A “baker’s dozen” from the Abigail Adams Chapter participated June 22 in rededication ceremonies for DAR’s four historical markers in downtown Des Moines.
The project began two years ago, when Bill Sherman, a long-time Polk County preservationist, contacted our Sara Jane Harwood. He proposed that we clean up our historic monument near the I-Cubs ballpark. Construction of the Principal Riverwalk, a weekly Farmers Market on Court Avenue, and the extension of M. L. King Parkway, all contribute to much higher visibility of our monument. We agreed was high time it be restored to an honorable visage. Over the ensuing months, Mrs. Harwood worked with Mr. Sherman and Pete Sixbey, the restorer.
Now, it was time to tour the sites, inspect the work, and rededicate markers placed by our predecessors. The first two markers flank a monument beside the river on South Water St. These mark the original Fort Des Moines and the Dragoon Trail.
After the DAR ritual, members enjoyed a talk by Mr. Sherman about “The Birthplace of Des Moines”. He included information about the colorful tile mural along the I-Cubs parking lot. After his formal talk, Mr. Sherman opened the historical cabin, between the mural and our monument, for members to view.
Next, the Chapter caravan crossed the river and proceeded to the Grand Avenue bridge by City Hall. Here, in 1933, Abigail Adams marked the city’s first ferry, first pontoon bridge, and first toll bridge. This monument is a 3-ton pink granite boulder, engraved, and embellished with a bronze NSDAR insignia.
Creation of Brenton Skating Rink nearby, and major renovations at Des Moines Botanic Garden to the north, again, have greatly increased public traffic at the site.
Here, as at each location, Sara Jane Harwood gave us some background about the historical marker and the reason it was placed. Regent Nedra Markham and Chaplain Sandra Durby conducted the NSDAR dedication ritual. Then we all gathered for commemorative photographs.
Third on the tour was Hoyt Sherman Place, on Woodland Avenue. This mansion cum theater is a beautiful location, used almost daily as a venue for concerts, celebrations, and ceremonies, like installation of new lawyers to the Iowa bar. In 1926, the Chapter planted a tree in memory of recently deceased Henry C. Wallace. The site is marked with a small boulder bearing a bronze plate. Years of encrusted detris was cleaned from it and the plate sealed for preservation.
Last marker on the roadtrip is at 9th and Locust St. This bronze tablet marks the location of Des Moines’ first public school. It was greatly improved by the restoration and is a pleasure to see. Sandra Harne, who is working on her application papers, shared a family connection: her grandfather, an Italian immigrant, had attended that school.
Final stop for the Abigail Adams ladies was Gateway Café, for lunch. From a cooler-full of bottled water, to folding chairs to share, to speakers, photographer, and caravan drivers, many hands pitched in to create a very pleasant experience.