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Location: 819 1st Ave. S

Construction Timeline: 1914 – 1915

Architect: E. O. Damon (Fort Dodge)

Original Owner: City of Fort Dodge

Size: 2 stories with basement

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

In February of 1914, the commissioners of the city of Fort Dodge unveiled their plan to build a new city hall that would house the various city departments, the police, jail and fire department. Up until that point, the city’s offices and departments were scattered around the town.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources:

*The Fort Dodge Messenger. February 24, 1914

*The Fort Dodge Messenger. June 29, 1914

*The Fort Dodge Messenger. July 1, 1914

*The Fort Dodge Messenger. July 2, 1914

*The Fort Dodge Messenger. August 15, 1914

*The Fort Dodge Messenger. November 2, 1914

*The Fort Dodge Messenger. November 24, 1914

*The Fort Dodge Messenger. November 16, 1914

*The Fort Dodge Messenger. August 5, 1915

*The Fort Dodge Messenger. August 9, 1915

*The Fort Dodge Messenger. August 10, 1915

*The Fort Dodge Messenger. August 17, 1915

*The Fort Dodge Messenger. August 18, 1915

*The Fort Dodge Messenger. November 20, 1915

*The Fort Dodge Messenger. January 25, 1916

*The Messenger. February 26, 2008

*The Messenger. July 17, 2016

*The Messenger. April 11, 2017