History of Des Moines
Des Moines was originally built as Fort Des Moines at the confluence of Des Moines and Raccoon rivers, in 1843. The sole purpose of the fort was to control Meskwaki and Sauk Indian tribes who were forcibly relocated there from eastern Iowa. The fort was abandoned three years later after the tribes were relocated again. The area around the old fort was soon occupied by settlers and in 1846 For Des Moines became the seat of the Polk County. In 1851, the two rivers rose unexpectedly and flooded the entire town. The floods, however, gave the town a clean slate to start again. The same year, Fort Des Moines was incorporated, the state capital moved from Iowa City and its name was abbreviated to Des Moines. The real growth of the city began in 1866 after the completion of a railroad link. In the second half of the 19th century the city experienced a coal mining boom, which provided a boost for the economy and drew more settlers to the area. However, almost all mines in the area were exhausted by 1908.
By the beginning of the 20th century, city officials started the “City Beautiful” project during which many Beaux Arts buildings were built along the Des Moines River. Today, these buildings form the Civic Center Historic District of des Moines. However, many ornaments in the city, such as fountains and ornaments, were destroyed during a long period of industrial decline in Des Moines, which started in 1950s and lasted until 1980s, when the city rose again, this time no longer a blue-collar industrial city but a white-collar professional one.
Like many American cities, Des Moines city core started losing population that moved to suburbs. In 1993, the Des Moines and Raccoon rivers rose again in what is often called Great Flood of 1993, causing major property damage and leaving 250,000 inhabitants without drinking water for twenty days.
Des Moines is today one of the cities implementing the United Nations sustainable development project called Agenda 21.
Geography and Climate
Des Moines is the center and the largest city of the Des Moines-West des Moines Metropolitan Statistical Area which extends to five counties in central Iowa. The city has a humid continental climate, with hot and wet summers and cold, snowy winters. Thunderstorms are quite frequent in spring and early summer, while the autumns are generally very pleasant with beautiful fall foliage.
According to the 2010 Census, 76.4% of the population in Des Moines is white, 12% is Hispanic or Latino, 10% is African American or Black, 4.4% is Asian, 0.5% is Native American and 0.1% is Pacific Islander, while 5% of the population is some other race and 3.4% is from two or more races.
The per capita income in Des Moines was $19,467 in 2010 and the median household income was $38,408.
Des Moines is a major insurance center with headquarters of such companies as the Principal Financial Group, Allied Insurance, EMC Insurance Group, Aviva USA and Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Iowa. In addition, many financial and insurance companies from other states and countries have branches and operations in Des Moines, including Wells Fargo, Electronic Data Systems and ING Group. Des Moines is home to the Meredith Corporation, the company that publishes Better Homes and Gardens.
In 2010, Forbes Magazine chose Des Moines as the “Best Place for Business and Careers.”
Des Moines Culture and Tourism
Major cultural institutions in the city include Civic Center of Greater Des Moines, which often hosts Broadway productions, the Des Moines Metro Opera founded in 1973, Ballet Des Moines founded in 2002 and the Des Moines Symphony. Wells Fargo Arena is the largest venue for concerts and sports, while the Simon Estes Riverfront Amphitheater is the largest outdoor venue. Other important cultural institutions include the Des Moines Art Center, the Pappajohn Sculpture Park and the Temple for Performing Arts.
Major tourist attractions in Des Moines are State of Iowa Historical Museum, Iowa State Capitol, Terrace Hill, Des Moines Botanical Center, East Village, Great Ape Trust of Iowa and Blank Park Zoo.
Iowa State Fair is held every year in August and the Des Moines Arts Festival takes place every May.
Education and Transportation
Des Moines has two private four-year colleges - Grand View University and Drake University, as well as one community college - Des Moines Area Community College. Other institutions of post-secondary education include Des Moines University, which is an osteopathic medical school, and AIB College of Business.
Des Moines has one of the largest skywalk systems in the United States. This system allows people to travel between buildings without actually going outside. It is estimated that there are more than four miles of such enclosed walkways within the city.
Major roads in the city area include interstate highways I-35 and I-80, U.S. Highways 6 and 69 and Iowa Highways 5, 28, 141, 163 and 415.
Des Moines is served by the Des Moines International Airport. Inter-city transit is provided by Greyhound Bus Lines and Jefferson Lines. The nearest Amtrak station is located 40 miles south of the city, in Osceola.
Public transit system within the city is called DART and consists solely of buses.