Tuesday, January 5, 2016


During the last couple of years, as we have been marking states off our States List, we've also started a State Capitol Buildings list. Unfortunately, we developed our appreciation for capitol buildings a little late, and now we need to go back to a few state capital cities we visited but where we neglected to see the capitol building.

The Iowa capitol building in Des Moines has perhaps the most striking exterior and interesting grounds of any capitol we have visited. With its four rich green domes surrounding a resplendent gold dome, it reminds me of a Russian palace, but at the same time, it has a classic state capitol look. It is the only five-domed capitol in the United States. We took pictures of it three different times, which accounts for the variety of sky color in the background.
View of the back
Another view of the back
View of the front
The domes

The pediment above the main entrance

A man, his son, and a friendly Indian guide survey downtown Des Moines from the front steps of the capitol:
Pioneers of the Territory (1892) is by Karl Gerhardt:


A buffalo head fountain is embedded in the base of the above sculpture. Water being spit out by a buffalo doesn't really seem that appealing, but what do I know?

I was surprised that Iowa wasn't admitted to the Union until December 1846, the same month the Mormons were settling in for a long, hard winter at Winter Quarters, Iowa, after being chased out of Missouri:

The capitol is surrounded by art and memorials--47 monuments, to be exact. There are so many, in fact, that the grounds of the Iowa Capitol have earned their own post. To see pictures of the inside, you'll have to come back and read my next post.

We've noticed that a lot of capitols have a reproduction of the Liberty Bell:

Many  of them also have a World War II memorial of some kind. There is a very nice "Freedom Walk" dedicated to World War II behind the Iowa capitol:

 Excellent maps and reproductions of newspaper headlines mounted on the monument walls provide context and details:

A list of Iowa's soldiers and number of deaths by county along with a biography of each Iowa recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor make the war more personal:

The shiny steel sculpture that is the centerpiece looks like the classic eternal flame common at war memorials when viewed from one angle, and like a pair of birds about to take flight when viewed from another angle:

A long, separate list of Iowans involved in Pearl Harbor is sobering:

As we circled the building, we came across a tender statue entitled simply Lincoln and Tad. It shows a devoted father taking time out of what must have been a very busy schedule to share a book with his son. 
Lincoln is dressed in a suit, as if he has just returned from speaking to Congress. His face is lined and his cheeks hollow, but his arm is around his son and his hand rests on Tad's shoulder.
The sculpture is based on this 1864 photograph:
Tad, the youngest of Lincoln's four sons, was eleven years old in 1864. Two of his three brothers had already died of childhood diseases by the time this photo was taken. Tad died in 1871 at age 18 of tuberculosis, six years after his father was assassinated. Only his brother Robert lived to adulthood.

 The stone page is inscribed "To Every Boy & Girl in Iowa":
The bronze statue was created by Iowans Fred and Mabel Torrey and dedicated on the 98th anniversary of the Gettysburg address, November 19, 1961. Fred sculpted Lincoln and Mabel sculpted Tad. School children throughout Iowa conducted a penny drive to help pay for the statue. I recall seeing another statue of Lincoln on the grounds of the capitol building in Charleston, West Virginia. That one showed an anxious Civil War-era President pacing the White House halls in the middle of the night. It turns out that it is by the same sculptor who created this statue, Fred Torrey!

There is no sequential order to the monuments. Walking around the capitol is like pogo-sticking through history, bouncing back and forth between eras. Maybe a better comparison is a cemetery where graves are laid out in no particular order. For example, our next stop was this grouping of tombstone-like monuments that honor Korean War veterans:

A monument honoring all those wounded in any combat was next:

Then we found this tribute to the U.S. Submarine Force in World War II, which had the highest loss rate of any of the U.S. Armed Forces: 22% of its members were killed. Information at the site reads: "Although only 1.6% of the U.S. Navy, the Submarine Force sank 30% of the Japanese Imperial Navy and 60% of the Japanese Merchant Marine, choking off the Japanese economy. This victory came at a heavy price."

Like many capitals, Des Moines has its own Vietnam Memorial Wall:

But unlike most capital cities, Des Moines has a tribute to Christopher Columbus among its war memorials. It was erected by Italian-Americans in 1938:

Iowa wasn't even conceived of during the Revolutionary War, but apparently a bunch of the freedom fighters are buried in Iowa, so they too get their own memorial:

I can't remember what this grandiose monument memorializes, but I love the women in their flowing skirts overseen by the regal woman on the throne. I'm pretty sure it must be a tribute to women English teachers:

Are you getting the idea that Iowans are patriotic and proud of their war service? I think they have more war memorials than just about anywhere but Washington, D.C.

There is a monument dedicated to Iowans who participated in the Civil War:

I really like it when they single out the women, but could they have chosen a better-looking specimen?

Yes, they could have, and here she is, but she's not what I had in mind:

I did like this young soldier holding a bouquet of flowers, an image (like the one above) I don't associate with war:

One of my favorites of all the sculptures is the Iowa Workers Monument by Michael Stutz. 
It makes a nice frame for the capitol building
It is encircled by three benches that bear a meaningful message:

Just across the street from the clasping hands is a building that was certainly designed to reflect the beautiful capitol. It's a great symbol of Iowa Pride:

Again, lighting and time of day change the view dramatically:

Isn't this a stunning capitol?



  1. I love the Lincoln statue, especially knowing it's a husband/wife collaboration. The eternal flame/birds in flight is also lovely. I'm impressed by all of the various monuments and statues. Capitol buildings are almost as interesting as cathedrals.

  2. The capitol dome in the warm, gold cast of late afternoon is about as pretty as it gets. Loved he photo of the dome framed by the worker's memorial. I was wondering if you would picture the voluptuous young woman, and you did - perhaps that was why the young soldiers had flowers?