Historic CCC/POW building preserved in Eldora

A nearly 80-year-old building that once housed Civilian Conservation Corps workers, and later Italian and German POW’s, is slowly being brought back to life by a group of Eldora area youths and adults.

The 1,800 square foot, one story, wood-frame building on the Hardin County Fairgrounds in Eldora, is officially known as the CCC/POW Recreational Hall.

And while it was used as a recreation hall, it also served as barracks for CCC and POW men.

Regardless, the building’s official titles were inconsistent with its dilapidated condition – the roof leaked, moisture was seeping in through the foundation and the floor had holes, which allowed rodents to enter.

And what the ravages of time and neglect caused, even more damage came from a devastating hailstorm that pummeled the Eldora area in 2008.

The hail not only broke the building’s glass, it knocked out, or broke, wood window frames and did more damage to the building’s exterior.

That was before Emily Rose of rural Whitten and her team became involved more than five years ago.

Rose, then a home-schooled teen and a World War II history aficionado, was intrigued when she learned of the building’s past.

“My grandfathers were of that era and I’ve been interested in World War II since the third or fourth grade,” she said.

In her research, she learned it was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps, named Camp Flying Goose, and was used as a barracks while corps members constructed cabins, a dam and two lakes at nearby Pine Lake State Park, several miles east of Eldora.

“It was called Pine Creek before they changed it to Pine Lake,” Emily Rose said.

That was only part of the structure’s rich history.

“The CCC/POW building is the only original campsite structure remaining in the state of Iowa,” said Becky Rose, Emily’s mother, who helps manage ongoing-fundraising initiatives and other tasks while Emily is away at college.

Helping her is Anna Rose, the Rose’s younger daughter. And what really excites the Roses, and other volunteers, is the property is believed to be the only recreational hall – and barracks – that exists in the U.S. that was used by both CCC men and POWs.

“Other CCC campsites have been located, but none were used by POWs,” said Becky Rose.

A photo of the site plan shows the camp originally consisted of officers’ quarters, garages, storage sheds, a hospital, headquarters, kitchen/mess hall, and latrine in addition to barracks and other support buildings.

The CCC camps began to disband after the war started and all were closed by 1942.

Camp Flying Goose then became Compound 13 for POWs from 1943-1946.

Iron bars still cover some of the windows – a reminder of its use as a POW facility.

“It must have been interesting having German POWs here,” Becky Rose said. “A number of Eldora people were German and they would come up and talk with the POWs in German.”

Emily Rose believed it was important to preserve the building’s heritage and took action.

“I saw the building was run down and decided to do something about it,” she said matter-of-factly.

Others, ranging from her parents, Charles and Becky Rose, to Boy Scouts to service club members, have accomplished much since they first set foot in the building.

To begin, the building had to be cleaned out and gutted. A new concrete floor was poured and the building was painted.

“The concrete floor was important to keep the structure stable and the building itself had not been painted in a long time,” Emily Rose said.

The foundation was repaired, a section of the roof was replaced, as were the building’s windows. More repairs were done and the building qualified for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

To fund building rehabilitation, project supporters have collected pop cans, conducted historical re-enactments, served at pancake suppers, sponsored bake sales, waited on tables at restaurants and written grants to raise needed monies.

They have raised $44,000 to date and estimate another $55,000 will be needed to completely finish the job, such as weatherization and installing a modern heating and air-conditioning system.

All are needed to turn the structure into a first-class museum and possible tourist destination point.

Consequently, some central Iowa businesses and manufacturers have been contacted.

Lennox Manufacturing of Marshalltown recently donated $600, according to Becky Rose.

The task force recently scheduled a number of fundraisers for this year but Becky Rose said one more key component – volunteers – are needed.

“We need to have more volunteers to help us with display maintenance and other tasks,” she said. “We have come this far and need more volunteers to reach the finish line.”

For more information, contact Becky Rose at gbehrose@heartofiowa.net