Local History

Sherman Block - Historic Tour #8

F.M. Hubbell

On the northeast corner of 3rd and Court was the Sherman Block, built in 1855 by Hoyt Sherman.  B.F. Allen was a banker here and it was also the first home of Equitable of Iowa. Equitable was founded by F.M. Hubbell who arrived in Des Moines on May 7, 1855, with $3 in his pocket.  His father demanded he give the money back to him so he could buy land in Dallas County. Young Hubbell walked the streets until he found a job as a clerk in the land office with Phineas Casady.

The Iowa Honey War

honey pot and bees

In 1839, a boundary dispute erupted between Iowa and Missouri.  Missouri claimed the boundary was further north and Iowa claimed it was further south.  The original boundary was based on the Sullivan line.  In 1817, J.C. Sullivan surveyed Iowa to mark boundaries for Osage Indian lands.  As northwest Missouri and southwest Iowa were settled, confusion set in on where exactly this line was.

Tour Historic Des Moines from Home

Sketch of Old Central Library

There are a lot historic places worth visiting in Des Moines, but after lots of snow (who’s counting anymore?) and sub-zero temperatures you might prefer visiting some Des Moines landmarks from the cozy comfort of your home.  All you have to do is visit the Places page of our virtual library's local history section.  There you will find historic tour maps that incorporate images, a map and list of places on the National Register of Historic Places, and a number of links to other his

Two Thanksgivings in Iowa? 1939-1941

cornucopia

If you enjoy stuffing yourself silly with turkey and all the trimmings at a Thanksgiving meal, you would have been just ecstatic in 1939. Things had been running fairly smoothly since President Lincoln declared in 1863 that a national “day of thanksgiving and praise” would be on the last Thursday of November. In 1939, President Franklin Roosevelt decided that businesses needed more time for shopping between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and declared the fourth (instead of the fifth) Thursday in November as the official federal observation of Thanksgiving.

What’s up with Beggars’ Night?

Candy filled jack-o-lantern

Newcomers to the Des Moines area are often surprised to find that local children go out trick-or-treating on October 30, not on Halloween night, October 31, as most of the country does. How did this tradition get started? An article in The Des Moines Register on October 28, 1997, says “Blame World War II.” as well as rowdy youths in the early history of Des Moines.

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