Learn About The History Of West Des Moines, IA

In 2008, 2014 and 2015, West Des Moines earned its place as the 94th, 77th, and 57th respectively out of 100 best places to live as per the Money magazine. The city covers three counties, Warren, Polk, and Dallas. It is located in Iowa State. As of the city’s 2010 census, its population was about 56,609, making it the second-largest city within the Des Moines metropolitan area. It is the tenth largest in Iowa state.

The history of West Des Moines, IA

The night that changed everything
Initially, the West Des Moines area was home to the Fox and Sac tribes. However, all this turned at the stroke of midnight on 11th October 1845. A cattle farmer known as James Cunningham Jordan fired a gunshot that scared the tribes away. James was born in 1813 and passed on in 1893. He used to live in the Jordan House, which has since been restored and currently houses the West Des Moines historical society. During the city’s early years, it was a shipping and trading junction. It was incorporated as the city of valley junction in 1893, October 1893.

As valley junction’s city

In its early years, valley junction was home to Pacific, Rock Island and Chicago’s railroad switching facilities as well as its repair shops. This was because of its strategic location at the junction of the various railroad lines. However, the Rock Island’s facilities moved to Des Moines from the Valley Junction in 1936.

The mystical track

In 1911 to 1915, Valley Junction’s speed limit was only ten miles per hour. This came to an end when an Englishman known as Jack Prince constructed an oval wooden track that was one mile long. The route allowed race cars to surpass the speed limit to more than ten times over. The road was 980,000 feet, and it seated more than 10,000 people.

By August of 1915, everyone’s eyes were glued on Valley Junction, as they patiently anticipated for the fastest 300-mile race, since it was the first of its kind in history. Ralph Mulford won the race. However, there were several crashes in the race, one of them being very fatal, and Billy Chandler lost his life. The event did not go well with the locals, and they pushed for the closing of the track two years later. The wood was salvaged and utilized in the construction of various houses within the Valley Junction.

Overcrowded schools

In 1916, the trending dilemma was the crowded schools across the city. The residents approved the construction of a new high school, the new Valley high school, which was launched the following year. A new junior high school also opened in 1923.

Light in the darkness

During the 1920s, when the rest of the country suffered prohibition, Valley Junction was at its all-time high. The good things of the city were reflected as happiness in the eyes of the children. Kites were flying, school plays going on, and riding in the 4th July parade as well as the May Day pageant were the things that brought the city’s happiness back.

In 1937, the administration launched two daily trains into the city. The result was improved an enhanced business climate. Some members of a local commercial club suggested that the name of the city be changed. They felt that this move would attract new industries. Eventually, in 1938 January, the city’s name became officially West Des Moines.

The depression period

A lot of things took place during the depression period for West Des Moines. Lincoln school was razed to pave the way for a new building in 1938. The old valley football stadium and a new elementary school were both dedicated just over on 8th and Hillside in 1939. Also, in 1939, Tom Archer opened the Val Air Ballroom. By the 50’s West Des Moines had continued to grow, with more than 200 new homes being constructed in 1959 alone. By 1190, the city’s population was 31,702.

Mushroomed growth

The 1990’s were busy with regards to the development of West Des Moines. New schools opened, such as a city campus opening up close to Mills Civic Parkway. A new police station also opened up in 1992, then a new library in 1996. The library served as the city hall until a new building was constructed and dedicated in 2002.