History Of Des Moines 2018-03-02T12:05:40+00:00

A History Of Des Moines Iowa

Fort Des Moines, named after the “River of the Monks” was erected in 1843 in order to control and bring order to the surrounding area. The Meskwaki and Sauk Indians, who had just been transplanted to the area by the Federal Government.

By 1846 Fort Des Moines was beginning to grow with two taverns and a multitude of mud and wooden dwellings, many of them made from logs. However in 1851, a devastating flood overtook the town, washing away everything from crops to roads and dwellings. The flood gave over a new slate for growth and everything was basically ruined and a new town sprung up from scratch.

By 1864 the name was changed to just Des Moines, dropping the name of “Fort” and the city began to grow. By 1873 the Black Diamond mine was build with a shaft into the earth 150 feet deep to reach a bed of coal that was five feet thick, and by 1893 there were 23 mines in the area.

By 1880, the city of Des Moines had a population of some 22,000 people, which by now had grown larger than the other three most populous Iowa citis, Dubuque, Burlington and Davenport. This is a distinction that the city has never lost since.

When the 20th Century rolled around, Des Moines under a beautification project called the “City Beautiful Project.” This project produced large and distinctive public buildings that were beautiful to the eye. These 19th century buildings are epitomized by the present home of the World Food Prize (the former library), the Polk County Administrative Building, (Former Post Office) and the current city hall are all reminders of that early renovation.

In 1933 there was another flood of the Des Moines and the Raccoon rivers caused a major catastrophe where over 250,000 people were left without running water for over 20 days, as the water works were submerged by the flood waters.

Des Moines is the economic center of Iowa with many major insurance companies and other financial institutions stationed there. The Principal Financial Group, EMC Insurance, Fidelity & Guaranty Life, Wellmark Blue Cross, Allied Insurance, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Iowa, Voya Financial, and American Republic are major insurance players there.

The magazine ‘Better Homes and Gardens’, the nationally known magazine also is headquartered in Des Moines. In 2010, Forbes magazine rated Des Moines as number one on their list of “Best Places in America for Business and Careers.”

The Des Moines area is also a leader in cultural affairs and venues to further the arts and sciences. The metro Des Moines area is the home to several arts venues, museums and performing arts groups. The Des Moines Performing Arts hosts many plays and Broadway production on a regular basis and the Des Moines Playhouse is a popular spot for live plays.

Since 1973, the Des Moines Metro Opera has been actively offering not only classic opera, but also serves as a prime educational resource for the community in that arena.

The Des Moines Symphony is another very popular venue as it holds seven pairs of classical concerts as well as a New Year’s production and an annual “Yankee Doodle Pops Concert.”

Jazz is provided by the Metro Arts Alliance which puts on free jazz concerts at different locations throughout the city each July.

Sporting events and concerts are held at the Wells Fargo Arena as well as an NBA developmental league, a hockey league, and an indoor football league.

Des Moines has that small town feel, but offers a big city menu of living, and is another one of those cities that makes it easy to stay.