WEGG Tidbit #17 ~ Welcome to Des Moines!

by Peter Hedges

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WEGG Tidbit #17 ~ Welcome to Des Moines!

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Tue Mar 27, 2007 8:21 am

Pg. 158 from WEGG, Gilbert is going to pick up his sister from the Des Moines airport:

“I’m an hour early, so I cruise around downtown Des Moines. I see the giant buildings, the enormous car dealerships and hospitals the size of what I believe Moscow to be. I see the Equitable building, which at one time was the tallest in all of Iowa. My father, brother Larry, and I would take trips to Des Moines and Dad would always explain how it was the tallest building and somehow I always felt special when looking with them at the tallest.

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I see the capitol with its giant gold dome and its four smaller green domes.

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It is so hot that no people are outside. In downtown Des Moines, the surprising place that is, a walkway has been built from building to building. This way a shopper or businessman won’t have to go outside. I pass under one of those passageways and, through the tinted glass, I see people moving along. So-inside, where there’s air-conditioning, they all mill about but outside, where I am presently, the streets of Des Moines are mine.

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DITHOT Note: “Downtown Des Moines' skywalk system is one of the two or three first-mentioned features of the city when residents are telling visitors or out-of-towners about Des Moines. These climate-controlled walkways cover more than 3.5 miles and connect offices and retail stores in the downtown area, making getting from one place to another a pleasant experience in any kind of weather.”

I pass a big, fairly new theater called the Civic Center, where important people perform. It a cement park across the street is this giant sculpture. It is a giant umbrella frame, lying on its side. It’s green. Stand under it, during a rainstorm, you’ll still get wet-that’s why it’s art.”

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A little Des Moines history…

Des Moines was founded in May 1843 when Captain James Allen built a fort on the site where the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers merge. Allen wanted to use the name Fort Raccoon, but the American War Department told him to name it Fort Des Moines. The original origin of the name Des Moines is uncertain. The French "Des Moines" translates literally to "Of The Monks." "Riviere Des Moines" translates to "river of the monks," known today under the franglicized name of Des Moines River. It could have referred to the river of the Moingonas, named after an Indian tribe that resided in the area and built burial mounds. Others see it as referring to French Trappist monks, some of whom lived in huts at the mouth of the river, or connected to the phrase de moyen in French, meaning middle, because of its location between the Mississippi and Missouri rivers.

Settlers came and lived near the fort, and on May 25, 1846, Fort Des Moines became the seat of Polk County. On September 22, 1851, it was incorporated as a city with its own charter approved in a vote on October 18. In 1857, the name Fort Des Moines was shortened to Des Moines alone and it was made the capital of Iowa. (The capital was in Iowa City before that.) By 1900, Des Moines was Iowa's largest city with a population of 62,139.

As with other major urban areas, the city core began losing population to the suburbs in the 1960s (the peak population of 208,982 was recorded in 1960). However, the growth of the outlying suburbs has been a constant and the overall metro area population is over 520,000 today.

The skyline of downtown Des Moines changed during the 1970s and 1980s as several new skyscrapers were built. Until then the 19-story Equitable Building, dating from 1924, was the tallest building in the city and, at that time, the tallest building west of the Mississippi River. That changed as the 25-story Financial Center was completed in 1972 and the 36-story Ruan Center was completed in 1974 along with other major building projects. The Des Moines skywalk system also began to take shape during the 1980s. By the beginning of 2006, the skywalk system was more than three miles (5km) long and connected most main downtown buildings.

A couple of trivia notes:

Peter Hedges is a native of Des Moines.

In his novel On the Road, Jack Kerouac remarks that the prettiest girls in the world live in Des Moines.
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Unread postby Linda Lee » Tue Mar 27, 2007 10:39 am

The skywalk system looks like a great idea. Thanks for the information and the pictures of Des Moines.
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Unread postby Depputante » Tue Mar 27, 2007 12:13 pm

I remember when we first visited Calgary, Alberta, Canada (Near Banff National Park in the Rocky Mountains). It was really cold outside downtown, like -15C (It gets down to -35C for about 3 weeks every year). Our whole family, standing outside near a bus station freezing our bootys off, week day morning, not a soul in sight. I thought it was really weird! Weekday, no one around ?!? :hypnotic:

They all used these kind of catwalks. The Calgary system is called +15 ... :lol: and contains a large number of Offices, and even the downtown shopping mall, City Hall, Theatre and Galleries. Here's a small quote "The "Plus 15" walkway system is a series of 57 enclosed bridges at approximately 15 feet above street level that connect a majority of the buildings in the Calgary downtown core. This 16-km system provides protection from the elements and allows pedestrians to travel from building to building, block to block often without having to walk outside. "

Needless to say, we felt like a family of :dunce: :dunce: :dunce: :dunce: :dunce: all standing outside like that! Saw signs for +15 all over the place, never knew what it was untill we had another trip there.
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Unread postby Iceflower » Tue Mar 27, 2007 2:39 pm

Very interesting town, with the skywalk system. It seems very modern, understand clearly that they use it, if it is so hot outside.
Thanks for the interesting tidbit, DITHOT.

Depputante wrote:
Needless to say, we felt like a family of :dunce: :dunce: :dunce: :dunce: :dunce: all standing outside like that! Saw signs for +15 all over the place, never knew what it was untill we had another trip there.


I think I had done the same, if I didn't knew it was that skywalk thing. Wasn't there any sign which told you to go up in the skywalks (don't need to answer totally beside the point)
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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Tue Mar 27, 2007 4:13 pm

Glad you all enjoyed it. With a little bit longer hair, that could even be Gilbert in the skywalk picture! :lol:
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Unread postby Iceflower » Tue Mar 27, 2007 4:17 pm

DeppInTheHeartOfTexas wrote:Glad you all enjoyed it. With a little bit longer hair, that could even be Gilbert in the skywalk picture! :lol:


:lol: Maybe it was him, maybe he has cut his hair :idea: :lol:
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Unread postby Liz » Tue Mar 27, 2007 6:30 pm

I really like how you presented Des Moines, DITHOT, tying it in with Gilbert's observations. Very impressive! Interesting trivia, too. :cool:
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Unread postby gemini » Tue Mar 27, 2007 10:25 pm

I've never been to Des Moines so that was very interesting for me. I like those walkways, they not only keep out the elements but you can enjoy the view like you are outside. Since Gilbert lived in Endora all his life seeing the big city must have been a great adventure. The Equitable building must have seemed pretty tall for a country boy. I think that capital building is pretty impressive too. Its beautiful. Nice tidbit DITHOT.
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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Wed Mar 28, 2007 8:22 am

Glad you all enjoyed the quick tour! Thanks! :cool:
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -

Wow! What a ride!

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Unread postby Red Shoes » Wed Mar 28, 2007 7:07 pm

Wow. That Capitol building is amazing! When I see buildings like that I think of centuries-old European cities; never would have thought of Des Moines, Iowa.

And yes, the walkways are a fabulous idea.

My biggest excitement of this tidbit comes from the book quote, though; It's in Gilbert's first-person POV! I didn't know that and I'm so glad to realise it. Goodness knows why that excites me so much, but it does. :-O

I finally got the notice from my library that the book is available, so I'll be able to pick it up today. :noodlemantra: I really wish I didn't have so much work to do tonight!
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Unread postby nebraska » Wed Mar 28, 2007 9:49 pm

The last time I went to Des Moines (maybe I should call that the ONLY time I went to Des Moines) was to spend some time with a friend from Iowa City - we got together in a modern mall close to the interstate on the outskirts of the city, shopped, had lunch in restaurant with big screen TVs showing football games.......sigh! Not nearly as picturesque as Gilbert's visit! :-/

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Unread postby PhD » Thu Mar 29, 2007 9:39 pm

Thanks for the information!

I like the walkways. We have a couple of those here, but it's to keep people from getting hit by a car when crossing busy streets.
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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Fri Mar 30, 2007 8:25 am

PhD wrote:Thanks for the information!

I like the walkways. We have a couple of those here, but it's to keep people from getting hit by a car when crossing busy streets.


A fine goal to be sure! :-O
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -

Wow! What a ride!

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Unread postby Savvy » Fri Mar 30, 2007 9:25 am

I'm going to have to visit the ONBC alot more often. This is another interesting thread since my step-Dad was born and raised in Des Moines. I'm definately coming back later to read through this thread! Thanks DITHOT for all the great pictures and write-up.

:wave:

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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Fri Mar 30, 2007 9:44 am

I'm glad you are enjoying the tidbits, Savvy! You just never know what you're going to learn here at ONBC! :noodlemantra:
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -

Wow! What a ride!


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