Union Park was established in 1894 as one of Des Moines’s first parks. Originally comprised of 27 acres, the park boasted an aviary, pavilion, stone fountain, and greenhouse when it first opened.
Prior to becoming a park, the land was part of the Thompson estate and held the first frame house erected in Polk County. The Thompson Homestead was built in the 1840s by Andrew Thompson and would eventually be painted by American Gothic artist Grant Wood in the 1920s not long before it was torn down.
Union Park has grown over the years, eventually expanding to 51 acres and adding notable features like the Rocket Slide in the 1970s and the Heritage Carousel in 1998. Today the park includes a formal gardens, playground, tennis and basketball courts, and much more.