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History of Des Moines


The history of Des Moines, Iowa dates all the way back to 1843 when it first became a US Army post, Fort Des Moines. The first school was formed in Des Moines in 1845 and the first term saw 13 students in attendance. In 1849 the “Iowa Star” newspaper was published. In 1851, a great deal of the settlement was washed away or destroyed in the Flood of 1851. Fort Des Moines was then shorted to Des Moines in 1857. In 1864, the Des Moines Coal Company began to systematically mine the region.


In 1893, the very first hospital was built in Des Moines. The next key element in the history of Des Moines was the 1906 build of the Polk County Courthouse. In 1933, the Des Moines airport was built. In 1966, the Blank Park Zoo opened. In 1981, the 33 floor Des Moines Marriott Hotel was built. Ten years later in 1991, the 801 Grand skyscraper was built, standing at a regal 45 stories.


In 1992, Sec Taylor Stadium, which is now Principal Park, was built. Another great flood, the Great Flood of 1993, did a great deal of damage and left thousands without drinking water for weeks. In 2005, the Wells Fargo Arena opened and is still a site for sports, concerts, and events being held in the city today. In 2008, the city yet again faced major flooding when a levee broke, allowing the city to be severely damaged by floodwaters. In 2010, the population of Des Moines was 203,433. Today, the population is 699,292 and it has been ranked the second safest city to live in the United States. It is also considered to be the “Insurance Capital of the World”, housing such insurance headquarters as Principal Financial Group and Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield.


Des Moines plays a large role in politics as well. It is the site of the first caucuses of the Presidential Primaries. Des Moines has been a center for culture as well, having established the Des Moines Metro Opera in 1973. In 2002, Ballet Des Moines was established, adding to the cultural hub. In 2009, Des Moines established the Pappajohn Sculpture Park with 24 sculptures donated to the city. Nearby is the Temple of Performing Arts and the Central Library. Des Moines hosts an arts festival yearly in June, and the State Fair annually in August. Briefly speaking, Des Moines has something for everyone. 

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