Iconic Places

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The Bennett Viaduct over the Des Moines River and the Illinois Central and Chicago and Northwestern Railroads rights of way was erected in 1910 and 1911. 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.

The civilian settlement of Fort Dodge can be dated from the establishment of the federal land office in 1855. On the west side of the river, across from the original town site, was the area that became known as West Fort Dodge. Originally preempted by Elliot Colburn, it was platted as Colburn’s Addition on 1858. Over the years it was also known as Riverside and Swedetown, the latter name because of the sizable Swedish community that settled there. By 1900, West Fort Dodge had a business district which included a general store, a grocery, a meat market, hardware store, tobacco and confectionary shop, coal yard, the Swedish Covenant Mission Church, Riverside School and a post office.

Access to areas west of the river and the growth of Fort Dodge and West Fort Dodge was dependent upon an adequate river crossing. Crossing the river was only possible during very dry times when it was shallow enough to cross on foot or horseback, or across the ice in the winter. In the late 1850s and early 1860s, two rope ferries were established; McCaulley’s ferry at the location of the present Hawkeye Avenue Bridge, and the Colburn ferry at the site of what would become the Bennett Viaduct. These rope ferries were a large wooden raft that was guided across the river by rope that was connected to the land. Although these were somewhat useful, they were extremely dangerous- especially during high water or when there was a fast river current. In the early 1870s, the county constructed two wooden bridges to replace the rope ferries.

After just six years, due to the deteriorating and dangerous condition of the wooden Colburn Bridge, the Fort Dodge City Council informed the county board of supervisors that any liability for injury in connection with the bridge would belong solely to the county. Shortly after this, the wooden Colburn Bridge was replaced by a new iron bridge, which was referred to as the Farley Street Bridge and/or the West Fort Dodge Wagon Bridge.

This bridge remained adequate for the community’s needs until difficulties developed with vehicular traffic across the railroad tracts. The location of the tracts at the base of the bridge created a hazardous situation for the heavy Farley Street traffic. Another source of complaints were about the trains impeding traffic. In 1899, the city council adopted two new ordinances; for the necessity of a viaduct and requiring the railroads to construct and maintain the portion over their rights of way, and another that added the stipulation that provision should be made for the possibility of a street car line on the viaduct.

The viaduct proposal lay dormant until 1906, when plans were prepared for the structure and the city and county officials agreed that each would pay one half of the project’s costs. The agreement also stipulated that the city would assume all responsibility for the structure when the city’s population increased to a certain point. In 1907, the city reached an agreement with the railroads which called for the railroads to construct and maintain a steel viaduct over their own rights of way. With various alterations to the structure plans and contract negotiations between the different entities involved in this project, actual construction did not begin until September of 1910 and the dismantling of the old iron Farley Street Bridge started in November of that same year.

As the work began and started to progress, various problems in the delivery of the steel and other materials coupled with mistakes in certain parts of the construction plans led to the completion of the viaduct in May of 1911, four months behind schedule.

The demolition of the old bridge and the slowness in the erection of the new viaduct cause considerable economic disruption in the county. The Messenger of December 1, 1910 told of one farmer who lost a considerable amount of money on 3,000 bushels of oats because he was unable to get his grain to market at the time the price of oats was at the season’s high. Mail delivery was suspended to the rural areas southwest of the city until the river could safely be crossed. Merchandise deliveries were also stopped and milk deliveries were limited for a short time to hotels and families with babies.

The viaduct was named on April 18, 1911 for Captain Sydney Bennett, a former mayor of Fort Dodge. Bennett served in the military for four years, earned the rank of captain and fought in the Civil War. After the war, Bennett made his way to Boone then settled in Fort Dodge in 1867 to enter the tobacco business. In 1884, he went west to Washington and

joined a brother as a construction engineer for the Northern Pacific Railroad. In the early 1900s, Bennett returned to Fort Dodge where he became a community leader- serving terms on the county board of supervisors, the Fort Dodge city council, and four terms as mayor. As a county supervisor, he was most instrumental in the construction of the new courthouse in 1910 – 1913. Bennett was mayor of Fort Dodge at the time the new viaduct was being planned and constructed but ill health forced him to refuse to run for reelection in 1910. He died on May 5, 1911, seventeen days after his name was given to the viaduct and shortly before its completion.

As a major thoroughfare for the city and a link between several residential areas, the new viaduct was not only of economic importance, but had recreational value as well. The depth of the river made it a popular swimming area and the bridge’s lower girders made ideal diving platforms for the average swimmer, while the more courageous jumped from the higher deck level. During the winter, the frozen river around the bridge was the community’s skating area. During the 1930s, the city placed spotlights on the bridge for night skating. The viaduct was often used as a platform for viewing the trains coming and going from the depot, the arrival and unloading of the circus trains and the whistle stop of the Wendell Wilkie campaign train of 1940.

Over the years the importance of the viaduct declined. In the late 1920s, the completion of the Herring Viaduct (Kenyon Road Bridge) took a lot of the traffic away from the Bennett Viaduct. In the early 1960s, the construction of the Karl King Bridge just up the river provided still another alternative route.

Urban renewal of the late 1970s transformed the residential area Pleasant Valley into the

Sunkissed Meadows golf course further reduced viaduct traffic.On August 16, 1980, the viaduct was permanently closed. The Bob Madget Construction Company of St. Joseph, Missouri was awarded the contract for demolishing the entire structure, which was completed in 1981. The only remnant remaining of this iconic structure now serves as a base for Old Glory on the Des Moines River.





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

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

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

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

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

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

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





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources:

*Fort Dodge Messenger

*www.blanden.org

*Webster County Historical Society





Dodger Stadium

1939

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

dodger stadium 1.jpg

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The Bennett Viaduct over the Des Moines River and the Illinois Central and Chicago and Northwestern Railroads rights of way was erected in 1910 and 1911. 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.

The civilian settlement of Fort Dodge can be dated from the establishment of the federal land office in 1855. On the west side of the river, across from the original town site, was the area that became known as West Fort Dodge. Originally preempted by Elliot Colburn, it was platted as Colburn’s Addition on 1858. Over the years it was also known as Riverside and Swedetown, the latter name because of the sizable Swedish community that settled there. By 1900, West Fort Dodge had a business district which included a general store, a grocery, a meat market, hardware store, tobacco and confectionary shop, coal yard, the Swedish Covenant Mission Church, Riverside School and a post office.

Access to areas west of the river and the growth of Fort Dodge and West Fort Dodge was dependent upon an adequate river crossing. Crossing the river was only possible during very dry times when it was shallow enough to cross on foot or horseback, or across the ice in the winter. In the late 1850s and early 1860s, two rope ferries were established; McCaulley’s ferry at the location of the present Hawkeye Avenue Bridge, and the Colburn ferry at the site of what would become the Bennett Viaduct. These rope ferries were a large wooden raft that was guided across the river by rope that was connected to the land. Although these were somewhat useful, they were extremely dangerous- especially during high water or when there was a fast river current. In the early 1870s, the county constructed two wooden bridges to replace the rope ferries.

After just six years, due to the deteriorating and dangerous condition of the wooden Colburn Bridge, the Fort Dodge City Council informed the county board of supervisors that any liability for injury in connection with the bridge would belong solely to the county. Shortly after this, the wooden Colburn Bridge was replaced by a new iron bridge, which was referred to as the Farley Street Bridge and/or the West Fort Dodge Wagon Bridge.

This bridge remained adequate for the community’s needs until difficulties developed with vehicular traffic across the railroad tracts. The location of the tracts at the base of the bridge created a hazardous situation for the heavy Farley Street traffic. Another source of complaints were about the trains impeding traffic. In 1899, the city council adopted two new ordinances; for the necessity of a viaduct and requiring the railroads to construct and maintain the portion over their rights of way, and another that added the stipulation that provision should be made for the possibility of a street car line on the viaduct.

The viaduct proposal lay dormant until 1906, when plans were prepared for the structure and the city and county officials agreed that each would pay one half of the project’s costs. The agreement also stipulated that the city would assume all responsibility for the structure when the city’s population increased to a certain point. In 1907, the city reached an agreement with the railroads which called for the railroads to construct and maintain a steel viaduct over their own rights of way. With various alterations to the structure plans and contract negotiations between the different entities involved in this project, actual construction did not begin until September of 1910 and the dismantling of the old iron Farley Street Bridge started in November of that same year.

As the work began and started to progress, various problems in the delivery of the steel and other materials coupled with mistakes in certain parts of the construction plans led to the completion of the viaduct in May of 1911, four months behind schedule.

The demolition of the old bridge and the slowness in the erection of the new viaduct cause considerable economic disruption in the county. The Messenger of December 1, 1910 told of one farmer who lost a considerable amount of money on 3,000 bushels of oats because he was unable to get his grain to market at the time the price of oats was at the season’s high. Mail delivery was suspended to the rural areas southwest of the city until the river could safely be crossed. Merchandise deliveries were also stopped and milk deliveries were limited for a short time to hotels and families with babies.

The viaduct was named on April 18, 1911 for Captain Sydney Bennett, a former mayor of Fort Dodge. Bennett served in the military for four years, earned the rank of captain and fought in the Civil War. After the war, Bennett made his way to Boone then settled in Fort Dodge in 1867 to enter the tobacco business. In 1884, he went west to Washington and

joined a brother as a construction engineer for the Northern Pacific Railroad. In the early 1900s, Bennett returned to Fort Dodge where he became a community leader- serving terms on the county board of supervisors, the Fort Dodge city council, and four terms as mayor. As a county supervisor, he was most instrumental in the construction of the new courthouse in 1910 – 1913. Bennett was mayor of Fort Dodge at the time the new viaduct was being planned and constructed but ill health forced him to refuse to run for reelection in 1910. He died on May 5, 1911, seventeen days after his name was given to the viaduct and shortly before its completion.

As a major thoroughfare for the city and a link between several residential areas, the new viaduct was not only of economic importance, but had recreational value as well. The depth of the river made it a popular swimming area and the bridge’s lower girders made ideal diving platforms for the average swimmer, while the more courageous jumped from the higher deck level. During the winter, the frozen river around the bridge was the community’s skating area. During the 1930s, the city placed spotlights on the bridge for night skating. The viaduct was often used as a platform for viewing the trains coming and going from the depot, the arrival and unloading of the circus trains and the whistle stop of the Wendell Wilkie campaign train of 1940.

Over the years the importance of the viaduct declined. In the late 1920s, the completion of the Herring Viaduct (Kenyon Road Bridge) took a lot of the traffic away from the Bennett Viaduct. In the early 1960s, the construction of the Karl King Bridge just up the river provided still another alternative route.

Urban renewal of the late 1970s transformed the residential area Pleasant Valley into the

Sunkissed Meadows golf course further reduced viaduct traffic.On August 16, 1980, the viaduct was permanently closed. The Bob Madget Construction Company of St. Joseph, Missouri was awarded the contract for demolishing the entire structure, which was completed in 1981. The only remnant remaining of this iconic structure now serves as a base for Old Glory on the Des Moines River.





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. 

high bridge 3.jpg

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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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Harlan and Hazel Rogers Ball Park is one of the best athletic and recreational facilities in the state. The family that gave the land for the park is Harlan and Hazel Rogers. 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.

In 1967, Harlan and his wife Hazel donated 13 acres of their land for the purpose of building an outdoor recreation complex. Construction began on Rogers Park in the fall of 1967. The initial layout included a pair of softball fields and a baseball diamond. The first official game was played on July 11, 1968 between Sandy’s Distributing (a men’s softball team in Fort Dodge) and Webster City John Deere. The park was used throughout that summer and had its official ribbon cutting in 1969.

Construction began on Rogers Park in the fall of 1967. The initial layout included a pair of softball fields and a baseball diamond. All three are still the facility’s main attractions to this day. With a number of men’s and women’s fast-pitch teams desperately needing local fields to use for practice and games, Dean Williams - a 2002 Iowa softball Hall of Fame inductee - approached the city about potentially finding a plot of land for a couple of softball diamonds. After being appointed to the city's recreation commission, Williams met with Harlan Rogers in the spring of 1967.

The Rogers family made the donation to Fort Dodge, and the complex was built under the supervision of the local recreation department. City funds were used to finance the project at a cost of $144,000 - the equivalent of $1.148 million today - covered by a $200,000 bond issued for recreational purposes and sold by the Fort Dodge city council in September of 1967. lt was the first municipally-owned facility of its type.

The first official game played at Rogers Park was on July 11, 1968 between Sandy's Distributing - a men's softball team of Fort Dodge - and Webster City John Deere. The complex was used through the fall, then formally recognized with a ribbon-cutting ceremony the next summer. The Messenger called it a "dream of baseball and softball enthusiasts come true" at the time.

The 13-acre donation by the Rogers family was more than doubled by 1975 to accommodate a larger parking lot and three more recreational softball diamonds. In 2004, a group of local business and community leaders saw a need to renovate and expand the complex. With an innovative plan to add three more diamonds for youth baseball and softball, the group was successful in raising over $1 million in private donations and another $750,000 state grant to overhaul and expand the sports complex. The unique plan included building replicas of Wrigley Field, Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium and Dodger Stadium, along with a dedicated Veterans Field, on the north side. ln 2005 and '06, the "Mini-Major" portion of the complex opened.

Today, the Rogers Sports Complex covers over 100 acres of land. There are 11 baseball/softball fields and 13 soccer fields on the grounds. lt is home to the Fort Dodge softball team, the St. Edmond baseball and softball squads, the lowa Central softball program, local slow-pitch softball leagues, and numerous youth baseball, softball and soccer leagues and tournaments. Thousand our youth and adults use the park every year.

The Rogers Sports Complex is also the home of the Girls State Softball Tournament and has been since 1970. The Girls State Athletic Union views it as the premier softball facility in the state. Looking for the right place to host for the Iowa State Girls Softball Tournament, E. Wayne Cooley, the executive director of the Girls Athletic Union at the time, chose Fort Dodge and the Rogers Sports Complex as its home because it was a first-class, all-encompassing facility, and he know the Fort Dodge community would welcome and embrace the event.

Many other local and region tournaments and games are also held at the park. In addition, the northeast soccer fields are used as the location for the annual Shellabration music event that draws thousands of people every summer.

ln an interview less than four years before his death in 1985, Harlan Rogers said. "it’s great to see so many people enjoying themselves at the park - either playing or watching. I didn't know much about softball until watching the games out there, but l've played baseball and have always enjoyed it. When the park was first planned, I was thinking mostly about the baseball diamond. But it's softball (that became) the really big draw."

Liddy Hora, granddaughter of Harlan and Hazel Rogers states; “Whether it’s state softball, or youth tournaments, or soccer – it’s a place that brings generations together to make memories.”

Source:

*The Messenger’s Hometown Pride, 2019





Laramar Ballroom

1920s

710 1st Ave N

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

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

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

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

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

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

For the thousands who frequented the ballroom over the years, the brick building with loft seating that rings the wooden dance floor holds many special memories. For some, it was where they met their future spouse.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





Oleson Park Band Shell

1938

1400 Oleson Park Ave

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

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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





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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Harlan and Hazel Rogers Ball Park is one of the best athletic and recreational facilities in the state. The family that gave the land for the park is Harlan and Hazel Rogers. 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.

In 1967, Harlan and his wife Hazel donated 13 acres of their land for the purpose of building an outdoor recreation complex. Construction began on Rogers Park in the fall of 1967. The initial layout included a pair of softball fields and a baseball diamond. The first official game was played on July 11, 1968 between Sandy’s Distributing (a men’s softball team in Fort Dodge) and Webster City John Deere. The park was used throughout that summer and had its official ribbon cutting in 1969.

Construction began on Rogers Park in the fall of 1967. The initial layout included a pair of softball fields and a baseball diamond. All three are still the facility’s main attractions to this day. With a number of men’s and women’s fast-pitch teams desperately needing local fields to use for practice and games, Dean Williams - a 2002 Iowa softball Hall of Fame inductee - approached the city about potentially finding a plot of land for a couple of softball diamonds. After being appointed to the city's recreation commission, Williams met with Harlan Rogers in the spring of 1967.

The Rogers family made the donation to Fort Dodge, and the complex was built under the supervision of the local recreation department. City funds were used to finance the project at a cost of $144,000 - the equivalent of $1.148 million today - covered by a $200,000 bond issued for recreational purposes and sold by the Fort Dodge city council in September of 1967. lt was the first municipally-owned facility of its type.

The first official game played at Rogers Park was on July 11, 1968 between Sandy's Distributing - a men's softball team of Fort Dodge - and Webster City John Deere. The complex was used through the fall, then formally recognized with a ribbon-cutting ceremony the next summer. The Messenger called it a "dream of baseball and softball enthusiasts come true" at the time.

The 13-acre donation by the Rogers family was more than doubled by 1975 to accommodate a larger parking lot and three more recreational softball diamonds. In 2004, a group of local business and community leaders saw a need to renovate and expand the complex. With an innovative plan to add three more diamonds for youth baseball and softball, the group was successful in raising over $1 million in private donations and another $750,000 state grant to overhaul and expand the sports complex. The unique plan included building replicas of Wrigley Field, Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium and Dodger Stadium, along with a dedicated Veterans Field, on the north side. ln 2005 and '06, the "Mini-Major" portion of the complex opened.

Today, the Rogers Sports Complex covers over 100 acres of land. There are 11 baseball/softball fields and 13 soccer fields on the grounds. lt is home to the Fort Dodge softball team, the St. Edmond baseball and softball squads, the lowa Central softball program, local slow-pitch softball leagues, and numerous youth baseball, softball and soccer leagues and tournaments. Thousand our youth and adults use the park every year.

The Rogers Sports Complex is also the home of the Girls State Softball Tournament and has been since 1970. The Girls State Athletic Union views it as the premier softball facility in the state. Looking for the right place to host for the Iowa State Girls Softball Tournament, E. Wayne Cooley, the executive director of the Girls Athletic Union at the time, chose Fort Dodge and the Rogers Sports Complex as its home because it was a first-class, all-encompassing facility, and he know the Fort Dodge community would welcome and embrace the event.

Many other local and region tournaments and games are also held at the park. In addition, the northeast soccer fields are used as the location for the annual Shellabration music event that draws thousands of people every summer.

ln an interview less than four years before his death in 1985, Harlan Rogers said. "it’s great to see so many people enjoying themselves at the park - either playing or watching. I didn't know much about softball until watching the games out there, but l've played baseball and have always enjoyed it. When the park was first planned, I was thinking mostly about the baseball diamond. But it's softball (that became) the really big draw."

Liddy Hora, granddaughter of Harlan and Hazel Rogers states; “Whether it’s state softball, or youth tournaments, or soccer – it’s a place that brings generations together to make memories.”

Source:

*The Messenger’s Hometown Pride, 2019





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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The Bennett Viaduct over the Des Moines River and the Illinois Central and Chicago and Northwestern Railroads rights of way was erected in 1910 and 1911. 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.

The civilian settlement of Fort Dodge can be dated from the establishment of the federal land office in 1855. On the west side of the river, across from the original town site, was the area that became known as West Fort Dodge. Originally preempted by Elliot Colburn, it was platted as Colburn’s Addition on 1858. Over the years it was also known as Riverside and Swedetown, the latter name because of the sizable Swedish community that settled there. By 1900, West Fort Dodge had a business district which included a general store, a grocery, a meat market, hardware store, tobacco and confectionary shop, coal yard, the Swedish Covenant Mission Church, Riverside School and a post office.

Access to areas west of the river and the growth of Fort Dodge and West Fort Dodge was dependent upon an adequate river crossing. Crossing the river was only possible during very dry times when it was shallow enough to cross on foot or horseback, or across the ice in the winter. In the late 1850s and early 1860s, two rope ferries were established; McCaulley’s ferry at the location of the present Hawkeye Avenue Bridge, and the Colburn ferry at the site of what would become the Bennett Viaduct. These rope ferries were a large wooden raft that was guided across the river by rope that was connected to the land. Although these were somewhat useful, they were extremely dangerous- especially during high water or when there was a fast river current. In the early 1870s, the county constructed two wooden bridges to replace the rope ferries.

After just six years, due to the deteriorating and dangerous condition of the wooden Colburn Bridge, the Fort Dodge City Council informed the county board of supervisors that any liability for injury in connection with the bridge would belong solely to the county. Shortly after this, the wooden Colburn Bridge was replaced by a new iron bridge, which was referred to as the Farley Street Bridge and/or the West Fort Dodge Wagon Bridge.

This bridge remained adequate for the community’s needs until difficulties developed with vehicular traffic across the railroad tracts. The location of the tracts at the base of the bridge created a hazardous situation for the heavy Farley Street traffic. Another source of complaints were about the trains impeding traffic. In 1899, the city council adopted two new ordinances; for the necessity of a viaduct and requiring the railroads to construct and maintain the portion over their rights of way, and another that added the stipulation that provision should be made for the possibility of a street car line on the viaduct.

The viaduct proposal lay dormant until 1906, when plans were prepared for the structure and the city and county officials agreed that each would pay one half of the project’s costs. The agreement also stipulated that the city would assume all responsibility for the structure when the city’s population increased to a certain point. In 1907, the city reached an agreement with the railroads which called for the railroads to construct and maintain a steel viaduct over their own rights of way. With various alterations to the structure plans and contract negotiations between the different entities involved in this project, actual construction did not begin until September of 1910 and the dismantling of the old iron Farley Street Bridge started in November of that same year.

As the work began and started to progress, various problems in the delivery of the steel and other materials coupled with mistakes in certain parts of the construction plans led to the completion of the viaduct in May of 1911, four months behind schedule.

The demolition of the old bridge and the slowness in the erection of the new viaduct cause considerable economic disruption in the county. The Messenger of December 1, 1910 told of one farmer who lost a considerable amount of money on 3,000 bushels of oats because he was unable to get his grain to market at the time the price of oats was at the season’s high. Mail delivery was suspended to the rural areas southwest of the city until the river could safely be crossed. Merchandise deliveries were also stopped and milk deliveries were limited for a short time to hotels and families with babies.

The viaduct was named on April 18, 1911 for Captain Sydney Bennett, a former mayor of Fort Dodge. Bennett served in the military for four years, earned the rank of captain and fought in the Civil War. After the war, Bennett made his way to Boone then settled in Fort Dodge in 1867 to enter the tobacco business. In 1884, he went west to Washington and

joined a brother as a construction engineer for the Northern Pacific Railroad. In the early 1900s, Bennett returned to Fort Dodge where he became a community leader- serving terms on the county board of supervisors, the Fort Dodge city council, and four terms as mayor. As a county supervisor, he was most instrumental in the construction of the new courthouse in 1910 – 1913. Bennett was mayor of Fort Dodge at the time the new viaduct was being planned and constructed but ill health forced him to refuse to run for reelection in 1910. He died on May 5, 1911, seventeen days after his name was given to the viaduct and shortly before its completion.

As a major thoroughfare for the city and a link between several residential areas, the new viaduct was not only of economic importance, but had recreational value as well. The depth of the river made it a popular swimming area and the bridge’s lower girders made ideal diving platforms for the average swimmer, while the more courageous jumped from the higher deck level. During the winter, the frozen river around the bridge was the community’s skating area. During the 1930s, the city placed spotlights on the bridge for night skating. The viaduct was often used as a platform for viewing the trains coming and going from the depot, the arrival and unloading of the circus trains and the whistle stop of the Wendell Wilkie campaign train of 1940.

Over the years the importance of the viaduct declined. In the late 1920s, the completion of the Herring Viaduct (Kenyon Road Bridge) took a lot of the traffic away from the Bennett Viaduct. In the early 1960s, the construction of the Karl King Bridge just up the river provided still another alternative route.

Urban renewal of the late 1970s transformed the residential area Pleasant Valley into the

Sunkissed Meadows golf course further reduced viaduct traffic.On August 16, 1980, the viaduct was permanently closed. The Bob Madget Construction Company of St. Joseph, Missouri was awarded the contract for demolishing the entire structure, which was completed in 1981. The only remnant remaining of this iconic structure now serves as a base for Old Glory on the Des Moines River.





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.

ymca 1.jpg

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The Bennett Viaduct over the Des Moines River and the Illinois Central and Chicago and Northwestern Railroads rights of way was erected in 1910 and 1911. 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.

The civilian settlement of Fort Dodge can be dated from the establishment of the federal land office in 1855. On the west side of the river, across from the original town site, was the area that became known as West Fort Dodge. Originally preempted by Elliot Colburn, it was platted as Colburn’s Addition on 1858. Over the years it was also known as Riverside and Swedetown, the latter name because of the sizable Swedish community that settled there. By 1900, West Fort Dodge had a business district which included a general store, a grocery, a meat market, hardware store, tobacco and confectionary shop, coal yard, the Swedish Covenant Mission Church, Riverside School and a post office.

Access to areas west of the river and the growth of Fort Dodge and West Fort Dodge was dependent upon an adequate river crossing. Crossing the river was only possible during very dry times when it was shallow enough to cross on foot or horseback, or across the ice in the winter. In the late 1850s and early 1860s, two rope ferries were established; McCaulley’s ferry at the location of the present Hawkeye Avenue Bridge, and the Colburn ferry at the site of what would become the Bennett Viaduct. These rope ferries were a large wooden raft that was guided across the river by rope that was connected to the land. Although these were somewhat useful, they were extremely dangerous- especially during high water or when there was a fast river current. In the early 1870s, the county constructed two wooden bridges to replace the rope ferries.

After just six years, due to the deteriorating and dangerous condition of the wooden Colburn Bridge, the Fort Dodge City Council informed the county board of supervisors that any liability for injury in connection with the bridge would belong solely to the county. Shortly after this, the wooden Colburn Bridge was replaced by a new iron bridge, which was referred to as the Farley Street Bridge and/or the West Fort Dodge Wagon Bridge.

This bridge remained adequate for the community’s needs until difficulties developed with vehicular traffic across the railroad tracts. The location of the tracts at the base of the bridge created a hazardous situation for the heavy Farley Street traffic. Another source of complaints were about the trains impeding traffic. In 1899, the city council adopted two new ordinances; for the necessity of a viaduct and requiring the railroads to construct and maintain the portion over their rights of way, and another that added the stipulation that provision should be made for the possibility of a street car line on the viaduct.

The viaduct proposal lay dormant until 1906, when plans were prepared for the structure and the city and county officials agreed that each would pay one half of the project’s costs. The agreement also stipulated that the city would assume all responsibility for the structure when the city’s population increased to a certain point. In 1907, the city reached an agreement with the railroads which called for the railroads to construct and maintain a steel viaduct over their own rights of way. With various alterations to the structure plans and contract negotiations between the different entities involved in this project, actual construction did not begin until September of 1910 and the dismantling of the old iron Farley Street Bridge started in November of that same year.

As the work began and started to progress, various problems in the delivery of the steel and other materials coupled with mistakes in certain parts of the construction plans led to the completion of the viaduct in May of 1911, four months behind schedule.

The demolition of the old bridge and the slowness in the erection of the new viaduct cause considerable economic disruption in the county. The Messenger of December 1, 1910 told of one farmer who lost a considerable amount of money on 3,000 bushels of oats because he was unable to get his grain to market at the time the price of oats was at the season’s high. Mail delivery was suspended to the rural areas southwest of the city until the river could safely be crossed. Merchandise deliveries were also stopped and milk deliveries were limited for a short time to hotels and families with babies.

The viaduct was named on April 18, 1911 for Captain Sydney Bennett, a former mayor of Fort Dodge. Bennett served in the military for four years, earned the rank of captain and fought in the Civil War. After the war, Bennett made his way to Boone then settled in Fort Dodge in 1867 to enter the tobacco business. In 1884, he went west to Washington and

joined a brother as a construction engineer for the Northern Pacific Railroad. In the early 1900s, Bennett returned to Fort Dodge where he became a community leader- serving terms on the county board of supervisors, the Fort Dodge city council, and four terms as mayor. As a county supervisor, he was most instrumental in the construction of the new courthouse in 1910 – 1913. Bennett was mayor of Fort Dodge at the time the new viaduct was being planned and constructed but ill health forced him to refuse to run for reelection in 1910. He died on May 5, 1911, seventeen days after his name was given to the viaduct and shortly before its completion.

As a major thoroughfare for the city and a link between several residential areas, the new viaduct was not only of economic importance, but had recreational value as well. The depth of the river made it a popular swimming area and the bridge’s lower girders made ideal diving platforms for the average swimmer, while the more courageous jumped from the higher deck level. During the winter, the frozen river around the bridge was the community’s skating area. During the 1930s, the city placed spotlights on the bridge for night skating. The viaduct was often used as a platform for viewing the trains coming and going from the depot, the arrival and unloading of the circus trains and the whistle stop of the Wendell Wilkie campaign train of 1940.

Over the years the importance of the viaduct declined. In the late 1920s, the completion of the Herring Viaduct (Kenyon Road Bridge) took a lot of the traffic away from the Bennett Viaduct. In the early 1960s, the construction of the Karl King Bridge just up the river provided still another alternative route.

Urban renewal of the late 1970s transformed the residential area Pleasant Valley into the

Sunkissed Meadows golf course further reduced viaduct traffic.On August 16, 1980, the viaduct was permanently closed. The Bob Madget Construction Company of St. Joseph, Missouri was awarded the contract for demolishing the entire structure, which was completed in 1981. The only remnant remaining of this iconic structure now serves as a base for Old Glory on the Des Moines River.





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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Harlan and Hazel Rogers Ball Park is one of the best athletic and recreational facilities in the state. The family that gave the land for the park is Harlan and Hazel Rogers. 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.

In 1967, Harlan and his wife Hazel donated 13 acres of their land for the purpose of building an outdoor recreation complex. Construction began on Rogers Park in the fall of 1967. The initial layout included a pair of softball fields and a baseball diamond. The first official game was played on July 11, 1968 between Sandy’s Distributing (a men’s softball team in Fort Dodge) and Webster City John Deere. The park was used throughout that summer and had its official ribbon cutting in 1969.

Construction began on Rogers Park in the fall of 1967. The initial layout included a pair of softball fields and a baseball diamond. All three are still the facility’s main attractions to this day. With a number of men’s and women’s fast-pitch teams desperately needing local fields to use for practice and games, Dean Williams - a 2002 Iowa softball Hall of Fame inductee - approached the city about potentially finding a plot of land for a couple of softball diamonds. After being appointed to the city's recreation commission, Williams met with Harlan Rogers in the spring of 1967.

The Rogers family made the donation to Fort Dodge, and the complex was built under the supervision of the local recreation department. City funds were used to finance the project at a cost of $144,000 - the equivalent of $1.148 million today - covered by a $200,000 bond issued for recreational purposes and sold by the Fort Dodge city council in September of 1967. lt was the first municipally-owned facility of its type.

The first official game played at Rogers Park was on July 11, 1968 between Sandy's Distributing - a men's softball team of Fort Dodge - and Webster City John Deere. The complex was used through the fall, then formally recognized with a ribbon-cutting ceremony the next summer. The Messenger called it a "dream of baseball and softball enthusiasts come true" at the time.

The 13-acre donation by the Rogers family was more than doubled by 1975 to accommodate a larger parking lot and three more recreational softball diamonds. In 2004, a group of local business and community leaders saw a need to renovate and expand the complex. With an innovative plan to add three more diamonds for youth baseball and softball, the group was successful in raising over $1 million in private donations and another $750,000 state grant to overhaul and expand the sports complex. The unique plan included building replicas of Wrigley Field, Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium and Dodger Stadium, along with a dedicated Veterans Field, on the north side. ln 2005 and '06, the "Mini-Major" portion of the complex opened.

Today, the Rogers Sports Complex covers over 100 acres of land. There are 11 baseball/softball fields and 13 soccer fields on the grounds. lt is home to the Fort Dodge softball team, the St. Edmond baseball and softball squads, the lowa Central softball program, local slow-pitch softball leagues, and numerous youth baseball, softball and soccer leagues and tournaments. Thousand our youth and adults use the park every year.

The Rogers Sports Complex is also the home of the Girls State Softball Tournament and has been since 1970. The Girls State Athletic Union views it as the premier softball facility in the state. Looking for the right place to host for the Iowa State Girls Softball Tournament, E. Wayne Cooley, the executive director of the Girls Athletic Union at the time, chose Fort Dodge and the Rogers Sports Complex as its home because it was a first-class, all-encompassing facility, and he know the Fort Dodge community would welcome and embrace the event.

Many other local and region tournaments and games are also held at the park. In addition, the northeast soccer fields are used as the location for the annual Shellabration music event that draws thousands of people every summer.

ln an interview less than four years before his death in 1985, Harlan Rogers said. "it’s great to see so many people enjoying themselves at the park - either playing or watching. I didn't know much about softball until watching the games out there, but l've played baseball and have always enjoyed it. When the park was first planned, I was thinking mostly about the baseball diamond. But it's softball (that became) the really big draw."

Liddy Hora, granddaughter of Harlan and Hazel Rogers states; “Whether it’s state softball, or youth tournaments, or soccer – it’s a place that brings generations together to make memories.”

Source:

*The Messenger’s Hometown Pride, 2019