Historic Tour #4 – 2nd and Walnut


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.”


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


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


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).


Des Moines Power Station, April 1926

Des Moines Power Station, April 1926

The Des Moines Electric Light Company, Power House, 105 Chestnut.

1926 Des Moines City Directory.

Present Ideas from 1908.

Last week I said I was going to post Des Moines holiday ads from long ago, but I had to post these Christmas gift ideas from the 1908 Midwestern.  Lots of things to buy a wife, only one to buy a husband!  Surely there was something out there besides suspenders!

AVPageView 1232012 52907 PM

Historic Des Moines Holiday Ads

Through this holiday season, I thought it would be fun to post holiday advertisements of current and former Des Moines businesses.  This week, we start with a Younkers ad from The Midwestern, December, 1907.

Then and Now

Then, 2143 Grand Avenue in November 1907.

Now (sort of), 2203 Grand Avenue, Feb, 2004.

From the Polk County Assessor, http://j.mp/UdDgMC

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