Old Downtown Des Moines

Explore the history of downtown Des Moines, an area considered today's city center as much as it was in pioneering days.

Demoine House

A fashionable hotel known as the Demoine House once stood at First and Walnut Streets, which is now where the Polk County Office building resides. John Yost and Martin Tucker opened the Demoine House in April 1855, and it soon became the site of…

George Conradi's Saloon

In the late 1800s, a notorious establishment stood at 212 Walnut Street: George Conradi’s Saloon. A saloon in a frontier town was not a novelty, but an establishment trying to sell liquor in a dry county or on dry days received attention. From…

Tone Bros

In April of 1873, two men from New York, along with their families, stepped off the Keokuk & Des Moines rail line (Rock Island Line) to start a business based on innovation that would change the spice industry. Jehiel had been working for a spice…

Jewett Typewriter Company

Many people in the Des Moines area associate the Jewett name with Gilcrest Jewett Lumber, but George Jewett, a founding partner, had many other interests. In 1872, he helped found the Iowa Loan & Trust Co and before that, organized Des Moines…

Court Avenue Restaurant and Brewing Company

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…

Romano Fruit Stand

According to a Des Moines Register article, Egidio Romano came to Des Moines from Italy by way of Omaha, Kansas City, and then St. Paul.  Romano started his fruit stand in Des Moines in 1891 and eventually became the Secretary-Treasurer of the…

Iowa Bystander

The Iowa State Bystander was established in Des Moines in 1894 as a four-page weekly to serve as the voice of Iowa’s African American community. Ten prominent African Americans established the Bystander Publishing Company under the motto: “Fear God,…

Hierb's Saloon

On the northwest corner of Second and Walnut was the site of Joseph Hierb’s Saloon. Hierb and his brother started the first brewery in Des Moines in 1855, which later became known as City Brewery, located at 7th and Center Streets. They piled their…

Younkers Department Store

1854 - Teenagers Marcus, Lipman, and Samuel Younker move to the United States from Lipno, Poland.1856 – Lipman, Samuel, and Marcus Younker establish the first Younker & Brothers Dry Goods Store in Keokuk, Iowa.  1874 – A younger brother, Herman,…

Harbach Lofts

The history of Harbach Lofts began more than 100 years ago with the beginning of Harbach Furniture. As shown in the National Register of Historic Places documentation, the Harbach family made significant contributions to the city of Des Moines, and…

Aulmann's Brewery

One of the earliest breweries was established by Frank Spitz near River, Second and Elm, on the Raccoon River. He ran a successful business until when while crossing the ice on the Raccoon River, carrying a bag of malt, he broke through and died.…