North Des Moines

In 1887, Des Moines  laid out a plan to increase growth.  At this time, the independent suburb North Des Moines started booming as property lots were auctioned off for development.  During this development, two streetcar lines began running to Prospect Park and the main travel ways were paved with bricks, some of them cedar.

According to the History of Des Moines and Polk County,  North Des Moines had a population of about 1,900 in 1889.  Of the Des Moines suburbs, it was the most independent.  It and Sevastopal had elected officials and their own municipal services, but North Des Moines also had its own water plant and school district.  The Zoological Gardens were established here, which later became Riverview Amusement Park.

On February 6th, 1890, North Des Moines voted 243 to 107 in favor of city annexation and 258 to 48 in favor of school annexation.  On March 11, 1890, North Des Moines officially became a part of the city of Des Moines.   In the years to follow,  the North Des Moines area would gain more street car lines, a sewage system, merge school districts, and continue to grow.

Parts of the following neighborhoods fell into the North Des Moines city limits at time of annexation: River Bend, Union Park, Highland Park, Oak Park, Chautauqua Park (not developed at time of annexation), King Irving, and Mondamin Presidential .  If I’ve missed any or included some that I should not have, please let me know.

I highly recommend the following sources as they hold way more information than I could ever place in a blog post!


Jacobsen, James E.  The Historical and Architectural Resources of Highland Park and the Parks, (1888-1946), 1996.

Brigham, Johnson.  History of Des Moines and Polk County, 1911.

Des Moines Neighborhoods, City of Des Moines.  2009.

So who was Duane Arnold?

The Duane Arnold Energy Center in Palo, Iowa’s only nuclear power plant, has the same type of reactors as those at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in Japan. Our focus here is not with the safety of the plant in Iowa, but rather who the heck was Duane Arnold?

Duane Arnold grew up in Sanborn, was educated at Grinnell College and went to work for Iowa Electric Light and Power Company in 1946. At the time of his death in 1983, at the age of 65, he was chairman of the board and CEO of that company, marrying along the way the previous chairman’s daughter, Henrietta.  Arnold was very committed to nuclear energy despite the controversy surrounding that source of energy, and oversaw the construction and opening in 1974 of the plant that bears his name.  “In my opinion, nuclear power is the most beneficial method of anything we could possibly do to provide energy to our customers in the future,” Mr. Arnold stated in a 1979 interview with the Des Moines Register, about a month after the Three Mile Island accident. Controversies did not end with Mr. Arnold’s death. His son and four daughters went to court to force Iowa Electric to continue payments of a deferred compensation plan that the company stopped after Henrietta’s death in 1986.

After changing ownership under a series of utility mergers, Florida Power and Electric now owns 70% of the Duane Arnold Energy Center. It generates about 592 million watts of electricity – enough power to supply the annual needs of more than 600,000 homes.


From The Illustrated Historical Atlas of Iowa, 1875, A.T. Andreas.

Sevastopol started as a settlement south of Des Moines around 1855.  It was laid out by James Sherman, was recorded on July 21, 1862,  and  incorporated in 1877 or 1878 (varies with source).  Its boundaries were SE 5th, Hartford Ave, Bell Avenue and Pioneer Park.  It is said to have been named by John Webber after a Russian, now Ukrainian, fortress that was well-known during the Crimean War.  A large brewery and the largest coal mine in the county were there.   The brewery was located at SE 6th and Hartford Avenue.

The Sevastopol brewery was built in 1857 and after several years it was sold to G. Munzenmaier who later sold it to John Webber.  The Annals of Polk County and Des Moines reports that it was closed in 1884 “by force of law.”

There was a Sevastopol trolley line up until 1940 when bus lines took over.  At that time, Sevastopol was removed from the main line.   Des Moines annexed Sevastopol in 1890 along with several other communities.

Sevastopol is now in the McKinley/Columbus Park neighborhood.


Andreas, A.T.  Polk County, Iowa.  Illustrated Historical Atlas of Iowa, 1875.  Accessed through the David Rumsey Map Collection.

Bartholomew, Harland.  A Preliminary Major Street Plan for Des Moines, Iowa, 1925.

Denny, Robert R, LeRoy G. Pratt, and Bill M. Clark.  Perspectives of Polk County History, 1988.

Porter, William.  Annals of Polk County, Iowa, and the City of Des Moines, 1898.

Neighbor’s Hotline.  “Reader Asks About Sevastopol.”  Des Moines Register 03 June 1992.

Des Moines Expansion – 1890 map

In 1857, Des Moines only encompassed 8.75 sq/mi.   In 1890, Des Moines annexed the following surrounding communities and increased its size to 55.1 sq/mi. This was a significant increase in land and population.  The boundaries for various years may be seen on the above map (click once to enlarge, again to zoom in on a section).

  • Sevastopol –  incorporated in 1877
  • City of North Des Moines – incorporated in 1880
  • Greenwood Park – incorporated in 1881
  • Gilbert – incorporated in 1882
  • University Place – incorporated in 1883
  • Capitol Park – incorporated in 1884
  • Easton Place – incorporated in 1889

Starting next week, I will provide a little history for some of the above communities.  Next week, Sevastopol.


Bartholomew, Harland. A Preliminary Major Street Plan for Des Moines, Iowa. 1925

This Week in Des Moines – 1929


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