Des Moines Historic Tour #5

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James Savery from History of Des Moines and Polk County, Iowa by Johnson Brigham. Vol. 1, p. 49. S.J. Clarke: 1911.

James C. Savery, with his brothers Chester and George, purchased their first hotel in 1853 on the south side of Walnut close to the Western Stagecoach Depot on Third Street.

It cost $6 to ride the stagecoach down to Keokuk in the 1860′s.  Early travelers reported that for $6 the passengers were treated to unlimited swearing and were frequently called upon to assist in the passage when the stagecoach became mired in mud.

The Walnut area (3rd to 4th Street) encompassed many Des Moines Landmarks:

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Atlas of the State of Iowa, 1904.

  • Graefe House, above, Michael Kennedy’s “First Livery Stable in the City” (The Civic Center is now here)
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Unknown source

  • The busy Exchange Block, above (built in 1850), and housed the city council and offices of doctors, lawyers, and other professionals
  • Green and Weare Banking House of 1855, which was under the supervision of Hoyt Sherman.
  • Carter, Hussey, and Curl, publishers, bookbinders, and stationers.

From

Hunter, Dan.  Des Moines: Confluence of People and Resources.  1982:  Public Library of Des Moines.

Content also from the Des Moines Architectural and Historical Tour.

The Blizzard of 1973

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It may seem like bad weather today, but it could be worse. Lots worse. Forty years ago today Des Moines and Iowa were digging out of a massive snowstorm, remembered by many locals as the “Blizzard of ’73.” The snow started on Monday, April 9, and buried Des Moines in 12 inches of snow. Drifts of 15 feet were common across the metro area. Dubuque had a 19.2-inch snowfall. Streets in Des Moines and state highways were littered with hundreds of stranded cars,  there were several power outages in the area and, unfortunately, at least seven people died of heart attacks in Polk County.  In Indianola, babies were born in doctors’ offices because the roads to the hospitals were impassable. Schools, businesses, and even the Legislature were closed for at least a couple of days. A picture in the Des Moines Tribune that Monday showed golfers in short sleeves enjoying the 70-degree weather at Waveland on the previous Friday. The high on Monday, April 9, 1973? Twenty-nine degrees.

Historic Tour #4 – 2nd and Walnut

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This block between 2nd and 3rd Streets was the mercantile center of Des Moines in the 1850′s through the 1870′s.  Kuhn Brothers Men’s Clothing and Jacob’s Millinery (later Wolf’s) was here; Julius Mandelbaum was a partner in this firm and in the 1920′s he merged with Younkers.

In the mid 1870′s business activity shifted to Walnut Street.   In this time, Harbach’s furniture store was located on Second Street.  Furniture manufacturers of the 19th century also served the community as undertakers because they were the only ones with the facilities to construct coffins.  In fact, Lots company, an early Des Moines furniture store and coffin maker solemnly announced in their ad, “undertaking performed on short notice.”  Harbach Furniture claimed “one rested in their furniture from the cradle to the grave.”

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Building was once Hierb’s Saloon, no longer standing.

On the southwest corner of Second and Walnut was the site of Joseph Hierb’s Saloon.  Hierb and his brother also owned the first brewery in Des Moines at 7th and Center and piled their used mash close to the brewery where the local pigs regularly had a fine feast and then had trouble finding their way home until the city council put a stop to this practice.

Excerpt from:

Hunter, Dan.  Des Moines: Confluence of People and Resources.  1982:  Public Library of Des Moines.

Content also from the Des Moines Architectural and Historical Tour.

Historic Tour #3 – First and Court

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100 Court Avenue is now an office building but it was once the Kurtz Wholesale Warehouse.  Previously, it was a grocery warehouse and in the 19th century this was the site of the Dickerson Agricultural Implement Company (owned by William Dickerson, a Prussian immigrant).

Most of early Des Moines’ trade was with farmers.  Farmers traded their surplus harvest for items which they could not manufacture on their own farms, such as farm implements, buttons, and coal oil lamps to name a few.  Pioneer farmers were basically subsistence farmers, using oxen for power, and they were for the most part self-sufficient.  However, the growth of Des Moines from 1845 to 1880  parallels a revolution in agricultural technology.  The shift from ox power, subsistence farming, to horse-powered and the beginnings of commercial farming.  new horse-drawn machines enabled one farmer to complete more work in one day and gradually farm more land.  The Dickerson Agricultural Implement company is an example of an urban business which fostered this shift in technology.

Excerpt from:

Hunter, Dan.  Des Moines: Confluence of People and Resources.  1982:  Public Library of Des Moines.

Historic Tour #2 – First and Walnut

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DeMoine House from A Picture Album of the Early History of Des Moines, 1917?

The Polk County Office Building currently stands at First and Walnut.  It was constructed in 1910 as a U.S. Post Office.  Prior to the post office, other businesses occupied the same plot of land:  The DeMoine House, a fashionable hotel, stood there in 1850 and in 1886, George Conradi’s Tavern (below).

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