Wetmore Auto Dealership, ca. 1915

The Wetmore auto dealership at 615 Douglas Street is shown circa 1915. The historic building in downtown Sioux City is included in Preservation Iowa’s 2019 Most Endangered Properties list.

SIOUX CITY -- A historic building in downtown Sioux City has landed on Preservation Iowa’s 2019 Most Endangered Properties list.

The Wetmore Building, 615 Douglas St., has been unoccupied since 2006. Suffering from water damage and deferred maintenance, it was placed on the Red Tag/Placard List in 2017 by the city’s Inspections Department due to numerous code and safety violations. The city may order razing the structure if action isn’t taken to correct the issues cited.

Built between 1916 and 1918, the three-story structure was designed as a motor-mart for automobile dealership owner Harry A. Wetmore. The Wetmore Automobile Agency sold Chalmers and Saxon automobiles, as well as Waterloo Boy farm tractors. Wetmore began manufacturing his own farm tractors in the building in 1918 that won several plowing competitions, including setting a world’s record at a 1920 competition held in Craig, Iowa. More recently, the building was occupied by Standard Office Supply.

The adjacent building to the north at 625 Douglas St. also holds a rich history. Constructed in 1909, the building was home to the first Sioux City Auditorium. The building was purchased and operated by the American Legion Post 64 as the Tomba Ballroom and, most recently, as the broadcast studios for TV station KCAU. LAMB Arts Regional Theatre has announced plans to turn the building into a performing arts center to serve as the new home for the theatre. The $11.5 million project will include a 250-seat thrust theatre, a 120-seat studio theatre and a smaller cabaret-style theatre. LAMB recently received a $100,000 grant from Missouri River Historic Development for asbestos abatement, which is nearly complete.

Preservation Iowa’s Most Endangered Property program began in 1995 to educate Iowans about the special buildings and historic sites that are slowly and gradually slipping away. In the past 20+ years, the group has designated over 150 homes, churches, archeological sites, landscapes, commercial buildings and a variety of other properties.

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