Sacred Heart future

Fort Dodge Historic Preservation Commission hears update on possibilities for century-old church

-Messenger photo by Michaela Frerichs
Sacred Heart Catholic Church, 211 S. 13th St. was the subject of a meeting Tuesday evening to discuss the future of the building.

The future of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church was discussed at a special Historic Preservation Commission meeting Tuesday evening.

The Fort Dodge Historic Preservation Commission began the meeting by going over a project outline of what it hopes to accomplish with the century-old church. While the building at 211 S. 13th St. is still owned by the Holy Trinity Parish, it has not held services there since 2019.

The first goal of the commission is to repair damages to the building’s roof in order to prevent further issues caused by leaks. That project itself is projected to cost $40,000. In addition, the commission needs to have a historic building needs assessment done of the building to analyze any other structural, plumbing, electrical, mechanical, or building code issues so they can prioritize recommended repairs. The commission is looking to raise $25,000 for this portion of the project.

The commission is currently working on phase one of its project outline, which includes nominating the building to the National Register of Historic Places, making the roof repairs, and conducting the needs assessment.

Alexa McDowell of AKAY Consulting from Des Moines specializes in historical architectural consulting services. McDowell spoke at the meeting about how she plans to help with the nomination to the National Register of Historic Places.

McDowell is originally from Fort Dodge and said she has memories of the church from her time living here. McDowell toured the building Tuesday in order to evaluate its significance as a piece of architecture.

“My job is to not only evaluate the building and its historic integrity, but also put together the history and build a case that the building is eligible for the National Register,” said McDowell. “Church buildings are different because they’re associated with church and we think about separation of church and state in terms of a government sponsored program such as the National Park Service. Typically the case for significance is based on the significance of the architecture and obviously this is a beautiful building and it was designed by a very important architect, William Steele.”

Sacred Heart was completed in 1921.

McDowell explained that the National Register does not protect the building from any changes or even demolition.

“The National Register in and of itself is only a designation that the building is significant. It does not protect the building in any way and it doesn’t control what you can do to the building,” said McDowell. “The National Register does become a tool for other financial opportunities. In Iowa, the designation is most commonly used for historic tax credits.”

McDowell said she is confident Sacred Heart will be approved for the National Register of Historic Places but there are many steps to the process so it will take about a year.

Currently, the Corpus Christi Church on North Eighth Street is on the National Register.

Once the full project is complete, the commission’s goal is that the building will not be owned by the church or the city. The commission conducted virtual visits to other former churches that now serve different purposes as buildings to help them consider options for future use of Sacred Heart. Future use possibilities discussed included a mixed or private event space or a non-denominational retreat destination, but the commission said they are hoping the community will have ideas as well of what they would like the building to become.

At this time, the commission is in need of financial support in order to move forward with the assessment process and roof repairs. To make a tax deductible donation or for more information visit fd-foundation.org.


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