Des Moines is Iowa's capital and largest city, with about 560,000 inhabitants in its metropolitan area. It is one of the country's major centers for insurance, as well as for businesses related to agriculture. Although Des Moines is a relatively small city, it has many of the cultural amenities and attractions of larger cities.
Des Moines got its start in 1843 when Captain James Allen built Fort Des Moines at the confluence of the Des Moines and Raccoon rivers. Fort Des Moines was obviously named after the Des Moines River, which came from the French name Rivière des Moines, or "River of the Monks." The fort was built to control the nearby Sauk and Meshkwaki Indians. After the American Indian threat was eliminated, the fort was abandoned in 1846.
Settlers soon occupied the abandoned fort and the surrounding area. Des Moines was incorporated as a city in 1851, and was initially called Fort Des Moines. In 1857, the name was shortened to Des Moines, and the city became the state's capital. The cities of Burlington and Iowa City each served for a time as the state capital, but it was not until Des Moines was chosen to become the new capital for its central location that it developed into the most important and largest city in Iowa. The city's importance increased further in the 1860s after coal was discovered.
Favorite thing: The first known records of Iowa were documented by two European explorers, Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet who travelled the Mississippi River in 1673 documenting several Indian villages on the Iowa side. The word "Iowa" comes from the American Indian tribe of the same name. Iowa was part of the Louisiana Purchase, a deal arranged between President Thomas Jefferson and Napoleon Bonaparte of France that brought a vast tract of the continent under the control of the United States. The area was closed to white settlement until the early 1830s.
Fondest memory: From what I understand, Iowa is Corn Capitol. Not sure what else is here, but I sure hope to go back someday to see. I truly do, because not having enough info on my pages makes me feel....well..... um.....naked.....
Because of time restrictions, we missed a great deal that we would have loved to have seen in the Dubuque area. To help those of you who ever visit, here is a list of places to go and to see that Jill and I missed:
1. Crystal Lake Cave [5 miles south on U.S. 52] It is supposed to have rare formations, a rare form of aragonite crystals, and cave flowers. Weekends only in May and in September; Daily in June, July, and August.
2. Dubuque Arboretum and Botanical Gardens [3800 Arboretum Drive] Famed for their Rose Festival. A very active place with a gift shop, a botanical library, viewing decks, walking trails, and educational displays.
3. The Farmers Market covers a 4-block area beginning at 13th and Iowa streets. It's been around for more than 150 years. Homemade and homegrown products, flowers, baked good, arts and crafts. 7 a.m. on Saturdays from May-November [5888-4400].
4. Julien Dubuque Monument is off South Grandview Avenue & Julien Dubuque Drive. It's a stone tower made of Galena magnesia limestone, and it stands over the grave of Dubuque's founder overlooking the Mississippi River.
5. Mathias Ham House Historic Site [2241 Lincoln Avenue next to Eagle Point Park.]
This is an Italianate Villa that was the home of Mathias Ham who was one of Dubuque's earliest settlers. It has 23 rooms; its splendor is indicative of Dubuques's steamboating golden era. It also has a log cabin that is the oldest structure in existence in Iowa . The cabin was hidden by white clapboards and discovered in 1915 as it was being torn down. May1-Oct. 31 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. for tours.
6. Mines of Spain Receational Area [8999 Bellevue Heights; accessible from U.S. 52 and Julien Dubuque Drive] Here is 5 miles of hiking trails and acres of picnic facilities. There's also a Nature Center, and it's also the location of the Julien Dubuque Monument.
Fondest memory: One of the places that I have been to with my husband Allan, but where Jill and I did not go on this trip was to the Diamond Jo Casino. It's open seven days a week and 24 hours on weekends! When Allan and I were there, I won about $25.00 on the slots.
There are some restaurants, a gift shop, and a cute deli. It is one of the reasons that Dubuque is making a comeback as a great River Town. Gambling seems to bring in lots of tourists.
I would be remiss if I did not give an overview of what the Colonies have to offer:
a. Amana Heritage Musem in Main Amana [316-622-3567]
b. Communal Kitchen & Cooper Shop in Middle Amana
There are guided tours to explain how the ding halls were run with several sall dining halls in each village. The house in Middle Amana is the last communal kitchen.
The Cooper Shop exhibits the tools and the techniques that were involved in barrel making. [316-622-3567]
c. Amana Refrigeration Factory in Middle Amana
This is a huge factory that employs well over 2,000 people. I vividly remember Amana Appliances and never knew until visiting here that they were made in Amana Colonies. Maytag now owns Amana [ironically, maytag company was of Mennonite origins!] Sorry to tell you, but there are no factory tours available.
d. Homestead Store Museum in Homestead
This museum is located at the former general store. It consists of exhibits that demonstrate how Amana created their goods to sell outside of the Colonies.
You should realize that the seven villages are scattered a few miles from each other. You must have a car to see them all.
Fondest memory: During its "heyday", the colonies consisted of small communities with family housing, communal dining halls, and simple churches. Ironically, tobacco and alcohol were acceptable, but discussions about sex were forbidden. We learned that "celibacy was equaled to piety'.
The people were given allowances from the community funds in order to purchase clothing and non-food items.
Their buildings were not painted. One of their biggest industries was the Woolen Mill. When the mill burned about the time of the Great Depression, the colonies seemed to weaken. This communal living system was disbanded in 1932. Each member was given stock in the communal property. Today, the 7 communities exist; however, they are part of the Capitalist System.
Unknown to Jill and I when we were making plans to visit Dubuque, Iowa, the weekend of May 18 & 20, 2007, was the date of Dubuque.Fest [music and fine art]. So, much to our surprise, we were able to participate in these festivities.
From the information that we received at the Dubuque Convention & Visitors Bureau, we learned about the Old House Enthusiasts Tour. We purchased our tickets here.
However, tickets may also be purchased at any of the homes during tour hours.
This year's Historic Homes Tour was held Saturday, 10am to 5pm and Sunday, 10am to 5pm.
We took the tour on Saturday. This was the 20th year for this annual event. Old House Enthusiasts promotes the older homes and historic buildings in Dubuque. They sponsor the tour to promote the interest in the preservation of these old structures. They donate a large portion of the tour proceeds to a community preservation project. This year, they are giving the money to Old Jail Museum that is located next to the County Courthouse.
There were six houses on the walking tour, and Jill and I visited five of them.
The Edwards Queen Anne Victorian [1st photo] was built in 1906. Today it has earned a Dubuque Co. Historical Society Restoration Award. Jim & Jo Ann Edwards  did major restoration work inside & out. They added the lost wrap-around veranda, the back porch, & they got rid of the asbestos siding. The Edwards did almost all the restoration work both inside & out. Inside, it is furnished with antiques that the Edwards' collected over the years. Of all the homes we saw, both Jill & I liked this one the most.
Fondest memory: The second photograph is the Lott House, & it is a Queen Anne style home built between 1895 & 1910. We really liked the round turret, shed-style roof, bay window, & the unique shed-style roof over a full 3rd story. Another interesting feature was the second floor porch with double round columns. The Lotts have five children, & this is the second home that they have restored [the first house experienced a home fire!] The entire 3rd floor is a Master Bedroom. This is an incredible home, & the restoration was going on as we walked through it.
The 1901 American Four-Square clad in cedar shakes is the Steinhauser Home It has a former two-story carriage house in the rear. The 1st floor as exposed wood beams, & their is a hand-carved staircase. Inspired by the Craftsman influence, this home has cedar-lined closets in every room! The unusual oval dining room was my favorite in the home. The Steinhausers have owned it for 9 years & have done restorations inside & out. The tour guide told us that the rumor is that Al Capone used to visit this house because of its "sheltered door from the basement that could mask his comings and goings."
The fourth photo is of the Henkel House, a stately Italianate home . In the 1930s, it was divided into apartments, and it also lost a two-story wraparound porch. This was our least favorite home inside because it was so crowded with a multitude of purchases from around the world.
I did not take a photo of the 5th house that we visited, Solon Langworthy. This home was built some time between 1848 & 1856. It was built with the hope that a road would be forged; they made the front of the house in the direction of the yet- to -be- built road.
However, the road was built in the direction of the back of home. It has much renovation to be completed.
We enjoyed this lively tour of the historic homes of Dubuque
Dubuque's downtown, its Main Street, and its waterfront have seen drastic improvements in the last decade. What I admire most is that the reconstruction and renovation is done with care, pride, and patience.
I've chosen the Grand Opera House Restoration as the perfect example.
The Grand Opera House is the oldest theater in Dubuque. It was built in 1889-1890 and is of Richardsonian Architecture. Opening night in 1890 presented "Carmen", and was a big success.
From the 1930s until the 1980s, movies were shown here as it was changed into a movie theater. This caused some changes in the facade. [a sad turn of events]
In the early 2000s, renovation began in earnest after years of discussion and fund raising. As of today, the facade, lobby, stage, dressing rooms, sound system, rest rooms, auditorium and lighting have been renovated or replaced completely. Also, 30 windows have been replaced or repaired. Thankfully, the original wood flooring has been restored.
The Grand Opera House is now a National Register of Historic Places and has been returned to its original splendor. It is once again a place to go for live theater. Presently, Broadway touring acts appear.
The third photograph reads that much of the renovation was possible because of:
"Save America's Treasures Grant administered by the National Park Service, US Department of the Interior.
A Vision Iowa Community Attraction and Tourism Program grant administered by The Iowa Department of Economic Development."
Fondest memory: My admiration for Dubuque is strong because of the forward-looking residents who work diligently to revive this grand old town on the Mississippi River. The Grand Opera House Restoration is just one example of many in this lovely town.
Although we only spent one day in Dubuque, Jill and I packed in a great deal. Here are four places that we saw but did not go in because they were closed or it's just a place to see, to read plaques about, and to photograph:
1. Five Flags Center is a multipurpose structure. They use it for sports, arts, and for conventions. It is named for the five flags that have flown over Dubuque at one time or another.
[France, Spain, England, French Republic Flag of Napoleon, and the American flag.
The theater of The Five Flags was first called the Majestic Theater. It's also been called "Spensley Theater when it was converted into a movie house in the 1920s; it was also called RKO Orpheum.
It was almost demolished during urban renewal in 1969. Concerned citizens raised enough funds to save it. Today it is home to the Dubuque Symphony Orchestra.
2. Dubuque's Town Clock stands in downtown Dubuque. It's listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It's the second clock because the first one collapsed in the 1870s.
The present clock was completed in 1873 and cost $5,309.45!
Originally, it had a mechanical movement that required two employees to spend an hour and a half winding cranks attached to weights [it would then operate for one week]. It was electrified in the late 1920s.
The location of the clock on Main Street required a small traffic circle to be built around the clock once this area was no longer a pedestrian plaza only.
The four-column pedestal was added to raise the clock for better visibility [it stands 108 feet above the street].
Fondest memory: 3.The Old Jail Museum is located at 8th and Central and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was built in 1857; today it exhibits some of the Dubuque County Historical Society's unique artifacts. There are dungeons in the basement.
Its collection includes: The Julien Dubuque Family Cradle, The ACME Life Saving Device from the Hotel Canfield fire in 1946, A Union flag from the Civil War, and a passenger wagon from the Dubuque-based A.A. Cooper Wagon Works.
There's a gift shop called "Jan's Grate Shop", and it has gourmet coffees, tea, hot chocolates, foods, candy, kitchen gadgets, Iowa products, and souvenirs.
17 & Under.......................$3.50
6 & under.........................FREE
4. Shot Tower:This structure is one of the last standing shot towers in the United States. A shot tower is used to provide lead shot for the military. It happened like this: molten lead is poured from the tower's top and it passes through a grate. Dros fall through the grate, and the liquid-metal droplets form into a circle before they drop into the awaiting water. They cool the water creating a solid piece of lead in the form of a ball.
Working Shot Towers no longer exist because of much newer and better technology. This particular one is designated a historic landmark and is part of the riverfront renovations in Dubuque. It's located near East 4th Street and East 6th Street.
Make it to the Iowa State Fair. The animals and food are some of Iowa's best. It is also ranked in the TOP 10 for things to do in the nation (I believe it's fourth, but I'm not sure)!
IT IS THE THIRD WEEK IN AUGUST, DON'T MISS IT!
Fondest memory: My fondest memory would have to be when my dad won his first dirt track modified feature.
Favorite thing: Possibly the only thing I ever miss when I'm away from Iowa is the clarity of the Iowa sunrise. I work overnight and have had the opportunity to see many, many Iowa sunrises; I've also seen sunrises in London, Venice....lots of places. But they're never as clear anywhere else as they are in Iowa--we just have so much open space that it makes it easy to see the sunrise in all its glory. Next time I have my camera handy, I'll try to capture one for you. But the best idea would be to see one for yourself! It's worth waking up for!
Fondest memory: The hard working Mexicans are slowly inflltrating into this pristine nordic/germanic background...
you can see in this photo taken at a small town called Denison in Iowa.. the american fast food giant Hardees had given up the plae and in its place a mexican fast food place has opened up
Visit the Grout Science Museum in Waterloo. This was originally an outgrowth of the curiosity of Henry W. Grout. It has grown to be the epitome of history, culture and science in the region.
For 45 years it has collected, preserved and interpreted both cultural and natural history in the region.
Visit the Sergeant Floyd Riverboat Museum in Sioux City. It is the Us's largest display of steamboats and keelboats. there is a special focus on the Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1804. This picture is the Riverboat Museum.
Also see the Milwaukee Railroad Roundhouse Historic Site.
Favorite thing: Visit the Czech Village in Cedar Rapids. It is a restored section of what used to be the shopping district for Czech, Moravian, and Slovak immigrants. The bakery and meat market date back to the 1920s.
Visit the Amana Colonies. They are seven authentic German villages founded as a religious commune in the 1800s. It is a National Historic Landmark.
The early settlers of the Amanas left Germany in 1842. After settling in Buffalo, NY, they moved to Iowa in 1855. It was one of the longest lasting communal societies in the world, not ending until 1932.
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