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FD Fire Department continues investigation

The investigation into a blaze that destroyed a former architecture firm office building earlier this week will likely go into next week, Fort Dodge Fire Department Capt. Steve Teske said.

The Monday night fire ripped through the former offices of the Griffith Co., located at 709 Kenyon Road, across from Friendship Haven. Passersby called in reports of fire and smoke in the building shortly after 7 p.m. Firefighters had the blaze under control after about an hour and were at the scene until about 12:30 a.m. putting out hot spots.

According to owner Stanford Griffith Jr., the building had been unoccupied for about the last six years, but still had a lot of papers and office furniture inside.

The fire completely destroyed the building, but the A-frame structure remains standing.

The building was built in 1955 and was designed by local architect and firm owner Stanford Griffith Sr. The two-wing structure included 2,300 square feet of space.

As designer, Griffith incorporated ideas that would combine beauty with compactness and practicality.

“We wanted a building which would be both useful and beautiful,” Griffith told The Messenger at the time. “I think we’ve succeeded in achieving both ends.”

The new Griffith Co. offices also featured a new type of pressurized air conditioning and heating system in 1956, which included air treatment units located in a utility room to heat, purify, humidify, de-humidify and cool the air as needed.

An article in The Messenger after the firm’s 1956 open house stated that 421 people attended the open house and “all emerged with a definite feeling that they had truly seen ‘a step into the future.'”

“The building’s ultra-modern geometrical design will make it something of a showpiece in this area,” another Messenger story said.

The building at 709 Kenyon Road was built largely of glass, glass brick, asbestos cement insulation board and “other modern materials,” according to one report.

The 13-member firm was previously located in the mezzanine level of the Warden Plaza.

Stanford Griffith Sr. continued to head the architecture firm until his retirement in 1979, when his son, Stanford Griffith Jr. took over until his retirement about six years ago.

Stanford Griffith Sr. died in 1983. The Messenger ran an editorial honoring the impact he had on Fort Dodge, writing “It’s customary to report that an individual has left his mark on the community in which he lived and worked. That’s literally true of a longtime architect such as Stanford Griffith. … For 27 years, from 1952 to 1979, he headed the architectural firm his father had started here shortly after the turn of the century.”

The Griffith Co. firm was established in 1901 by his father, Frank Griffith.

The editorial went on to note the many buildings around the area that Griffith’s firm had designed, including the downtown Federal Building, the YMCA, St. Olaf Lutheran Church, Friendship Haven and various Iowa Central Community College and Fort Dodge Community School District buildings.

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