The New Wardrobe – 814 Locust – 1912

The Midwestern, vol. 2, 1912

I love old ads, especially ones with photos.  I came across this one while browsing The Midwestern.   By cross referencing the Sanborn maps with the Polk County Assessor page, I was able to determine this building is no longer here.  It is now a parking lot.

The 1910 City Directory lists an EG Christy  at this address as “harness.”  After that, it is vacant for a few years.   I admit, I didn’t dig for hours on this topic (staffing limitations, you know), but I did run through the basics.  If it wasn’t for this advertisement in The Midwestern, there wouldn’t be any immediate information to believe this business even existed.

 If you know anything, please comment.  We would love to hear it.

This is just an example of how much local history is not documented and how you have to dig, just to find a little information.

You may view more of The Midwestern online by clicking on the links found here.

Utica Clothiers, 1904

Utica Clothiers, northwest corner of 6th and Walnut, Des Moines, Iowa

from Fort Des Moines: Des Moines, Iowa: Described and Illustrated, 1904.  Available from DMPL Special Collections photostream on Flickr.

Owned by Isaac and Abraham Friedlich, according to the 1904 City Directory.  Isaac lived at 673 17th Street and Abraham at 1803 Grand Avenue.  Neither residence is still standing.

Holidays in Des Moines, 1911

One hundred years ago, holidays in Des Moines apparently involved as much shopping as it does today. Advertisements in the Des Moines Tribune for holiday gifts were plentiful, a couple from stores with names we still recognize.  Younker Brothers had hand bags for $1.29 and wallets for 23 to 69 cents.   At S. Joseph and Sons, “reliable watches can be purchased as low as $10.”  You could buy a “quarter sawed oak finely finished rocker” for $6.45 at Bard & Hammer, and Harger & Blish was your “headquarters for Victrolas and Edisons.”  The Grand was giving “S&H double stamps” all week.  “Children’s Wash Dresses” were as low as 69 cents at J. Mandelbaum & Sons, and at the Iowa Seed Company you could purchase a Christmas tree holder for 25 cents.  And, as if plucked straight from today’s newspaper, one story’s headline read “Slippers will be popular presents.”

There were pictures of the “new municipal building soon to be occupied.” The Knights Templar ball was held at the Shrine Temple and was “a brilliant affair and one of the notable events of the holiday season,” and there was an abundance of Christmas parties on the Society Calendar. At the same time, the Men’s League for Woman Suffrage started a campaign to organize the state efforts to “grant political rights to women.”

Seven inches of snow covered the city the day after Christmas.  Roads were then unpaved, but if you could get to the Rock Island station, you could travel to Chicago on one of five trains leaving daily.  On the way to the station in your motorcar, you would have to adhere, of course, to the ten miles-per-hour speed limit.

And don’t get the idea that after-holiday clearance sales are anything new.

Des Moines and Polk County City Directories – Online

Checkout our online city directory collection. We’ve uploaded Des Moines and Polk County City Directories from 1866-1922 to

I’ve embedded instructions for optimal online viewing below (you may want to click the fullscreen view button to make the instructions easier to read). Here is a link directly to our City Directory collection on



People passing by the large brick building at Seventh and Scott streets in Des Moines may not realize its significance in Des Moines history. The structure, listed as one of “Des Moines Seven Most Endangered Buildings” by the Des Moines Rehabbers Club (2008), was the longtime home of the Roadside Settlement House.

Founded in 1896 by the Kings Daughters Union, a group of church women, the settlement house provided services to the poor, at various times including a nursery school and kindergarten, a public laundry and baths, the city’s first branch library, and a gymnasium. In addition, the 1911 Handbook of Settlements lists the following Roadside activities: employment agency, savings bank, classes in cooking and sewing, dramatic clubs, and Sunday afternoon concerts. Roadside also had one of the few telephones in the neighborhood and residents were free to use it.

When the Depression hit in the 1930s, Roadside developed its own relief programs, which included paying women 25-cent credits for each hour in sewing class. Credits could be exchanged for food and clothing. Unemployed men completed renovation of the building in 1938.

In 1949, Roadside Settlement marked the 50th anniversary of its 1899 incorporation and it continued to offer services to the neighborhood until the 1970s. By then, government agencies had taken over many of the programs previously offered by the Settlement. United Way took over funding of the Settlement in 1968, but withdrew this funding in 1973 and the Roadside Settlement House closed. The name of the house was inspired by a poem by Sam Walter Foss which included the lines:

Let me live in a house by the side of the road,
And be a friend to man.

The Des Moines Register, April 11, 1993, page 1C.
The Des Moines Register, June 19, 2002, page 2AT.
Brigham, Johnson. History of Des Moines and Polk County.
Chicago: The S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1911.

Des Moines Schools 1907

This is an excerpt from The Midwestern, a Des Moines publication from the early 1900s.  Enjoy this article that includes portraits and images of the schools.

S.S. Brinsmaid House at 36th & Grand

The S.S. Brinsmaid house was the earliest known Prairie style house in Iowa.  It was designed by architect Arthur A. Heun and built in 1901 on the northeast corner of 36th and Grand.  Unfortunately, it was demolished in 1971.  The above images are part of the Library of Congress’s Historic American buildings Survey.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Sedgwick S. Brinsmaid came to Iowa from Vermont.  He and his wife lived in the house until 1912 when they sold it along with his portion of a local china, glass, and silver store and moved to California.

Leaded glass pieces from the home are housed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  They were designed by Heun and manufactured by Giannini and Hilgart Glass Company.

For more Des Moines properties included in  Library of Congress’ Historic American Buildings Survey, click here.

%d bloggers like this: