The military established a stockaded post at this site in 1850. The post was abandoned in 1853, and the following year the city of Fort Dodge was platted. This first plat was laid out on a grid that ran somewhat parallel to the east bank of the Des Moines River. Though a public square was provided, interrupting Central Avenue at Fourth Street, the site selected for the county courthouse was simply a corner lot at Central Avenue and Seventh Street. Later additions at the east and west brought the grid back to the cardinal points of the compass. Much later, curvilinear residential streets responding to the contours of the land were laid out both north and south of Soldier Creek. Over the years the community developed a system of parks parallel to both sides of the river. Other extensive parks (Crawford to the north and Olsen to the south) have provided additional green belts and recreational areas.
While the city's location on the upper Des Moines River did not allow river transport (because of the shallowness of the river), it did provide much-needed water power, and the surrounding land—a mixture of forests and open prairies—was rich agriculturally. Very early the city became an important rail-line stop for the Illinois Central and also served as a terminus for the Des Moines and Fort Dodge Railway. In addition to its economy based on transportation, the city took advantage of the extensive nearby deposits of gypsum and clay for the manufacture of tile and brick.
Architecturally, the city has lost a number of its most interesting nineteenth-century buildings, including its continually remodeled courthouse of 1859–1861 (by A. V. Lambert, an architect from Fort Dodge). After the turn of the century the city emerged as a center for midwestern Craftsman and Prairie architecture. The Prairie-style form that most interested the architects and clients in Fort Dodge was that classical, somewhat Viennese version so closely associated with the Chicago architect George W. Maher. 9
Karl F. Haugen and Atlee R. Loomis, Historic Homes of Fort Dodge, 1975.
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