Des Moines Saddlery Building

The Court Avenue Restaurant and Brewing Co. building has housed many businesses over the years and managed to stay standing through times when many older buildings were razed. It is the last remaining example of a cast iron façade in Des Moines.

This building began as the home of The Des Moines Saddlery Co. The saddlery business was founded by Jacob Rubelmann who came to Des Moines from Muscatine. Rubelmann was born in Germany in 1828 and came to the U.S. in 1849. He helped his father run a tannery in Muscatine for a couple years and spent some time in St. Louis before returning to Iowa. Jacob’s sons, George and John helped get the business up and running. They started with a four-story building with a single bay where they made harnesses and collars and eventually sold hardware, whips, robes, horse blankets, and horse brushes.

According to local historian James Jacobsen, Rubelmann’s firm was incorporated as the Des Moines Saddlery and Hardware Company with William E. Hoffman, of Wheeling, Virginia, as president in 1887. Ground was broken for a building expansion in August. As Jacobsen indicates, it is unknown if this expansion was planned prior to the incorporation. The expansion included a building addition, as well as the addition of a fifth floor.

The link to the Hoffman name can be seen in early advertisements for J. Rubelmann & Company where they indicate they only use “J.G. Hoffman & Son’s celebrated Star Oak Leather.” In 1902, this tannery was noted as one of the largest oak harness leather tanneries in the world with 300 employees. Their relationship with the Rubelmanns must have been strong, since the Hoffmans bought the factory upon J.E. Rubelmann’s retirement.