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Preservation has a history, and an importance

Rick Carle

The first National Preservation Week was celebrated May 6-12 in 1973. The Trustees Advisory Board in Washington, D.C., proposed the idea of the National Preservation Week as a “means of relating local and state preservation progress to the national effort for mutual benefits of both.”

Then-President Richard Nixon signed the resolution into law on May 5, 1973.

Then-First Lady Patricia Nixon, on May 8, 1973, read the presidential proclamation: “As the pace of change accelerates in the world around us, Americans more than ever need a lively awareness of our roots and origins in the past on which to base our sense of identity in the present and our direction for the future.”

The Fort Dodge Historic Preservation Commission is made up of seven members who serve five-year terms. They are Meg Beshey, Jason Laird, Carol Foltz, Susan Ahlers Leman, Jennifer Becker and Rick Carle, who is the current president. There is one vacancy.

The duties of the commission are:

∫ Promote the educational, cultural, economic and general welfare of the public through the recognition, enhancement and perpetuation of sites and districts of historical and cultural significance.

∫ Recommend ordinances to safeguard the city’s historic, aesthetic, and cultural heritage through preservation.

∫ Promote the historic sites as places for the education, pleasure and welfare of the people.

∫ Conduct studies to identify and designate historic districts and sites and maintain records of all studies and inventories for the public.

∫ Make recommendations to the state Bureau of Historic Preservation for the listing of historic sites or districts to the National Register of Historic Places.

We are fortunate to have two historic districts, the Downtown Historic District and the Oak Hill Historic District. Having these areas identified as historic districts helps us to focus our preservation efforts and also provides us a starting point for research on each of the structures within the districts through the information that was collected in designating the districts.

It also provides the properties within the districts easier access to historic incentives that might not otherwise be available. The Downtown Historic District is from Second Avenue South to First Avenue North and 12th Street down to Third Street. Last year the commission found 13 historical buildings that are no longer standing and had bronze plaques made that tell the history of each building. The plaques are at the original sites where the buildings once stood. We recommend that you take a walk downtown to find the plaques and read the history behind them.

At one time Fort Dodge was one of the largest towns with skyscrapers per capita in the Midwest. Many of those buildings still exist in the historic district.

Fort Dodge is lucky to have showcase historical houses such as the Vincent House and the Ringland-Smeltzer House that at times are open to the public. The beautiful woodwork of that time is amazing, and many people may not know that the Vincent House was the first house built using the modern-day plaster system in the walls.

Each year May is celebrated as Preservation Month. It is a good time to take the time to visit the historic districts in town and to think about preservation rather than destruction.

There are times that we would like to preserve instead of destroy a structure, but sometimes it is out of our hands. In those instances, all we can do is go and take pictures to record it and keep in a file. People can stay up to date on what the commission is working on by following them on Facebook. They can be found by searching Fort Dodge Historic Preservation Commission.

Rick Carle is the president of the Fort Dodge Historic Preservation Commission.