A walk around Grays lake especially at night is a relaxing activity. The lake is a former quarry that has been turned into a hub for bicyclists and walkers. It also has a wonderful bridge that is lit up at night. The path is about 1.2 miles mostly flat, and provides a nice view of downtown. The lake is located southwest of downtown just off of Fluer Drive.
The Science Center in downtown Des Moines was kind of neat. My favorite parts were the dinosaur model on display (although I hear it's a traveling exhibit), the weather room, and the planetarium room. This place was a lot more centered for kids than we had expected, and seeing as we don't have kids, it wasn't as great of an experience for us as a family may have.
Here is a nice little outing for anyone who has some time to spend in Des Moines. This place has an interesting collection of plants from around the world. Most are enclosed in a huge glass dome, due to the harsh Iowa winters.
Nothing to do in Des Moines? Well, that's not quite accurate. This museum has a good set of collections for a city this size. If you're passing through this way, and have a little extra time, check it out.
Iowa is one of the largest producers of pork and shares an Expo alternating years with Illinois. If you like pork take a trip to the State Fair grounds (on the east side of the city) and pay about $8 for all you can eat pork ALL DAY LONG. Normally for me its a definite once a year trip where I gorge myself on the fatted hog. If you happen to be interested in agriculture there are a large number of exhibits for pork producers.
When we drove to Pella we noticed this building on our way back to our hotel returning from Pella we decided to stop by.
The golden dome really attracts the attention, for us it was the reason to take a closer look.
This state capitol was build between 1871 and 1886. It is an good example of 19th century architecture. The interior of the building has many different types and colors of marble. But also fixtures and carvings in both wood and stone. The dome is covered with a 23-karat gold leaf.
Since the building is on a hill you can have a great view of the surrounding area.
Picture taken june 10, 2004
These allegorical figures are from the Soldiers and Sailors Monument on Capitol Hill, and they are the most "controversial" part of the entire "piece." The original designer Harriet Ketcham wanted to have a grouping of the goddess of History giving instruction to the hopeful youth meant to represent the state of Iowa. But as executed by Carl Rohl Smith, History is a sour looking bald androgynous figure who does not deign to notice the kid at "its" side. Many Iowans present and past have not been pleased with this representation. They want History to be more hopeful, and certainly more attractive.
Well. . . I'm a professional historian and I think I can understanding what the artist was trying to convey here. History is NOT a beautiful thing, and History does not necessarily pay heed to the young. it might be easier to accept this piece of sculpture in 2004 than it was in 1896, when it was first unveiled.
Like other states - Massachusetts, for example - Iowa has a 19th century Soldiers and Sailors Memorial honoring its Civil War Veterans. And as is the case in Boston, the S & S Monument is in sight of the Capitol Dome.
The design for the Soldiers and Sailors Monument was chosen in a public competition. The winner was an Iowa woman named Harriet Ketcham. Mrs. Ketcham died before the monument could be completed, and the figures decorating the base of the monument were actually executed (to Ketcham's designs) by Carl Rohl-Smith.
This figure depicts Lt. James Horton, a Iowa soldier killed in a saber charge early in the war.
Harriet Ketcham was the grandmother of Hank Ketcham, the American cartoonist who created Dennis the Menace. Hank K. contributed to the restoration of his grandmother's monument in the 1990s. (I swear I'm not making this up. It's amazing what you can find out on the internet.)
William Allison (1828-1908) served Iowa in the US House of Representitives for 43 years. After his death, his fellow Hawkeyes erected this monument in honor of his public service. The monument was designed - and the sculptures executed - by Evelyn B. Longman - in the nineteen teens. This Evelyn was a woman - which I think is worth mentioning, because the only other female sculptor of her time that I can think of is Camille Claudel.
Longman studied with Lorado Taft and Daniel Chester French, but still would have faced a great deal of prejudice because of her gender. I'd like to know more about her and her work. I think these figures are quite fine - they represent "Peace, Humanity, and Prosperity."
This was a surprisingly interesting place that I hadn't expected.
This is a new addition to Des Moines' "Capitol Hill" district. Just finished this year, the Judicial Branch Building is home to some of Iowa's most important courts,including its Supreme Court. It was designed by a local architectural firm, the DLR Group, and shows an impressive ability to "re-interpret" the classical style in an agreeably modern idiom.
Inside there is a group of beautiful historic murals, salvaged from a 19th century State Supreme Court building that caught fire and was destroyed. These murals were originally created in the 1880s by a firm in Germany; they have now been skillfully restored and placed on public display for the first time in a century.