The end beckons for iconic K of C Hall

A local one-story building which began storing thousands of happy memories for many Central Iowans in October, 1959 is being prepared for the end.

The once vibrant, and venerable Marshalltown Knights of Columbus Hall, 201 W. High St. will be demolished sometime in 2017.

The curtain fell sometime ago on the era when many a Knight, friends, and guests would jam the hall’s lounge and dining area.

Additionally, “the KC Hall” as it was called, served a dual purpose as a venue for countless community fundraisers, parties of all kinds, dances and wedding receptions for nearly three generations.

Sadly, its last wedding reception was Aug. 20.

Knight and organization board member Dick Hierstein of Marshalltown cited numerous societal, economic and employment trends which manifested over the years severely hurt attendance. All resulted in declining revenues, coupled with other factors, had the board and members wondering what to do with the facility back in January.

Sold to city

The city helped them decide.

The board, with the consent of members, made “a painful but necessary” decision to sell the building and lot to the city for $165,000 earlier this year.

The decision by the not for profit religious organization’s board was unanimous.

The lot size is 120 x 400.23, according to the Marshall County Assessor. It abuts what is commonly referred to as the “Old Econo Foods” site – 909 S. 2nd St.

The ground will be used to house the city’s joint fire and police building headquarters.

Construction is scheduled to begin next year.

But what to do about the dozens of tables, folding chairs, heating, ventilation, air conditioning and kitchen equipment?

Recently, area Roman Catholic churches which had members in the local KCs, as well as Marshalltown’s St. Francis School, were contacted, giving them the opportunity to place orders for the hall’s many accessories, said Hierstein.

Consequently, the churches and school were given tables and chairs, a refrigerator, freezer, nearly new furnaces and air conditioners which were donated in recent years, the buildings sign, shelving and much more.

Public auction

What remains will be available for inspection at the hall during a public auction by Fred Van Metre of Marshalltown, 10:30 a.m. Oct. 29.

A walk-in cooler, various other coolers, stoves, fryers, a commercial fire suppression system, extinguishers, a large variety of pots, pans, utensils and other kitchen equipment, dinnerware, glasses, silverware, trays, tables, chairs, office equipment, a safe, coat racks, and other items will be sold.

After the auction, a salvage contractor will remove any thing of value

Transfer of ownership is estimated to take place at the end of November.

Back to the future

Hierstein said the club will continue to focus on its original mission – that of a Catholic fraternal charitable organization.

“The purpose of the Knights of Columbus is a Catholic fraternal organization to do charitable work,” he said. “The funds we raise are not to be used to support a lounge for people to hang out in … they are to do charitable works of the church … and some people have lost focus of that.”

Hierstein said years ago the lounge was an asset – it provided substantial income and importantly, provided a needed place for World War II and Korean War veterans who embraced the opportunities to drink beverages, eat and play cards with others like themselves. However, those generations aged, retired, died, or moved away to retirement communities. Subsequent generations were less inclined to go to a club setting. As time passed, the necessity of dual-income households, increased and irregular working hours by providers, their children’s innumerable activities, rising costs of liquor and dram shop insurance, all factored into declining revenues which could not be reversed.

K of C national trends

Selling the property and hall is also consistent with a current U.S.-wide initiative Hierstein said.

“Nationally, the Knights have been requiring the local councils to divest themselves of real estate, so the focus is not just on maintaining real estate, but doing charitable Catholic works.”

Club dynamics

Hierstein said he understands why older club members, who remember the club as an active, dynamic entity and contributed hundreds of hours of volunteer service and equipment over the years, are now dismayed.

“However, most of the members are taking the process of preparing the property for transfer well,” he said.

Conversely, the former Marshalltown city administrator, now retired, said it would have been unconscionable to bankrupt the club on a failing business model.

A bank loan was out of the question.

“No bank is going to loan a not-for-profit club money to continue operations that have been losing money for years,” he said. “We were running five-figure deficits annually. The improvements we made recently in the last one to two years, and other efforts to induce business were not working.”

Contact Mike Donahey at 641-753-6611 or mdonahey@timesrepublican.com