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New owners

Snell Building changes hands

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Late afternoon sunlight strikes the front of the Snell Building at Central Avenue and Eighth Street in downtown Fort Dodge.

The Snell Building wasn’t even on Pam Neill’s radar when she was looking for potential properties to buy in Fort Dodge during the summer of 2018.

But when she had the chance to see the historic seven-story structure up close and personal, that all changed.

“I walked inside and completely fell in love,” Neill, of Austin, Texas, recalled. “I feel so lucky it came up for sale.”

Neill and her brother, Scott Croonquist, of Moorland, forming Snell Center LLC, recently bought the Snell Building from Matt Doyle, of Snell Building Incorporated.

The building sold for $275,000, according to online information. Neill closed on the property June 28.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Late afternoon sunlight strikes the front of the Snell Building at Central Avenue and Eighth Street in downtown Fort Dodge.

“We want to keep the Snell Building healthy and empowered,” Neill said. “I really hope to continue the great work Matt Doyle has done. I just have a feeling that downtown will have a renewal. People want the best, and I certainly do. This is the community I am from, and I am just feeling so lucky to have ownership.”

Neill grew up on a farm outside of Moorland. She attended the Prairie Community School District and graduated from high school in Gowrie.

She eventually found herself working in the information technology industry. She works in global brands and regional development for General Motors.

The Snell Building represents Neill’s first commercial property purchase.

In terms of her future plans for the building, Neill said it’s too early to know, but she’s open to any number of possibilities.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
The Snell Building’s facade faces Central Avenue. Because of the street's alignment, sunlight only hits the front directly during part of the summer.

“It’s so new, there’s lots of ideas,” she said. “There’s a lot of positive energy. I am open to all kinds of ideas and suggestions.”

According to previous owner, Matt Doyle, the Snell Building was built in 1914 using glazed brick, which was the most expensive brick available at the time at $65 per 1,000 square foot.

Richard Snell, an Illinois investor, had the structure built.

The building was officially finished in 1915.

Matt Doyle and his brother Mike Doyle have a long history with the building.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
The Snell Building’s windows are reflected in the windows of a building across the street.

“My dad (Chuck Doyle) bought it back in the ’70s,” Mike Doyle said. “My dad delivered newspapers there and he always wanted to own it, and I guess he did.”

The two brothers helped take care of the building at different points in time.

“I used to lay carpeting and floor covering,” Mike Doyle said. “We put new windows in it 30 years ago.”

Mike Doyle, who owns Doyle Construction Co., said the Snell is a special place.

“It’s unique alright,” he said. “There aren’t many buildings in Iowa that age and that quality.”

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
The Snell Building is framed by one of the globe style street lights along its Eighth Avenue side in the late afternoon.

Mike Doyle said throughout the building’s history, many of the occupants have been doctors and lawyers.

Steve Kersten, a Fort Dodge attorney, has been going into the Snell Building and up to the seventh floor since 1980.

His law office — Kersten, Brownlee, Hendricks, LLP — is located there.

But Kersten has memories earlier than that.

“I used to walk from Corpus Christi school to go see my dad,” he said. “And I remembered going up the elevator when they actually had an elevator operator — a guy who pushed the buttons. After he let you in, they shut the door and he would say, ‘Which floor?’ “

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
The Snell Building, at Central Avenue and Eighth Street, is framed by the Fort Dodge Fire Department’s aerial truck and their large U.S. flag on display during Market on Central.

Steve Kerten’s father, Don Kersten, held a law office at the Snell Building starting in 1955 up until Steve Kersten joined the firm.

Kersten said the Snell was a popular destination for lawyers due to its proximity to the Webster County Courthouse.

He remembers the hustle and bustle of the place.

“I remember getting a haircut here,” he said. “In the main lobby, you would walk in and to the left was a smoke shop. They sold cigarettes and pop. There was a watch repair guy. The whole building was full of realtors, lawyers, different businesses. Lots of people getting off and on that elevator.”

About five tenants currently occupy the Snell Building.

Kersten said the offices on the seventh floor were remodeled in 1984.

But every other floor is almost identical.

“Every floor has the exact same layout and every floor has a vault,” he said. “The seventh floor is a modified version of the other floors.”

He said the marble featured on the walls is called “mirror image.”

“They cut it down the middle,” Kersten said. “They cut it and opened it up.”

The floors are terrazzo.

And it was some of those features that were attractive to Neill.

“The marble, floors, the stairwells, the mail shoot,” Neill said. “There are vaults on every floor. There is so much I am anxious to learn about — and of course the views from the upper floors are stunning.”

Neill said she’s looking forward to the possibilities.

“Everyone has been so welcoming,” she said. “I think there are so many people who want to do good things. We are big on local and will do a lot of the work locally.”

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
The Snell Building lettering is literally carved in stone and is part of the permanent facade.

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Steve Kersten, a Fort Dodge attorney, walks down one of the hallways on the fifth floor of the Snell Building. As of June 28, the Snell Building is under new ownership.