Cultural Heritage · destination management · Historic Towns · museums · Rivers · Travel · waterways

Des Moines Iowa

prehistoric native Americans skyscrapers sky walks museums and botanical gardens

Des Moines traces its origins to May 1843 with the construction of a fort on the site where the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers merge. The fort was built to control the Sauk and Meskwaki Indians, whom the government had moved to the area from their traditional lands in eastern Iowa.

des moines east villageNative American Tribes did not fare well as the illegal whiskey trade and the destruction of traditional life led to severe problems for their society. At least three Late Prehistoric villages, dating from about AD 1300 to 1700, stood in or near what developed later as downtown Des Moines. In addition, 15 to 18 prehistoric American Indian mounds were observed in this area by early settlers. All have been destroyed during development of the city.

birthplace of des moinesArchaeological Excavations have shown many fort-related structures; soldiers stationed at Fort Des Moines opened the first coal mines in the area, mining coal from the riverbank for the fort’s blacksmith.

Present Day Des Moines changed from the 1970s to the1990s, as several new skyscrapers were built. In the 21st century, the city has had more major construction in the downtown area. The Principal Riverwalk features trails, pedestrian bridges across the river, a fountain and skating plaza, and a civic garden in front of the City Hall. Existing downtown buildings were converted to loft apartments.

des moines art centerA Cultural Center with Art and History Museums and Performing Arts Groups

The Metro Opera House has been a cultural resource in Des Moines since 1973. The Opera offers educational and outreach programs and is one of the largest performing arts organizations in the state.

The Des Moines Art Center presents art exhibitions and educational programs as well as studio art classes. The Center houses a collection from the 19th century to the present. An extension of the art center is downtown in an urban museum space, featuring several exhibitions a year.

The Pappajohn Sculpture Park is a collection of 24 Sculptures

des moines botanical centerThe Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden is an indoor conservatory of over 15,000 exotic plants. Developed by the city’s Asian community, the Gardens include a three-story Chinese pavilion, bonsai landscaping, and granite sculptures that highlight the importance of diversity and recognize Asian American contributions in Iowa.

The East Village begins at the river and extends about five blocks east to the State Capitol Building, offering a blend of historic buildings, eateries, boutiques, art galleries, and a wide variety of retail establishments and residences.

4th street downtown des moinesTransportation Des Moines has an extensive sky walk system within its downtown core. With over four miles of enclosed walkway, it is one of the largest of such systems in the United States. The public transit system consists entirely of buses, including regular in-city routes and express and commuter buses to outlying suburban areas.

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