Iconic Places

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The Oleson Park Band Shell was designed by Sioux City architect Henry Kamphoefner in 1936. It was built by the WPA* in 1938. O.M. Oleson donated the park in which the Band Shell stands.

O.M. Oleson was born in Norway and migrated to the United States in 1870 with cash resources of less than one dollar. He came to Fort Dodge after working on area farms and in a retail drug business. He understood the value of education, so decided to enroll in the Philadelphia School of Pharmacy. He graduated with honors, and returned to Fort Dodge in 1876, where he established the Oleson Drug Company, which remained in business at the same location until 1965. Oleson was a successful businessman and was instrumental in the development of other local businesses: Fort Dodge Light and Power Company, O.M. Oleson Land Company, the Fort Dodge Hotel Company, The Iowa Trust and Livestock Company and the Fort Dodge Telephone Company. He also served in the Iowa Senate from 1892-1896. He and his wife Julie (nee Haskell) were generous philanthropists in Fort Dodge. With their financial support, Lutheran Hospital and the Congregational Church were built.

The Oleson Park Band Shell’s architecture style is Modern Movement Architecture (sleek, smooth, and streamlined). Architect Henry Kamphaffner designed the building which is made wholly of reinforced concrete cast in smooth – lined forms. It has acoustical perfection – its concrete sculpture encloses performers in a shell and projects their music for blocks without electronic assistance. The original structure was fronted with lighted waterfalls and pools. The interior of the band shell was lighted with soft colored lights. 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. WPA funding paid for 85% of the cost of construction (total coast was $45,000) and the City of Fort Dodge paid the remaining 15%. It had seating capacity of 3,500 when it was completed in 1938. Its construction reflected a sense of optimism and hope for the future during the Great Depression and as a WPA project, provided economic relief by providing jobs and stimulation of the local economy.

The State of Iowa chose this band shell as its example of architectural excellence at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York. The band shell is closely associated with composer Karl L. King as well as the Karl L. King Municipal Band, which performs summer concerts to date (2019).

The dedication of the band shell was held June 7, 1938 in conjunction with the annual convention of the Iowa Bandmasters Association and was one of the largest celebrations in Fort Dodge history. More than 15,000 people attended the dedicatory concert. Eighteen bands, made up of 800 musicians, performed the concert for the dedication. Senator Edward Breen presided over the dedication and a representative of the W.P.A. spoke of the wonder of this project. He said “All men are brothers, that there is enough for everyone in this country, and that when we, as individuals, fail to provide work for those who have no work, that we as a community and as a state will do together what we have failed to do alone.” The Chamber of Commerce entertained Karl King and other visiting notables after the dedication ceremony and concert.

By the early 2000’s, the band shell had deteriorated substantially. Local citizens Jim Reed and John Hale took it upon themselves to address the situation and began raising funds for the band shell’s renovation.

Working closely with the City of Fort Dodge and the Fort Dodge Community Foundation, Jim Reed and John Hale embarked on a capital campaign called the Oleson Park Bandshell Project that was kicked off with The Fab Four concert (a Beatles tribute band) on Friday, July 3rd, 2002. Between direct contributions and net proceeds from concert events between 2002-2006, over $585,000 was raised in private funding that was used as the required match for a $249,822 “Save America’s Treasures” federal preservation grant and a $34,500 Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) grant through the State of Iowa DNR. After meeting rigorous requirements through the State Historical Preservation Office (SHPO), the City completed the renovation of the Bandshell in August 2008 at a cost of just over $1 million.

Restorations included renewing the Band Shell’s electrical, light and sound systems, restoring and preserving the structure as well as marketing the venue as a place for more events. Existing seating was removed in 2004 in anticipation of the restoration work. Ultimately, the work was completed after the City Council voted to seek bids for its restoration 2007. Concerts were again held in the Oleson Park Band Shell beginning in 2008.

Jim Reed continued his tradition of hosting wonderful concerts for Fort Dodge with the annual event “Shellabration”. Some of these concerts have been held in the Oleson Park Band Shell.

*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





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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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





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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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





Dodger Stadium

1939

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

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The Oleson Park Band Shell was designed by Sioux City architect Henry Kamphoefner in 1936. It was built by the WPA* in 1938. O.M. Oleson donated the park in which the Band Shell stands.

O.M. Oleson was born in Norway and migrated to the United States in 1870 with cash resources of less than one dollar. He came to Fort Dodge after working on area farms and in a retail drug business. He understood the value of education, so decided to enroll in the Philadelphia School of Pharmacy. He graduated with honors, and returned to Fort Dodge in 1876, where he established the Oleson Drug Company, which remained in business at the same location until 1965. Oleson was a successful businessman and was instrumental in the development of other local businesses: Fort Dodge Light and Power Company, O.M. Oleson Land Company, the Fort Dodge Hotel Company, The Iowa Trust and Livestock Company and the Fort Dodge Telephone Company. He also served in the Iowa Senate from 1892-1896. He and his wife Julie (nee Haskell) were generous philanthropists in Fort Dodge. With their financial support, Lutheran Hospital and the Congregational Church were built.

The Oleson Park Band Shell’s architecture style is Modern Movement Architecture (sleek, smooth, and streamlined). Architect Henry Kamphaffner designed the building which is made wholly of reinforced concrete cast in smooth – lined forms. It has acoustical perfection – its concrete sculpture encloses performers in a shell and projects their music for blocks without electronic assistance. The original structure was fronted with lighted waterfalls and pools. The interior of the band shell was lighted with soft colored lights. 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. WPA funding paid for 85% of the cost of construction (total coast was $45,000) and the City of Fort Dodge paid the remaining 15%. It had seating capacity of 3,500 when it was completed in 1938. Its construction reflected a sense of optimism and hope for the future during the Great Depression and as a WPA project, provided economic relief by providing jobs and stimulation of the local economy.

The State of Iowa chose this band shell as its example of architectural excellence at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York. The band shell is closely associated with composer Karl L. King as well as the Karl L. King Municipal Band, which performs summer concerts to date (2019).

The dedication of the band shell was held June 7, 1938 in conjunction with the annual convention of the Iowa Bandmasters Association and was one of the largest celebrations in Fort Dodge history. More than 15,000 people attended the dedicatory concert. Eighteen bands, made up of 800 musicians, performed the concert for the dedication. Senator Edward Breen presided over the dedication and a representative of the W.P.A. spoke of the wonder of this project. He said “All men are brothers, that there is enough for everyone in this country, and that when we, as individuals, fail to provide work for those who have no work, that we as a community and as a state will do together what we have failed to do alone.” The Chamber of Commerce entertained Karl King and other visiting notables after the dedication ceremony and concert.

By the early 2000’s, the band shell had deteriorated substantially. Local citizens Jim Reed and John Hale took it upon themselves to address the situation and began raising funds for the band shell’s renovation.

Working closely with the City of Fort Dodge and the Fort Dodge Community Foundation, Jim Reed and John Hale embarked on a capital campaign called the Oleson Park Bandshell Project that was kicked off with The Fab Four concert (a Beatles tribute band) on Friday, July 3rd, 2002. Between direct contributions and net proceeds from concert events between 2002-2006, over $585,000 was raised in private funding that was used as the required match for a $249,822 “Save America’s Treasures” federal preservation grant and a $34,500 Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) grant through the State of Iowa DNR. After meeting rigorous requirements through the State Historical Preservation Office (SHPO), the City completed the renovation of the Bandshell in August 2008 at a cost of just over $1 million.

Restorations included renewing the Band Shell’s electrical, light and sound systems, restoring and preserving the structure as well as marketing the venue as a place for more events. Existing seating was removed in 2004 in anticipation of the restoration work. Ultimately, the work was completed after the City Council voted to seek bids for its restoration 2007. Concerts were again held in the Oleson Park Band Shell beginning in 2008.

Jim Reed continued his tradition of hosting wonderful concerts for Fort Dodge with the annual event “Shellabration”. Some of these concerts have been held in the Oleson Park Band Shell.

*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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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





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.

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





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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The Oleson Park Band Shell was designed by Sioux City architect Henry Kamphoefner in 1936. It was built by the WPA* in 1938. O.M. Oleson donated the park in which the Band Shell stands.

O.M. Oleson was born in Norway and migrated to the United States in 1870 with cash resources of less than one dollar. He came to Fort Dodge after working on area farms and in a retail drug business. He understood the value of education, so decided to enroll in the Philadelphia School of Pharmacy. He graduated with honors, and returned to Fort Dodge in 1876, where he established the Oleson Drug Company, which remained in business at the same location until 1965. Oleson was a successful businessman and was instrumental in the development of other local businesses: Fort Dodge Light and Power Company, O.M. Oleson Land Company, the Fort Dodge Hotel Company, The Iowa Trust and Livestock Company and the Fort Dodge Telephone Company. He also served in the Iowa Senate from 1892-1896. He and his wife Julie (nee Haskell) were generous philanthropists in Fort Dodge. With their financial support, Lutheran Hospital and the Congregational Church were built.

The Oleson Park Band Shell’s architecture style is Modern Movement Architecture (sleek, smooth, and streamlined). Architect Henry Kamphaffner designed the building which is made wholly of reinforced concrete cast in smooth – lined forms. It has acoustical perfection – its concrete sculpture encloses performers in a shell and projects their music for blocks without electronic assistance. The original structure was fronted with lighted waterfalls and pools. The interior of the band shell was lighted with soft colored lights. 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. WPA funding paid for 85% of the cost of construction (total coast was $45,000) and the City of Fort Dodge paid the remaining 15%. It had seating capacity of 3,500 when it was completed in 1938. Its construction reflected a sense of optimism and hope for the future during the Great Depression and as a WPA project, provided economic relief by providing jobs and stimulation of the local economy.

The State of Iowa chose this band shell as its example of architectural excellence at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York. The band shell is closely associated with composer Karl L. King as well as the Karl L. King Municipal Band, which performs summer concerts to date (2019).

The dedication of the band shell was held June 7, 1938 in conjunction with the annual convention of the Iowa Bandmasters Association and was one of the largest celebrations in Fort Dodge history. More than 15,000 people attended the dedicatory concert. Eighteen bands, made up of 800 musicians, performed the concert for the dedication. Senator Edward Breen presided over the dedication and a representative of the W.P.A. spoke of the wonder of this project. He said “All men are brothers, that there is enough for everyone in this country, and that when we, as individuals, fail to provide work for those who have no work, that we as a community and as a state will do together what we have failed to do alone.” The Chamber of Commerce entertained Karl King and other visiting notables after the dedication ceremony and concert.

By the early 2000’s, the band shell had deteriorated substantially. Local citizens Jim Reed and John Hale took it upon themselves to address the situation and began raising funds for the band shell’s renovation.

Working closely with the City of Fort Dodge and the Fort Dodge Community Foundation, Jim Reed and John Hale embarked on a capital campaign called the Oleson Park Bandshell Project that was kicked off with The Fab Four concert (a Beatles tribute band) on Friday, July 3rd, 2002. Between direct contributions and net proceeds from concert events between 2002-2006, over $585,000 was raised in private funding that was used as the required match for a $249,822 “Save America’s Treasures” federal preservation grant and a $34,500 Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) grant through the State of Iowa DNR. After meeting rigorous requirements through the State Historical Preservation Office (SHPO), the City completed the renovation of the Bandshell in August 2008 at a cost of just over $1 million.

Restorations included renewing the Band Shell’s electrical, light and sound systems, restoring and preserving the structure as well as marketing the venue as a place for more events. Existing seating was removed in 2004 in anticipation of the restoration work. Ultimately, the work was completed after the City Council voted to seek bids for its restoration 2007. Concerts were again held in the Oleson Park Band Shell beginning in 2008.

Jim Reed continued his tradition of hosting wonderful concerts for Fort Dodge with the annual event “Shellabration”. Some of these concerts have been held in the Oleson Park Band Shell.

*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





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.

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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





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.

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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





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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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





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.

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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





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 Oleson Park Band Shell was designed by Sioux City architect Henry Kamphoefner in 1936. It was built by the WPA* in 1938. O.M. Oleson donated the park in which the Band Shell stands.

O.M. Oleson was born in Norway and migrated to the United States in 1870 with cash resources of less than one dollar. He came to Fort Dodge after working on area farms and in a retail drug business. He understood the value of education, so decided to enroll in the Philadelphia School of Pharmacy. He graduated with honors, and returned to Fort Dodge in 1876, where he established the Oleson Drug Company, which remained in business at the same location until 1965. Oleson was a successful businessman and was instrumental in the development of other local businesses: Fort Dodge Light and Power Company, O.M. Oleson Land Company, the Fort Dodge Hotel Company, The Iowa Trust and Livestock Company and the Fort Dodge Telephone Company. He also served in the Iowa Senate from 1892-1896. He and his wife Julie (nee Haskell) were generous philanthropists in Fort Dodge. With their financial support, Lutheran Hospital and the Congregational Church were built.

The Oleson Park Band Shell’s architecture style is Modern Movement Architecture (sleek, smooth, and streamlined). Architect Henry Kamphaffner designed the building which is made wholly of reinforced concrete cast in smooth – lined forms. It has acoustical perfection – its concrete sculpture encloses performers in a shell and projects their music for blocks without electronic assistance. The original structure was fronted with lighted waterfalls and pools. The interior of the band shell was lighted with soft colored lights. 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. WPA funding paid for 85% of the cost of construction (total coast was $45,000) and the City of Fort Dodge paid the remaining 15%. It had seating capacity of 3,500 when it was completed in 1938. Its construction reflected a sense of optimism and hope for the future during the Great Depression and as a WPA project, provided economic relief by providing jobs and stimulation of the local economy.

The State of Iowa chose this band shell as its example of architectural excellence at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York. The band shell is closely associated with composer Karl L. King as well as the Karl L. King Municipal Band, which performs summer concerts to date (2019).

The dedication of the band shell was held June 7, 1938 in conjunction with the annual convention of the Iowa Bandmasters Association and was one of the largest celebrations in Fort Dodge history. More than 15,000 people attended the dedicatory concert. Eighteen bands, made up of 800 musicians, performed the concert for the dedication. Senator Edward Breen presided over the dedication and a representative of the W.P.A. spoke of the wonder of this project. He said “All men are brothers, that there is enough for everyone in this country, and that when we, as individuals, fail to provide work for those who have no work, that we as a community and as a state will do together what we have failed to do alone.” The Chamber of Commerce entertained Karl King and other visiting notables after the dedication ceremony and concert.

By the early 2000’s, the band shell had deteriorated substantially. Local citizens Jim Reed and John Hale took it upon themselves to address the situation and began raising funds for the band shell’s renovation.

Working closely with the City of Fort Dodge and the Fort Dodge Community Foundation, Jim Reed and John Hale embarked on a capital campaign called the Oleson Park Bandshell Project that was kicked off with The Fab Four concert (a Beatles tribute band) on Friday, July 3rd, 2002. Between direct contributions and net proceeds from concert events between 2002-2006, over $585,000 was raised in private funding that was used as the required match for a $249,822 “Save America’s Treasures” federal preservation grant and a $34,500 Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) grant through the State of Iowa DNR. After meeting rigorous requirements through the State Historical Preservation Office (SHPO), the City completed the renovation of the Bandshell in August 2008 at a cost of just over $1 million.

Restorations included renewing the Band Shell’s electrical, light and sound systems, restoring and preserving the structure as well as marketing the venue as a place for more events. Existing seating was removed in 2004 in anticipation of the restoration work. Ultimately, the work was completed after the City Council voted to seek bids for its restoration 2007. Concerts were again held in the Oleson Park Band Shell beginning in 2008.

Jim Reed continued his tradition of hosting wonderful concerts for Fort Dodge with the annual event “Shellabration”. Some of these concerts have been held in the Oleson Park Band Shell.

*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





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