap Fitness in 2015.

Youth programs designed for kindergarteners through sixth-graders, in partnership with the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, are basketball, flag football, martial arts, aquatic programs, soccer and baseball. Adults are offered more than 50 different fitness classes that include Pilates, cycle, step, boot camp, yoga, core strengthening, Zumba and blast.

The REC has found heightened interest among senior citizens in using the pool for low-impact exercise and has increased the number of water fitness classes. Adults continue to use the gymnasium for basketball, volleyball and a new and very popular activity, pickleball.

Sources:

*Messenger Spotlight…. by Paul Stevene

*Messenger newspaper





YMCA

1891

1422 1st Ave S

This space probably was used to provide temporary housing for homeless men and a space for socialization and meetings for prayer.

Read More


In 1844, the first YMCA was opened in London, England, by George Williams, a farmer-turned-department store worker who was troubled by how many young men in London were coping with the hazards of life on the streets. This first YMCA offered something unique for its time.

In the United States, the first YMCA was founded in Boston, MA. by a retired Boston sea captain Thomas Valentine Sullivan. Sullivan noticed a similar need to create a safe “home away from home” for sailors and merchants. Inspired by the stories of the YMCA in England, Sullivan led the formation of the first U.S. YMCA at the Old South Church in Boston on December 29, 1851.

With so many young men moving to cities from rural areas, YMCA housing was started in the 1860’s for the purpose of giving these young men safe and affordable lodging and opportunities for recreation so they could have a healthy release from their difficult lives. Facilities included gyms, auditoriums and hotel-like rooms. Chicago’s Farwell Hall, the first known YMCA dormitory, was completed in 1867. Between 1922 and 1940, YMCA accommodations grew from approximately 55,000 rooms to more than 100,000, more than any hotel chain at the time.

In Fort Dodge, a group of Fort Dodge businessmen organized a YMCA and was incorporated it in 1891. The first location (unknown) had a fire in January of 1892. The YMCA then lease a few rooms over C.E. Black’s meat market. In February of 1892, John Parsons offered one of his lots for a new building. A campaign for a new YMCA began but only $2,000 was raised and the project never got off the ground. In July 1894, a special meeting was held to discuss renting rooms in George W. Mason’s building, above Craft’s grocery store, located at the corner of Central Avenue and 9th Street. The rooms would be used a reading and lecture rooms and a room for games. A shower and tub baths would also be added to the location. These new rooms were opened in August of 1894.

In November of 1897 -with the need for more space, the board members of the YMCA agreed to lease the 2nd and 3rd floors of the new Sanderson Building that was nearing the completion for being built. Sanderson Building was located one door east of the Post Office on Central Avenue, (today this would be on the 900 block on Central Avenue). The new building was being built for the Sanderson Candy Factory, which later become the Fort Dodge Candy Factory. The YMCA officially opened its doors in the Sanderson Building in February of 1898. This new site provided five rooms on the second floor; Director’s room, two reading rooms, the secretary’s office and a game room. On the third floor, there was 51 x 39 ft. gymnasium with gallery seating for 70 people and five bath rooms. The rooms of the second floor were also used for socialization and meetings for prayer. F.A. Garrison was the board president. J.G. Early was the board secretary. Other charter board members included E.H. Rich, C.W. Ackerman, C.H. Smith, S.A. Smith, L.L. Leighton, C. Craft, W.U. Turpin, E.E. Prusia, E. Berschein, T.H Wright, J.F. Nelson, J.J. Rutke, T.E. Deereaux, and F. Gates.

In September of 1909, O.M. Oleson, a renowned Fort Dodge businessman and philanthropist, announced that he would be donating property for the location of a new building for the YMCA . The location would be on north side of 1st Avenue North and North 6th Street, across the street from the former Fort Dodge Carnegie Library.

In October, a group of Fort Dodge business leaders led a fundraising campaign to raise $70,000 to build a new YMCA building. Ten days later on November 5, 1909, it was announced that over $76,000 had been raised or pledged for the new building. The preliminary floor plans for the new YMCA included:

* Sub-basement: locker rooms with bath/shower rooms, swimming pool, and bowling alley

* First floor: offices, parlors, reading and recreation rooms, 45 x 78 foot gymnasium with a raised running track above gymnasium and a cafeteria

* Second floor: dormitories, educational department and a large room/ banqueting hall which may be cut into smaller class rooms when needed.

* Third floor: more dormitories, which will be one of the chief sources of income (44 dormitories total)

Construction of new building began on March 10, 1910. Jensen Construction Company was retained as the general contractor. On February 18, 1911, the new YMCA building opened.

At the time, M. W. Parsons, state secretary for the YMCA, declared that Fort Dodge had the finest YMCA building in the state and that it is the largest project carried to successful conclusion through popular subscription and pledges.

No doubt, from the day it was built until 1964, the Fort Dodge YMCA was considered a wonderful recreational asset for the community. The building had a magnificent gymnasium with two main baskets and four baskets on the side walls. It also had an indoor pool that was used by kids and adults alike. This original Y had Family Nights when women and girls could come and swim and participate with their family. The Y even had a lunch counter where kids and adults could grab a snack, maybe even a bowl of chili before going home. The YMCA was truly a great place for fun, exercise and socialization.

The original building that opened in 1911, operated until 1964. By this time, the original YMCA facility had aged and was no longer large enough to accommodate the needs of the members. Board members and community leaders began the planning for a new and larger facility. The cost was estimated to be close to one million dollars. Again, this money was raised through a community fundraising campaign led by Ed Breen, Fred Seifer, Herb Bennett, Board Chairman George Gildemeister and Glen Davies who was the YMCA executive director.

In January of 1965, the new YMCA facility opened it doors at the corner of 15th Street and 1st Avenue South. It was Glen Davies who led the lobbying for construction of a new YMCA when the original building, at the time, was over 50 years old and in desperate need of updates. By engaging the community about need and importance of a new facility, Davies and the campaign committee were successful raising the necessary funds. Glen Davies was highly respected throughout the community as a person who loved community work, physical activity, people and most of all kids.

During this period of transition from the original YMCA to the new facility, Glen Davies served as the Y’s executive director from 1957 to 1966 and Bruce Wilde was the physical director and was instrumental in establishing a volleyball program. Jerry Patterson was the youth sports directors for several years and established the YMCA Teener Baseball Program. Many of the “Teener” baseball games were played at Jerry’s own Patterson Field.

In Fort Dodge, the YMCA remained affiliated with the YMCA of America until 2010. Due to a new partnership with Iowa Central Community College that offered additional fitness services to college students and the general public, the YMCA was converted to the Fort Dodge Community Recreation Center. An obscure policy of the National YMCA would not approve this successful partnership with Iowa Central Community College because the fitness facility on its campus did not allow those under age 18 to use it. This led to the ending of the Fort Dodge YMCA’s storied relationship with the national YMCA.

Today, the Fort Dodge REC remains a strong and active organization providing a wide range of recreation and fitness programs through its four locations. Besides the main building at 15th Street and 1st Avenue South, there is an exercise facility at Iowa Central Community College, a multipurpose cross training facility at the old Fareway Store location at Second Avenue South and Seventh Street, and a 24-hour fitness center at Fifth Avenue South and 21st Street that was purchased from Snap Fitness in 2015.

Youth programs designed for kindergarteners through sixth-graders, in partnership with the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, are basketball, flag football, martial arts, aquatic programs, soccer and baseball. Adults are offered more than 50 different fitness classes that include Pilates, cycle, step, boot camp, yoga, core strengthening, Zumba and blast.

The REC has found heightened interest among senior citizens in using the pool for low-impact exercise and has increased the number of water fitness classes. Adults continue to use the gymnasium for basketball, volleyball and a new and very popular activity, pickleball.

Sources:

*Messenger Spotlight…. by Paul Stevene

*Messenger newspaper





YWCA

1909

826 1st Ave N

The Young Woman's Christian Association was organized July 8, 1909. Mrs. John P. Dolliver was the first president and served until October, 1910, when she resigned and Mrs. George Ringland was elected president.

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The Young Woman's Christian Association was organized July 8, 1909. Mrs. John P. Dolliver was the first president and served until October, 1910, when she resigned and Mrs. George Ringland was elected president. The work was conducted for a time in the frame building just north of the Commercial National Bank building on Central Avenue. In the fall of 1909, the Reynolds property on the corner of First avenue north and Ninth street was purchased, and became the home of the YWCA, and is still there today. At the time of buying the location, $13,000.00 of the purchase price was raised by subscriptions, of which $10,000.00 was paid for the site. Later the lot adjoining on the west was purchased at a cost of $4,500.00. On January 17, 1913, the mortgage on the YWCA building was paid. An event celebrating the “burning of the mortgage” was held on January 21, 1913 with Dr. Sarah Kime in charge of the ceremony.

The three-story building was designed to house permanent and transient women. With dorm style private housing throughout, residents shared kitchen, laundry, bath and lounge space. The building also included club rooms and a gymnasium with showers. Thirty-six rooms were available for rent by women coming into the community for education and employment.

The directors at that time were: Mrs. George Ringland, president; Mrs. J. I. Rutledge, first vice president; Mrs. E. H. Williams, second vice president ; Mrs. W. H. Blakely, corresponding secretary ; Mrs. Charles Findlay, recording secretary, and Dr. Sarah Kime, treasurer. The remaining board of directors included Mesdames Anna Beatty, W. H. Blakely, C. V. Findlay, J. F. Russell, E. H. Williams, D. M. Woodard, George H. Williams, F. B. Olney, G. L. Lindquist, and Phillip Dorr.

During the year 1912-13, there were 126 girls were enrolled in YWCA programs. By 1930, the membership of the YWCA totaled 700 women. From 1915 to 1943, the YWCA Cafeteria served 3 meal daily. Meals were provided a nourishment for low income and transient women and for the women living at the Y. The cafeteria continued serving meals until 1961. During its peak of operation, the YWCA Cafeteria was recognized as a social center for motorists and the traveling public.

Nationally, since its beginnings in the 1860’s, the YWCA has advocated for women’s economic advancement, empowerment, health, fitness and well-being, education and leadership development. In Fort Dodge, YWCA programs and offerings have evolved with the changing needs and interests of women and girls in the area. Early classes and clubs involved “working girls.” The YWCA began the Fort Dodge Business and Professional Women's Club, the Fort Dodge Business Girl's Club, and the Young Adult Club. The woman's movement saw great participation by the Girl Reserves in Fort Dodge, and most notably the Black Girl Reserves. From their inception, YWCA programs have been visionary -- encouraging every woman and girl to perform at her maximum level to achieve self-sufficiency, maintain healthy habits, empower herself and work toward resolving racial justice issues.

The YWCA has served thousands of women and children in its 100+ years in Fort Dodge, and will continue to serve for many years to come. Today, the YWCA Center for Life Empowerment operates a Licensed Residential Treatment Center for women. The Center is a state licensed substance abuse treatment facility, which functions to provide clinically managed residential treatment for women and women with children. The organization also provides intensive and extended outpatient care both females and males. Treatment is directed toward applying recovery skills, preventing relapse, promoting personally responsibility, skills, and reintegrating the resident into the world of work, education, and family life.

The YWCA supports and directs clients by offering guidance in all aspects of their recovery. It encourage a comprehensive approach to goal setting, development of life skills, physical and mental health, employment, vocational or education enrichment and family support. The YWCA remains dedicated to empowering women and women with children by supporting their recovery and reunifying their families.





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