Dance to raise money for memorial

An era in local history that had roots in the 1860s came to a sudden and fiery end on the night of August 3, 2012.

That night, Bohemian Hall, a landmark located at 2601 Johnson Ave., burned to the ground. The structure that burned had been built in 1939 to replace an earlier structure on the same site.

The cause of the fire is still listed as undetermined.

While the structure was not rebuilt after the fire, it lives on in the memories of people who attended dances there, met their spouses there and, like Jessica Martens, credit the place with their being here.

“My grandfather met my grandmother there,” Martens said. “It was the beginning of our family.”

Martens, along with Jerry Wesley, of Moorland, are spearheading an effort to build a memorial to Bohemian Hall.

The memorial would be constructed of brick that Wesley salvaged from the original building. It would be located in nearby Elkhorn Cemetery. The cemetery, they said would provide it with a safe home and also honor the fact that many of those buried there were involved in the Bohemian Hall during its early days.

The fundraising goal for the project is $5,000.

“That will give us what we need to build it and maintain it,” Martens said.

The Bohemian Hall was also special to Wesley.

“I grew up in the place,” he said.

It deserves to be remembered, he said.

“It was the landmark of the township,” Wesley said.

Martens didn’t get to attend any dances there herself.

“By the time I was old enough my grandma had packed away her dancing shoes,” she said.

When the hall burned, she reacted with a heavy heart.

“It’s a piece of our county’s heritage,” she said. “I was just sad when it was destroyed.”

A dance will held Friday night at the Eagles Ballroom in downtown Fort Dodge to raise money for the memorial. Proceeds from the event will purchase the marker, which will feature a picture of the old Bohemian Hall, and construction of the base and superstructure.

The Irv Reutzel Band will play from 6 to 10 p.m. Doors open at 5 pm. Admission is $10 and a sandwich plate will be available for an additional $6.

Martens said the group will gladly accept donations of both money and labor. She said they hope to be able to build the monument by next spring.

“We can’t rebuild the hall,” she said, “but we can build a memorial.”