Much LAZIER than your average blogger  
  LZ's info | past | photos
3.15.2008 - 24 comments 

I had to take a business trip last week to Des Moines, Iowa. So as any good amateur photographer would do, I took my trusty camera along with me. This was not by any means my first trip to this Capital City of Iowa, but it was the first time I ever took pictures of their beautiful state capital building. I once was given a guided tour of the capital building and was very impressed with the restoration they had completed in just the last few years.

As you can see with these pictures, the Capital building was just about my favorite building in the city. This was not however by any means the largest building in the city. That honor was given to the head quarters of the Principle Financial Group. You can see it is the tallest building in the city’s skyline as I took the photo from the capital building, area and then another one from the downtown area. I would say that the capital building appears to sit up on top of a hill and overlooks the cityscape below it.

As you can also see, there was a really (almost surreal) sculpture in the downtown redevelopment area that I thought looked really interesting but it was also difficult to figure out exactly what it was for, or for that matter, even what it was trying to represent. I just thought that it was very cool. What the heck is that? It seems to be made out of just white capital block letters. But it seems to be a part of the downtown redevelopment that is going on down there not far from the Principle Financial Group's building.

I was surprised and how many things there were to do in this city of about a quarter million people. From things like the Blank Zoo, and the Living History Farms, to the Arboretum (called the Botanical Center) and even their very cool Des Moines Art Center, (a very neat place) for not only art, but also for the shear contemporary architecture of the facility. I was very impressed with this place from a visit there a few years ago.

For all of you who care, the history of Des Moines can be traced back to 1834, when John Dougherty, an Indian Agent at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, recommended that a military post be established at the point where the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers merge. Nine years later, May 1843, Captain James Allen and a company of dragoons from Fort Sanford arrived on the site. Captain Allen proposed to name the garrison Fort Raccoon but was directed by the War Department to use the name Fort Des Moines. This made me ponder the possibility of the Iowa state capital now being called Raccoon!

Settlers began locating almost immediately near the fort. Streets were platted in 1847. The date of incorporation was September 22, 1851 and the first town election was held October 18 when 25 voters unanimously approved the town charter. On October 20th, eight councilmen were elected, and at their first meeting on October 25th, the Reverend Thompson Bird became the first president of the town council. The town continued under the 1851 charter until January 18th, 1853 when the Iowa Fourth General Assembly passed "An Act to Incorporate the Town of Fort Des Moines in Polk County, Iowa. In 1857, Fort Des Moines was shortened to Des Moines and later that year the city was designated the capitol of the State of Iowa.

During the 1900s issues such as the development of permanent roads, new health laws and women's suffrage dominated debate. But with the onset of World War I in August of 1914, expansion slowed as the country braced itself for war. To aid in the nation's war effort, Camp Dodge was established in 1917 and more than 100,000 Iowans were trained for combat.

Des Moines suffered the loss of many young men during the war. As those who were lucky enough to survive returned home, they faced unemployment. In January 1919, Mayor Tom Fairweather estimated that over one thousand veterans needed jobs and urged businesses in the City to assist with this growing problem. Local construction programs helped ease the situation, and the early 1920s saw an increase in building, particularly for Des Moines schools.

Although much of the boom that Des Moines experienced in the 1920s came to a halt with the stock market crash of 1929, the City fared surprisingly well throughout the 1930s. Federally funded projects supplied work that improved the City, including new bridges and streets. By 1941, Des Moines' populations had grown to 160,000 but as 1942 began, the City changed significantly as the nation entered WWII. As in most U.S. cities, food became scarce and thousands of men left the workforce to join the service.

By the end of the War era, Des Moines began to pick up the pieces and concentrate on improving the quality of life. Many businesses flourished in the post war climate, and the City soon emerged as a major insurance center. Other businesses located in Des Moines prospered and the City breezed through the next three decades with a healthy economy. Current information on business and employment statistics in the City of Des Moines indicate that the city continues to thrive.

Today almost 250,000 people live in Des Moines, and the City is recognized as a center for government, education, business, culture, and the arts. Des Moines also has gained national recognition as a major insurance center (the third largest in the world) with nearly 60 life, health, and casualty companies. The City's climate-controlled skywalk system serves as an important link to parking garages, hotels, restaurants, stores, and businesses.

Des Moines Skywalks make up more blocks per capita in Des Moines than in any other city of comparable size in the U.S. The City's numerous tourist attractions and facilities have also established it as a popular and thriving Midwestern city. As you can see from these pictures, these Skywalks are really very helpful during these winter months. For those of you who have ever been to Minneapolis in the winter, you’ll know exactly what I am talking about.

The internationally-acclaimed Iowa State Fair is the single largest event in the state of Iowa and one of the oldest and largest agricultural and industrial expositions in the country. Mrs. LZ and I actually went to this shortly after moving to the Midwest and were actually blown away by all of the folks (and stuff) that showed up here in the state fair grounds in Des Moines. By the way, if you can get it on a stick and into a deep fryer, you’ll find it here for sale while the Iowa State Fair is going on.

I think when most people think of Iowa, the first things they think of are: corn and then pigs and then every Bissextile Year, they also think about this state being the first in the nation to have a primary and caucus’ to elect a President. A distinction (by the way) that they went very far to preserve just this year, by even moving their primary up to the third of January. All in all, though I would say that it was a nice place to visit, and I really loved the capital building.

"Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson