Many landmarks erected in second half of 20th century

The old Spring Valley jail
By : 
Mary Jo Dathe
Glimpses of Yesteryear

We continue with 1980 history of Spring Valley, trusting you are following along with the story.

The first step toward establishing a community hospital in Spring Valley was taken in April 1958 when a committee was formed to pursue the necessary steps that could lead to approval.  In June of the following year the city was notified that it had been placed at the top of the priority list to receive federal funds to assist in financing the building.  An area-wide fund-raising effort, combined with local voters' approval to use part of the city liquor store revenues for the hospital, assured enough money to go ahead with the project.  Ground was broken in May 1961 and on Aug. 4, 1962, the 35-bed Community Memorial Hospital officially opened its doors to the first patient.

As the number of elderly persons needing trained nursing help grew locally, as it had nationally, the early 1970s found a shortage of facilities in this area to handle the load.  In 1974 a drive was started to obtain a nursing home in Spring Valley. In November of that year, voters approved a $1 million general obligation bond debt to build a nursing home here.  Ground was broken in April of 1975 and the first residents moved into the Community Memorial Nursing Home on April 21, 1976.  The 50-bed skilled nursing home was built on the west end of the hospital, and the two facilities used a common kitchen as well as administrative staff.

Further help for the elderly in the community emerged when an apartment building for low-income elderly was built in 1978 just north of the Catholic church, and near the downtown business district.  The three-story, 37-unit building was privately financed, but rent is federally subsidized so no tenant has to pay more than one-fourth of his or her income for rent.

A drive was begun in 1955 to build a municipal swimming pool.  "Pennies for the Pool" jars were placed in stores throughout the city in an effort to get a fund drive started.  In September 1956 a bond issue for a pool was turned down by voters, but in August 1957 an $80,000 bond issue was approved.  The pool was officially opened July 4, 1958.  By the late 1970s, the pool had begun to deteriorate and the bathhouse was badly in need of repair.  Energy had become costly and sometimes hard to get, so in 1979 it was decided to do extensive remodeling of the pool and use solar heating to warm the water.  A new bathhouse was built, and in May 1980 the new solar-heated facilities were opened to the public.  The pool proved to very popular with area swimmers.

When Sears decided to close its store here in 1973 after 27 years of operation, it left a large centrally located building empty.  The Spring Valley Kiwanis Club voted to buy the building and convert it back into a community center.  Using volunteer labor, the Kiwanians remodeled and improved the building so it could be used for any community activities.  The financial strain of operating the center proved to be too great for the Kiwanis Club, so in 1975 the club proposed selling the building to the city.  Following unanimous approval of the City Council, the building was taken over by the city.  The Community Center is widely used for a variety of activities -- the senior citizens and the Kiwanis Club meet there weekly, and dances and public meetings are held frequently.  It is also used for events such as the Santa Claus visit, Ag Days and other celebrations. (Yes the senior citizens eat there Monday through Friday; the place is a polling place, etc.)

Another activity that is regularly held in the center is the production of the Brave Community Theatre.  Local persons interested in the theater forced the organization to provide an outlet for the talents of local amateur actors, and each year the group puts on one or two plays.  The first play, "The Roaring Twenties Scrapbook," was presented in August 1972.  When the city celebrated its 125th anniversary in August 1980, the theater presented an encore production of the first offering, "The Roaring Twenties Scrapbook."

Spring Valley, like other cities almost everywhere, paid the price of progress during the mid-20th century by losing some of its most historic buildings to the wrecking ball.  New buildings sprung up, but each time a little bit of history was lost.  In 1964 the building just north of Marchant Motor Co. garage was torn down.  It was originally built for the Masonic Lodge in 1871 on Jefferson Street just east of the original creamery.  It was later moved to the location near Marchant’s.  During World War I, the lower floor was used as an armory for Spring Valley Co. F Militia.  After a larger armory was built for Co. F, the building became a roller rink.  That same year two other buildings in the area north of Marchant’s were demolished to make way for off-street parking.

Early in 1968, the all-brick Allen's Hall on East Park and South Section was demolished.  It was built in 1875 and had been used as a Sunday school, a manufacturing plant, a funeral parlor, a hotel, town meeting hall, and a business college.  In the early 1900s it was in its glory as the Crescent Hotel.  Later it was converted to use in manufacturing steel neck yokes for animals (see one at the Ag Building!), and then as a farm implement store.  On its site was built the new creamery warehouse, now owned by Land O'Lakes.  The north portion of the warehouse is on the site of the former Burgess Lumber Company.  Also biting the dust on 1968 was the old city jail, which was considered no longer fit to house prisoners.  The building was torn down to permit expansion of the municipal light plant.

The history of Spring Valley will continue in the next issue.  Look for info on the "Tin Cupboard," the first light plant, the railroad depot and more.