In 1846, soon after the establishment of the state of Iowa, it was decided that it needed to be moved from Iowa City to a more central location. It took 9 years of rivalries for the legislature, with approval of Governor Grimes, to determine that the capitol be no further than 2 miles from the junction of the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers. Willson Alexander Scott (originally from Illinois) and Harrison Logan donated the land on which the capitol currently resides. Scott was so keen on building his real estate business on the east side and truly believed the capitol would be a boon to his developments, that he paid for most of the temporary capitol’s building costs, as well as the moving costs to transport government documents and books from Iowa City to Des Moines.
The temporary State Capitol stood for thirty years where the Soldiers and Sailors Monument is currently. The permanent capitol cost close to 375 million dollars and took seventeen years (1871-1886), and when the money ran out, it was still not complete. Robert Finkbine, Superintendent of Construction reported to the Board of Capitol Commissioners that the steps on the south and west sides still needed finished, frescoes weren’t complete, and offices still needed furniture, plastering, and wood work. Overall, finishing was needed, but the building was functional and daily business could occur.
In 1900, a commission was created to work on improvements. These included décor, modern elevators, electrical, alarms, roof repairs and more. In addition, they commissioned beautiful artwork for the building, including the murals, mosaics, and sculptures we see today.