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

Native Iowan on AVID Author Schedule!

Monday, September 12 | 7:00 PM
Hoyt Sherman Place Theater | 1501 Woodland Avenue

Native Iowan John Shors returns to Des Moines on tour for his fifth novel, Cross Currents, the story of a trio of Americans and a local family on an island in Thailand whose personal dramas play out against the tsunami of 2004. This award-winning author spent many years traveling across the globe, traveling in Asia, the South Pacific, Europe, Africa, and North America.

Shors has received multiple awards for his four other novels, Beneath a Marble Sky, Beside a Burning Sea, Dragon House, and The Wishing Trees which have been translated into twenty-five languages.  Now a full-time novelist, John spends his days writing and going on family outings with his wife, Allison, and their two young children.

Cross Currents isn’t out yet, but check back with DMPL in the future and place your reserve!

For the full AVID (Authors Visiting In Des Moines) schedule, click here.  All author visits are free, open to the public, and seating is on a first come first served basis.

For previous AVID authors, click here.

Freshly Digitized – 1887 Map of Grant Park


Grant Park Manufacturing District

To view a larger version of the map, click on it and then click on the area you wish to expand.

Girls From Ames

Join us at the Des Moines Public Library, Central location, for a discussion of the book, The Girls From Ames: A Story of Women & a Forty-Year Friendship, by Jeffrey Zaslow.  Available in large print, audio book, or electronic resource.  Discussion will be held in Study Room One from 6-7 PM, Tuesday, February 15, 2011.  Preregister.

Description from publisher:

The Girls from Ames by Jeffrey Zaslow

The instant New York Times bestseller, now in paperback: a moving tribute to female friendships, with the inspiring story of eleven girls and the ten women they became, from the coauthor of the million-copy bestseller The Last Lecture

As children, they formed a special bond, growing up in the small town of Ames, Iowa. As young women, they moved to eighth different states, yet they managed to maintain an extraordinary friendship that would carry them through college and careers, marriage and motherhood, dating and divorce, the death of a child, and the mysterious death of the eleventh member of their group. The girls, now in their forties, have a lifetime of memories in common, some evocative of their generation and some that will resonate with any woman who has ever had a friend. Capturing their remarkable story, The Girls from Ames is a testament to the enduring, deep bonds of women as they experience life’s challenges, and the power of friendship to overcome even the most daunting odds.

With both universal events and deeply personal moments, it’s a book that every woman will relate to and be inspired by.

If you missed our chat with Jeffrey Zaslow and some of the Girls from Ames you can read the complete transcript here.

More Resources:

The Girls from Ames website.

Book Discussion Guide

Publisher interview with the author, Jeffrey Zaslow

Bonnie and Clyde in Iowa

Notorious Depression-area criminals Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, along with Clyde’s brother Buck, Buck’s wife Blanche, and their accomplice W.D. Jones, were nearly captured in Dexter, Iowa, about thirty-three miles west of Des Moines, in 1933. In the early 1930s the infamous gang had been on a crime spree, robbing small-town restaurants, banks, and gas stations, killing twelve people in the process.

After a gun battle with lawmen in Platte City, Missouri, they arrived at Dexfield Park, an abandoned amusement park near Dexter, on July 19 or 20, 1933. Buck had a bullet in his skull and Blanche had shards of glass in her eye, so the gang hoped to hide out until the two recovered enough to travel. They camped out in the woods near Dexter, and Clyde went into town a few times to shop for food and clothing, buying chicken, pies, and soda pop. He also bought gauze and tape to treat Buck’s wound since it was obviously impossible to take him to a doctor.

On Sunday, July 23, local farmer Henry Nye discovered their campsite by chance and reported the bloody bandages, burning car mats, and bullet-ridden car he had seen to John Love, Dexter night marshall, who called Dallas County sheriff Clinton Knee in Adel. Knee, along with about fifty other lawmen, including some from the Des Moines Police Department, surrounded the Barrow encampment. They were met with a barrage of gunfire from the gangsters, and after an extended gun battle, Clyde, Bonnie, and W.D. Jones escaped through an unguarded route over the South Raccoon River. Buck, too seriously wounded to go on, stayed behind, and Blanche stayed with him. The escapees made their way to the nearby Vallie Feller farm, where they stole a car and fled. In Polk City they abandoned the Feller car, now bloodstained and with a shattered window, stole another car, and subsequently were reported seen in LuVerne, Sutherland, and Denison, Iowa, and even in Des Moines. None of the sightings panned out.

Buck Barrow died in a Perry hospital five days after the incident. Blanche Barrow was returned to Missouri and sentenced to ten years in prison for her part in the Platte City conflict.

By 1934, Bonnie and Clyde were back in Iowa. They robbed the First State Bank at Rembrandt, the State Savings Bank in Knierim, and were suspected of robbing other banks in Stuart and Lamoni. They were on the run for several months, until May 23, 1934, when they were killed at a roadblock ambush in Gibsland, Louisiana.

On the Trail of Bonnie & Clyde, Then and Now,
edited by Winston G. Ramsey. London, Battle of Britain International, 2003.

One-Armed Bandits and Other Stories of Iowa’s Past and Present,
by George Mills. Ames, Iowa, Focus Books, 1997.

Reprinted from the DMPL Local History pages.

See also FBI Famous Cases and Criminals

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