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Walking Nob Hill

Tour of historic Oak Hill district to be led by Roger Natte

August 14, 2011
By SANDY MICKELSON, Messenger staff writer , Messenger News

Back in the days, whenever those days were, a stretch of Third Avenue South was the place to live. Big houses. Large yards. Nob Hill.

A walking tour from 2 to 4 p.m. on Aug. 21 will look at the architectural history of Nob Hill - the Oak Hill Historic District.

"We're going to be talking about the architecture and a little bit about who lived there, what the neighborhood was all about," said local historian Roger Natte, who will lead the tour.

For those not interested in walking, a pictorial tour will be available inside the Vincent House, said Merrily Dixon of the YWCA, which was bequeathed use of the house. Although there is no charge for the guided tour, donations may be made at the Vincent House for use in its upkeep.

The tour will start at 2 p.m. at the Vincent House; refreshments will be served there after the tour.

The Oak Hill neighborhood, Natte said, is historically the home of the elite of Fort Dodge and it's now on the National Registry of Historic Places.

Fact Box

Homes with a history

Walking tour Sunday to view Oak Hill architecture

824 Third Ave. S. (1871)

The Swain-Vincent House: Built by James Swain, one of the city's first pharmacists, just 16 years after the town was platted and two years after incorporation. The house is of the French Second Empire style and constructed of locally produced soft brick. A wing, originally wooden frame but not brick, was added at the rear of the house. The exterior walls are 30 inches thick.

819 Third Ave. S. (1881)

The Rich House: Locally produced soft brick shows a strong Queen Anne influence on this style, commonly referred to as Victorian. The house exhibits a sense of exuberance of a town and a nation experiencing great growth and promise, an the builders of this house were, in essence, showing off their new-found wealth. This house was one of the first in the community with a gas lighting system.

911 Third Ave. S. (1890)

The S.J. Bennett House: Different in style, this home had just two stories, rather than three, giving it a more horizontal impression and making it a predecessor of the later prairie style. The construction also differs. No longer is local soft brick used; but, instead, a harder granite brick brought in from St. Louis, Mo., with jasper stone from Sioux Falls, S.D., for trim and pillars.

919 Third Ave. S. (1888)

The George Roberts House: A two-story wood-frame house, this house combines elements of the Queen Anne and shingles styles, with a highly complex roof line and a variety of wall projections and textures. Wave shingles are used on the walls, and the windows all are unique, none identical in size or style to another. The house was restored in the 1950s by John and Catherine Deardorf.

1008 Third Ave. S. (1896)

John C. Cheney House: A frame house that actually is more complex than a first glance would indicate. It breaks away from the regular block and no longer uses four straight walls. Queen Anne influences run throughout the home, including a bay window, wrap-around verandah with unusual posts, an irregularity of mass and roof lines, a second-story porch and overhangs, and a Palladian window.

1020 Third Ave. S. (1906)

O.M. Oleson House: A unique house that fits no particular architectural style but has lots of interesting elements, such as distinctive green tile on the east-west hip roof with two front gabled dormers with a broken pediment, which establishes a symmetry. A hip roof dormer in the rear has a dormer which partially encloses a chimney. A verandah and pergola - an arbor for vining plants -are in the front.

227 S. 12th St. (1911)

McQuilkin House: Best described as a craftsman-style house with exposed timber and heavy timber rafters and brackets. It has a chateau appearance with a variety of material - wood, stucco and brick.

327 S. 12th St. (1903)

Butler House: A grand home in the prairie-style with horizontal lines, wide eaves, an extensive verandah and a carriage port on the north. Details around some windows consist of lead mounted glass. Brick was imported from France. Less complex than the earlier Victorian houses, this home tends to reflect more simplicity and order. The house is listed in several books on historical architecture.

Within this eight-block area, which currently contains 14 homes and the Blanden Memorial Art Museum, lived a U.S. senator, a U.S. Indian inspector, the director of the U.S. Mint, the state of Iowa printer, two state judges, two state legislators, five mayors, a newspaper publisher, a man knighted by the King of Norway, many of the city's leading retailers, presidents of five banks and presidents of a dairy products company, a wholesale grocery company, a wholesale pharmaceutical company, a clothing manufacturing company, shoe manufacturing company, two brick and tile companies, four gypsum mills, the world's largest oatmeal mill, the gas and electric company, the telephone company and a meat packing company.

That's a lot of high-powered people living at one time or another in this area of town.

"The earliest town fathers lived on First Avenue North, and Oak Hill is the neighborhood of the second generation," Natte said. "The homes in Oak Hill dated from 1864 to 1910, with eight of the remaining 14 being built between 1896 and1910, the period of Fort Dodge's greatest growth and influence."

The Aug. 21 tour will compare the homes, especially through the architectural elements of roofs, windows, porches and materials.

Contact Sandy Mickelson at (515) 573-2141 or



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