State Capital: Des Moines, Iowa

Since 1855, Des Moines has been the capital city of Iowa. However, it wasn't the original capital of Iowa, and it didn't even exist until 1851!

It Used to Be Iowa City

In 1840, the east-central town of Iowa City was named as the capital of Iowa.

On December 28, 1846, Iowa became a state. Once the state's borders were determined, the idea to move the capital to a more central location was discussed. Three commissioners traveled to find a viable location that was as near to the geographical center of the state as possible. Legislature considered locations such as Oskaloosa, Pella, and Fort Des Moines. Finally, in 1855, they decided to locate the capital within two miles of the junction between Des Moines River and Raccoon River in Polk County.

Why Des Moines?

The next decision was which side of the river to build the capital. Knowing that the value of the land would increase once the capital site was chosen, landowners on each side offered free land to entice the decision-makers. Eventually, 10 acres on the east side of the river were chosen as the donation from Willson Alexander Scott and Harrison Logan. The land at this picturesque site rose above the river, providing a beautiful view of the Des Moines River Valley.

About Des Moines

Today, Des Moines is the most populous city in Iowa with approximately 215,000 residents living within the city limits, and 700,000 across the metro area. Des Moines, and Iowa in general, are most notable as the site for the first caucuses of the presidential primary cycle. The city is also well-known as a hub for insurance, financial, and publishing businesses.

The Iowa State Capitol building was completed in 1886 and features a 23-karat gold dome towering 275 feet above the city. Four smaller domes create a rectangle around the gold dome. During guided tours, you can view the grand staircase, a mural titled "Westward", the law library with five stories of books, a model of the USS Iowa, and a collection of dolls depicting the first ladies of Iowa governors. The building also houses the governor's offices, legislature, and the old Supreme Court Chambers.

Attractions include the Des Moines Botanical Garden with over 15,000 exotic plants, Blank Park Zoo, and the historic East Village which features restaurants, breweries, boutiques, and art galleries in mixed-use retail/residential properties.