In the March 2021 issue of the FoMoCo Times, we are going to highlight the Convention tours that will occur on Tuesday, July 27th.
Des Moines is the capital city of Iowa and is the cultural and central government center of the state. For our Tuesday tours we will experience some of that culture as well as governmental influences on the State of Iowa. At 9:00 on Tuesday morning we will start gathering for the caravan to our tour sites. At 9:10am, the caravan will begin to head towards the State Historical Museum of Iowa located in the heart of downtown Des Moines. Our tour will start at 9:30am and will conclude around 11 – 11:30am. We will begin the half-block walk over to the Iowa State Capital for a tour of the home of the Iowa State Legislature. This tour will start at noon.
State Historical Museum of Iowa
At the State Historical Museum of Iowa, we will discover Iowa's rich heritage through a variety of exhibitions, tours, collections and unique programs. In some of the exhibits at the Museum we will learn about life in Iowa before it became a state and the many changes that took place when settlers arrived. Iowa’s rich natural resources and the balance between using these resources and preserving them can also be explored. We will discover what inspired more than 76,000 Iowans to fight for the Union and the role they played in the nation’s bloodiest war and explore Iowa’s legacy with the silver screen from the early 1900s to today.
After you have finished touring the museum, you may want to grab something to eat at Baratta’s Café located on the 3rd floor of the museum.
Complimentary parking is available in the garage across the street from the museum at the corner of Grand Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue. We will park there for both the museum and the state capital tour.
Iowa State Capital Tour
Less than a block from the State Historical Museum of Iowa is the State Capital Building. You can leave your car in the parking garage that you parked prior to the Museum Tour.
The tour will start promptly at noon.
The Iowa State Capitol, commonly called the Iowa Statehouse, is in Iowa's capital city, Des Moines. As the seat of the Iowa General Assembly, the building houses the Iowa Senate, Iowa House of Representatives, the Office of the Governor, and the Offices of the Attorney General, Auditor, Treasurer, and Secretary of State. The building also includes a chamber for the Iowa Supreme Court, although court activities usually take place in the neighboring Iowa Supreme Court building. The building was constructed between 1871 and 1886 and is the only five-domed capitol in the country. The 23-karat golden dome towering above the city is a favorite of sightseers. Four smaller domes flank the main dome.
The architectural design of the Capitol, rectangular in form, with great windows and high ceilings, follows the traditional pattern of 19th-century planning for public buildings. A modified and refined Renaissance style gives the impression of strength and dignity combined with utility. The building measures 364 feet from north to south and 247 feet from east to west.
The Capitol is set atop a hill and offers a panoramic view of the city's downtown and the West Capitol Terrace. Various monuments and memorials are to its sides and front, including the Soldiers’ and Sailors' Monument and the Lincoln and Tad statue.
Not long after achieving statehood, Iowa recognized that the Capitol should be moved farther west than Iowa City, and the 1st General Assembly, in 1846, authorized a commission to select a location. In 1847, the town of Monroe City, in Jasper County, was selected as the new location of the capitol and platted out, but the 1848 Legislature decided not to move the capitol from Iowa City. In 1854, the General Assembly decreed a location “within two miles of the Raccoon fork of the Des Moines River.” The exact spot was chosen when Wilson Alexander Scott gave the state nine and one-half acres where the Capitol now stands. Final legislative approval for the construction of a permanent statehouse was given on April 8, 1870.
A three-story brick building served as a temporary Capitol and was in use for 30 years, until destroyed by fires: in the meantime, the permanent Capitol was being planned and built.
In 1870, the General Assembly established a Capitol commission to employ an architect, choose a plan for a building (not to cost more than $1.5 million), and proceed with the work, but only by using funds available without increasing the tax rate.
John C. Cochrane and Alfred H. Piquenard were designated as architects, and a cornerstone was laid on November 23, 1871. However, much of the original stone deteriorated through waterlogging and severe weather and had to be replaced. The cornerstone was relaid on September 29, 1873.
Although the building could not be constructed for $1.5 million as planned, the Cochrane and Piquenard design was retained, and modifications were undertaken. Cochrane resigned in 1872, but Piquenard continued until his death in 1876. He was succeeded by two of his assistants, Mifflin E. Bell and W.F. Hackney. Bell redesigned the dome so that it better fit the proportions of the building. Hackney was the only architect who stayed on the project until the end.
The capitol building was dedicated on January 17, 1884, and it was completed sometime in 1886. The building commission made its final report on June 29, 1886, with a total cost of $2,873,294.59. The audit showed that only $3.77 was unaccounted for in the 15 years of construction.
Fire and restoration
On January 4, 1904, a fire was started when the gas lights were being converted into electricity. The fire swept through the areas that housed the Supreme Court and Iowa House of Representatives. A major restoration was performed and documented, with the addition of electrical lighting, elevators, and a telephone system. Little information is available about who performed the actual restoration during these early years. However, Elmer Garnsey created the ceiling artwork in the House Chamber.
These earlier efforts to preserve the Capitol mostly dealt with maintaining and upgrading its interior. It was not until 1965, when the dome was regilded, that legislators made significant investments in preserving the building's exterior.
By the early 1980s, the exterior of the Capitol had noticeably deteriorated. Sandstone pieces had begun falling from the building, prompting the installation of steel canopies at all entrances of the building to protect pedestrians. Decorative stone, whose deterioration had first been documented as early as the start of the 20th century, had also eroded.
Work on the exterior restoration began in the spring of 1983 and was completed in nine phases. Phase 9 work began in the spring of 1998, and the entire project was completed in the fall of 2001, at a cost of $41 million.
While its primary use is as the house of the legislative branch of Iowa government, the Capitol also functions as a living museum and state and international cultural facility.
Since 1987, the World Food Prize laureate award ceremony is held annually in October in the House of Representatives chamber of the statehouse. The ceremony rivals that of the Nobel Prize, drawing over 800 people from more than 75 countries. Each year, world-class performers take the stage to honor the World Food Prize Laureate. Past performers have included Ray Charles, John Denver, and Noa to name a few. Following the ceremony, the celebration continues at a laureate award dinner held in the Capitol rotunda.