- Associated Press - Sunday, April 16, 2017

FORT DODGE, Iowa (AP) - The former locations of historic buildings in Fort Dodge are now permanently recognized thanks to a series of plaques that have been installed in the downtown area.

The 13 plaques mark the locations of sites where historic buildings once stood, but have now either been demolished or destroyed.

The idea had been around for some time, Rick Carle, chairman of the city’s Historic Preservation Commission, which helped organize the plaque project, told The Messenger (https://bit.ly/2nBWDE1 ).

Including the 13 now-demolished buildings, Carle said there are 78 historic buildings in Fort Dodge.

“So we went to the state historical society and got a grant to be able to get the plaques for the 13 buildings that no longer exist,” Carle said. “There might be a building there, but someone else has completely changed it.”



One example, according to Carle, is the current Fort Dodge Public Library.

That location is where the historic Eilers Hotel once stood. It was built in 1872 and was demolished in 1994 following a major fire.

Carle said the process for getting the plaques installed has been a long one.

“It was a long process just because of the fact we wanted to get the wording right,” he said. “And then when we were first going to do it, we were going to put on 8 1/2-by-11 plaques, but then we found out we couldn’t.”

They then decided to try for plaques that were 11-inches-by-17-inches, but they had too much extra space on those.

In the end, Carle said the commission decided to use plaques that feature a photo of the historic location along with a description of the building and its purpose.

It helps educate the public on the history of Fort Dodge, according to Carle.

“In some instances, it’s just an empty lot,” he said, “but at least if you go by and look at the plaque, you can see what the building originally looked like.”

Carissa Harvey, Fort Dodge’s senior city planner, said the commission is planning on developing a tour of the downtown area to help people become aware of the city’s history.

“Some people have done either virtual tours or walking tours, where you can use a little booklet to follow around the different sites by either visual, online or by getting out there and actually walking the district,” Harvey said. “That’s probably the next part of this they’re looking into.”

Harvey said the city’s Public Works Department installed the plaques that are standing on poles in the ground, while Kallin-Johnson Monument Co., of Fort Dodge, installed the plaques that are physically on the buildings.

She added that the plaque project helps commemorate both the city’s past and where it’s going in the future.

“Ultimately, it is just knowing where we’ve been,” she said. “When you look at the historic pictures, it’s interesting to people to see what used to be there. You might see a remnant of a building or not, and you would never know that was part of our community’s history.”

And according to Carle, the Historic Preservation Commission would like to install even more plaques in the future.

The “Plan B,” as Carle referred to it, would focus on the remaining 65 historic buildings in Fort Dodge that are still standing today.

The commission plans on reaching out to the owners of those buildings to see if they would like to purchase a commemorative plaque.

“Some people drive by and see a plaque on a building and see a historical building,” Carle said. “And we just have completed the first step of it.”

Harvey said the public should go out and see the plaques.

“I recommend everybody get out with the nice weather that’s coming and go check out these plaques and learn a little bit about Fort Dodge and share with others,” Harvey said. “It’s a really enjoyable way of getting out and about.”

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Information from: The Messenger, https://www.messengernews.net

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