- Associated Press - Monday, October 9, 2017

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - City officials likely will demolish three historic but deteriorating buildings at Fort Des Moines unless private donors offer the estimated $6.2 million needed to save the granary and two mess halls.

Des Moines officials told The Des Moines Register that there are holes in the granary’s ceiling and floor, and the basement is a safety hazard. Officials also say there are structural concerns with the mess halls.

“It’s either going to be a private donor that comes in to save them or they’re going to have to be torn down,” City Councilman Joe Gatto said. “As they sit now, it is a disgrace for the people that served here.”

Fort Des Moines was built in 1901. Officials say it was the first base in U.S. military history where African-American officers trained to serve in leadership roles during World War I and where women trained during World War II.

Jack Porter, a preservationist, argued that demolishing the buildings will diminish the site’s historic value.

“When you continue to disrespect the historic value of the fort, and you keep eating away at its integrity, eventually you’ll get to a point where it’s no longer historic,” Porter said.

The fort was declared both a National Historic Landmark and a National Historic District in 1974. The state Historic Preservation Office must approve all demolition or alteration plans.

The Des Moines City Council directed the Community Development Department last week to review demolition plans and conduct a 10-day study to determine the buildings’ historic significance.

If the buildings are demolished, officials from Blank Park Zoo, which is southwest of the fort, hope to use the space for a second entrance to the zoo.

“The engineering studies I’ve done say that they’re probably beyond preservation because of the condition,” said Mark Vukovich, CEO of Blank Park Zoo, who helps oversee the site.

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Information from: The Des Moines Register, https://www.desmoinesregister.com


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