Timeline of Des Moines

1845: Native Americans; Settlement-Native American title to the lands around Fort Des Moines expired and the area opened for settlement.

1849: Des Moines’ First Newspaper-The Iowa Star, now known as theDes Moines Register, becomes Des Moines’ first newspaper. The newspaper is also the oldest continuous business in Polk County!

1851, September: City of Fort Des Moines incorporated

1857, February 16: Fort Des Moines’ name was officially changed to the City of Des Moines on this date.

1857, October: Des Moines becomes Iowa Capitol-Governor James Grimes signed documents officially designating the City of Des Moines the Iowa State Capitol.

1866: First Railroad-The Des Moines Valley Railroad is the first railroad to reach Des Moines.

1866, December: Des Moines Public Library-In December of 1866 the library was chartered as the Public Library of Des Moines.

1869: Terrace Hill-B.F. Allen built Terrace Hill at a cost of $250,000.

1871-1886: State Capitol Building-Construction began on Iowa’s current Capitol Building. The building was completed in 1886 at a cost of $2,873,295.

1874: Younker Brothers founded by Herman Younker

1876: Des Moines Police Force-The Des Moines Police Force was established, with a total eight men.

1877: Hoyt Sherman Place-Postmaster Hoyt Sherman built his residence (now known as Hoyt Sherman Place) at Fifteenth and Woodland.

1879: Iowa State Fair-The Iowa State Fair moved to Des Moines. Before moving to Des Moines, the fair was held in Fairfield.

1881: Drake University-Drake University was founded by the Desciples of Christ. The university was named for former governor Francis Marion Drake.

1882: Des Moines City Hall was built.

1884: Terrace Hill-F.M. Hubbell bought Terrace Hill for $55,000.

1893: Des Moines Population-According to the 1890 census the population of Des Moines was 50,093.

1894: Iowa Bystander-Iowa Bystander begins publication.

1895: Grandview College-Grandview College and Theological Seminary founded.

1898: Still College of Osteopathy-The Still College of Osteopathy was founded. The college was the forerunner of the College of Osteopathic Medicine and Surgery and is now known as Des Moines University.

1900: Cornerstone was laid for the Main Library at 100 Locust.

1901: The Iowa Negro Bar Association was founded.

1910: Drake Relays-First Drake Relays was held. The Relays are now one of the largest college track and field events in the world.

1920: Iowa women vote for the first time.

1924: The Equitable Building was completed.

1924: WHO radio began broadcasting.

1924: First issue of Better Homes and Gardens released by the Meredith Company.

1925 (August): National Bar Association-During the first quarter of the 20th century, twelve African-American pioneers with a mutual interest in, and dedication to justice and the civil rights of all, helped structure the struggle of the African-American race in America. George H. Woodson, S. Joe Brown, Gertrude E. Rush, James B. Morris, Charles P. Howard, Sr., Wendell E. Green, C. Francis Stradford, Jesse N. Baker, William H. Haynes, George C. Adams, Charles H. Calloway and L. Amasa Knox conceived the National Bar Association (NBA), formally organized in Des Moines, IA on August 1, 1925.

1926: Des Moines Municipal Airport established (located in Altoona near Adventureland).

1928: Salisbury House, built by Carl Weeks of Armand Cosmetics, was completed at a cost of $3 million. Salisbury House is a replica of King’s House in Salisbury, England.

1930, May 2: First professional baseball game played under permanent lights. The game was at Western League Park at 6th and Holcomb in Des Moines. The Des Moines Demons defeated Wichita 13-6. Read more about this on our Baseball History in Des Moines page.

1931: 160 acres was purchased for a new airport (Des Moines International) to be located at Fleur and Army Post Roads.

1933: CCC and WPA to build cement walls and balustrades on the Des Moines riverfront.

1937: Drake-Des Moines Symphony was founded (became The Des Moines Symphony in 1967).

1941, December 31: Record snowfall, 19.8 inches in a 24 hour period.

1942: The Women’s Army Auxiliary corps (WAAC), later known as the Women’s Army Corps, began training at Fort Des Moines No. 3 (the first training center for WAAC).  72,141 women were trained between 1942 and 1946.

1948: The Des Moines Art Center opened. The original building was designed by Eliel Saarinen. Additions to the Art Center include a sculpture wing designed by I.M. Pei (1968) and a three level addition designed by Richard Meier (1984).

1950: WOI tv was Des Moines’ first television station.

1954: Record flooding occurs in Des Moines.

1958: Luther T. Glanton (appointed by Governor Loveless) became the first African American judge in Iowa.

1964: Blank Park Zoo opened.

1972: Terrace Hill added to the National Register for Historic Places.

1973: First Des Moines Register Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI).

1978, November 5: Ten people died as a result of a fire at the Younkers branch in Merle Hay Mall.

1979: Pope John Paul II visits Living History Farms.

1982: At a cost of $30 million the Des Moines Skywalk system was official opened.

1987: Iowa State Historical Museum opens at East 6th and Locust.

1987: Construction of Prairie Meadows began in Altoona.

1989: 801 Grand, built by Principal Financial Group, became the tallest building in Iowa.

1993: Record flooding occurred in Des Moines. The Des Moines Water Works was disabled leaving about 250,000 people without water for 20 days.

1997: Preston Daniels became Des Moines’ first African American mayor.

2002: Iowa State Fair admittance topped the 1 million mark (1,008,174) for the first time.

2006, April 8: Public Library of Des Moines’ new Central Library opened at 1000 Grand Ave. Architect David Chipperfield of London designed the building.

2008: Record flooding occurred in Des Moines.


 Sources:

Denny, Robert R., comp. Des Moines’ First 150 Years. Greater Des Moines Chamber of Commerce & Celebration Commission, City of Des Moines.

Long, Barbara Beving. 1988. Des Moines and Polk County flag on the prairie. Northridge, Calif: Windsor Publications.

National Bar Association, “Natnional Bar Association: The NBA Perspective.” 2008.http://www.nationalbar.org/nba/index.shtml.

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