Eldora CCC/POW Recreation Hall

Great American Rail-Trail

Commerce, Economy & Work Military & War

The CCC/POW Recreation Hall in Eldora, IA.

Located at the Hardin County Fairgrounds in Eldora, Iowa, the Civilian Conservation Corps/Prisoner of War Recreational Hall was constructed in 1933 by Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Company 1755. Amid the Great Depression, the CCC program was created under the New Deal by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to put unemployed men to work building infrastructure, often parks and recreational facilities. The 1,800-square-foot building, named Camp Flying Goose, was used as a base camp for two years, as Company 1752, known as the Erosioners, expanded Pine Creek State Park (now Pine Lake State Park). At the time, the park had the highest rate of attendance among state parks in Iowa, and the CCC was tasked with building cabins, lakes and a dam to further develop the park. [1]

As international tensions rose in the early months of 1941 and World War II broke out in the spring, CCC camps across the country began closing. [2] In 1942, Camp Flying Goose officially disbanded, and the program ended in order to redirect funds to the war. [3] The following year, the U.S. government decided to start bringing prisoners of war (POWs) from the European and Pacific theaters back to America in order to lower food costs, create jobs, and prevent POWs from escaping and easily returning to their countries to rejoin the war efforts. [4] Iowa had two main POW camps named after the cities where they were located—Algona and Clarinda. Both camps were identical and could house up to 3,000 POWs in 186 buildings. [5] Branch camps were smaller and dispersed throughout the state. Their locations depended upon both POW labor and CCC buildings for housing. As a result, Camp Flying Goose became Compound 13—a POW branch camp that served as a barracks for Axis prisoners from 1943 to 1946. [6] The first POWs—who were Italian—arrived at Compound 13 in December 1943. They were tasked with cleaning up the facilities prior to the arrival of German POWs four months later. [7] In accordance with the 1929 Geneva Convention, the POWs at Compound 13, like other POWs in Iowa, were contracted out to local farmers and factories for work—in addition to their work responsibilities in the camp. [8] The POWs who worked for local civilians made 80 cents per day, while those who worked at the prison camps made just 10 cents per day. Many POWs who worked on local farms grew fond of the families with whom they spent their days; they ate dinner together and played with the families’ kids, and some even maintained a correspondence once they returned home.

It is generally understood that the POWs were treated well in the field and back at the barracks. Military and camp officials hoped that, as word of humane conditions in America’s POW camps spread, the Axis powers would do the same for American POWs, and German soldiers would be more likely to surrender than continue fighting. By WWII’s end in 1945, nearly 400,000 Axis POWs were interned in the United States; less than 6,000 were Japanese soldiers, far fewer than the 120,000 Japanese American citizens interned by the U.S. during the war. [9]

After Compound 13’s closure, the building remained unused for over 50 years and time took its toll on the structure. In 2008, a hailstorm caused exterior damage and broke the windows. Several years later, Youth to Restore the CCC/POW Building formed to preserve and protect the architectural integrity and the history of the rec hall. In the years since, the group has raised $44,000 and made a series of improvements, including painting the exterior, repairing the foundation, pouring a new concrete floor and replacing windows. After the initial improvements were made, the building opened as a military museum and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2012. [10]


  • [1] “Historic CCC/POW Building Preserved in Eldora,” Times-Republican, January 5, 2014,; National Register of Historic Places, Civilian Conservation Corps/Prisoner of War Recreation Hall, Eldora, Iowa, National Register #11001056. Hereafter NRHP.
  • [2] NRHP.
  • [3] Ibid.; Editors, “Civilian Conservation Corps,” (A&E Television Networks), last modified March 31, 2021,
  • [4] “Historic CCC/POW Building Preserved in Eldora.”
  • [5] Ibid.
  • [6] NRHP.
  • [7] Chad W. Timm, “Working With the Enemy: Axis Prisoners of War in Iowa During World War II,” The Annals of Iowa 70, no. 3 (Summer 2011), 226–32,
  • [8] NRHP.
  • [9] Timm, “Working With the Enemy,” 226–32.
  • [10] “Historic CCC/POW Building Preserved in Eldora.”

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