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Dodge House linked to Mason City's railroad history
Because Tuesday's overnight fire went up through the roof, the walls of the Dodge House-Long Branch building appeared solid wednesday morning. (Globe Gazette photo by Jeff Heinz)

By MARY PIEPER

Of The Globe Gazette

MASON CITY — The Long Branch Saloon and Dodge House have long and fascinating histories, but the building’s future remains uncertain after Tueday’s  overnight fire.

Owner Russ Hardy had not been allowed inside the building as of late Wednesday. He said he isn’t sure if it is salvageable.

The building, completed in 1915, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.

At first it was known as the Hotel Lester. It was designed and constructed primarily to provide temporary housing and other services for employees and passengers of the railroad companies whose lines were just a block west. The passenger train depots were located nearby.

In addition to the 29-room hotel, the building included a cafe and a grocery store. A barbershop was installed in the basement in 1925.

In December 1937, track star and Olympic gold medalist Jesse Owens stayed at the hotel while he was in Mason City to conduct a basketball exhibition at the YMCA. At the time, the hotel was one of the few places in town that would admit blacks.

The hotel was sold in 1975 to LeRoy and Mary McGrew, who called it McGrew’s Dodge House. The cafe became the Long Branch Saloon.

At this time, the Dodge House mainly was used as a rooming house. Later, it was often used to house homeless people.

The Long Branch Saloon and Dodge House have been closed for nearly five years. Hardy said the last night the saloon was open was Oct. 31, 2001, when a Halloween party was held there.

Hardy said he had “some wishes” for the building after it closed, but the timing was never right for them to come to fruition.

For more information on the National Register of Historic Places, visit http://www.cr.nps.gov/nr/

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