The top 2 tourist attractions in Des Moines, Iowa, according to TripAdvisor, are the capitol building and the state fairgrounds. The fairgrounds was center-focus in the book State Fair, which was turned into Hollywood movies 3 times. The capitol is, arguably, the most ornate among the 50 and the 35th Ruth & I have visited.
One of the 1st things that Cathryn, our well-informed tour guide, told us was that her state’s capitol was one of 10 gold-domed in the United States and an almost exact copy of Illinois’, which does not have a gold dome. “Is California’s dome one of the 10?” I asked because this state was the scene of a historic gold rush. “I think so,” Cathryn replied. It is not, and neither is Indiana’s because its citizens chose not to re-gild their once-gold-dome due to cost. Not only does Iowa claim to have the largest gold dome, it has 4 additional domes that are green and give this building a Taj Mahal aspect. Cathryn told us that 2026 will be the year of the next re-gilding and that 6 pounds of almost 24-carat gold will be required.
This elaborate structure took 15 years to build and cost close to 3 million 19th century dollars. The governor’s office is imposing and formal and the State Law Library pictured below rivals any in the world for beauty. Iowa’s current Governor Terry Branstad, by the way, holds the record for longest-serving state chief executive. He broke the record in 2011 when voted in for his 6th term.
Iowa’s senate chamber was damaged in a fire, its supreme court moved to a different building, and a drinking fountain is now a table; but, in general, this capitol looks unchanged over the years. I enjoyed seeing an antique Swezey “improved” dumbwaiter in the library and was glad to sit in on legislative sessions because Iowa’s congresspeople are in overtime this year. This was not caused by Iowa’s 2016 presidential primary. Salaried legislators have an incentive to finish on time since they aren’t paid for these additional days.
Iowa’s official visitor guide notes, “…the Capitol is a showcase for artwork, woodcarvings, artifacts, and decorative wall and ceiling painting and stenciling.”‘ No wonder this is the #1 attraction in this Midwestern city! It truly stands-out.