The Rich History of Des Moines, Iowa
The capital of Iowa has some interesting history to offer up. The city as we know it today found it’s origin as Fort Des Moines incorporated in 1851. But the fort itself was originally built in 1843 at the juncture of the Des Moines and Raccoon rivers. Serious archeological diggings in the downtown area have found thousands of artifacts supporting three late prehistoric villages dating back to 1300 AD. 15 to 18 American Indian mounds were also observed prior to destruction with the development of the city.
The fort was originally built to control and supervise the Sauk and Meskwaki Indian tribes. The tribes struggled with the change in traditional lifeways. The illegal whiskey trade was at the roots of severe problems with their society. The tribes were removed to Indian Territory and the fort was closed.
Settlers moved into the fort in 1946 and the town grew. In May of 1851 a devastating flood destroyed the entire town as the rivers rose to unprecedented heights. That fall the town began to rebuild and the capital was moved from Iowa City to Des Moines in 1857. Growth was slow during the Civil war but at the conclusion of the fighting the city just exploded. The expansion was fueled by the railroad completion in 1866.
From 1864 to 1876 the area saw coal mining grow to 23 different mines scattered around the city. This industry employed hundreds of men until about 1908 when the coal resources were largely exhausted. The City Beautiful Project and the Great Depression At the turn of the century the city undertook a project to create large Beaux Arts public buildings along the river. These building stand today and display this period proudly. In the 1930s more ornate riverfront projects were completed under the federal Civilian Conservation Corps and President Franklin Roosevelt.
The Transformation from Blue Collar to White Collar
The city struggled with a post-industrial decline which lasted into the 1980s. This period was crucial as we saw the city rebound into what it is today. The metro area population in now over 600,000 strong and is considered to be one of the top three insurance capitals of the world! You will also find numerous financial institutions calling Des Moines home, as well as publishing companies, seed corn and chemical businesses and as of late large data processing companies employing thousands.
The future is bright for Des Moines. With the continued influx of these corporate giants and their employee base there are many, many surprises to be found in the city. From fine dining to sports, from performing arts to museums, from outdoor attractions to shopping, there is something for everyone to be found in Des Moines. And everywhere you will find evidence of its unique history.
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