Historic Tour #1 – Des Moines Public Library

Today we will begin the historic tour of Des Moines.  This tour was written several years ago and we currently have a version online found here.  Each post, we will provide an expanded version of this tour with more images and a little more description.  They will by no means be comprehensive, but instead, just little insights into our downtown history.  Let’s begin!


Des Moines Public Library, 1903

The Des Moines Public Library was founded in 1866 in the basement of a Methodist Church with 2,300 volumes. It had several different homes until 1903, when its elegant turn of the century building opened.  For the first 25 years, the third floor of the building served as the Cumming School of Art.  In 1866, the Iowa State Arsenal, complete with shot tower, occupied the north half of this property.  Across Locust Street is the YMCA, built in 1954 on a site previously occupied by the Coliseum from 1910-1949.  This was the second convention center for Des Moines and seated 10,000 people.  It burned in 1949.

The Central Library  moved to its new building at 1000 Grand Avenue in 2006.  In 2009, the World Food Prize obtained the old Central Library to use as its Hall of Laureates and began a multi-million dollar renovation.  It opened in 2012 to the public.

Find another great 1914 image of DMPL at the Drake Heritage Collections.

One Response

  1. Couple addendums: building opened in 1903. It didn’t have electric lighting until 1909/10 when the budget allowed for its installation. Building grounds were used for artillery practice by Iowa troops during the Civil War. First floor contents were relocated in the 1993 floods.

    Sent from my iPhone

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