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Monument Tour of the Iowa Capitol

posted on January 9, 2008 at 11:05 AM

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My name is Steve Person and I'm now in my 7th year as a tour guide here at the capitol. And most of the time I give tours inside the building but every once in awhile I'm lucky enough to do a grounds tour which I really enjoy doing because we have more than 40 memorials and monuments here on the capitol grounds. They cover every war from the Revolutionary War up through the Vietnam conflict except for World War I and that's a memorial to that on the inside with a big photograph.

As far as replicas, we have a miniature statue of liberty and a replica of Liberty bell on the east side of the building. And the nice thing about this bell is that it is user friendly.

The statue of Lincoln and Tad here on the west side of the capitol is the only statue of Abraham Lincoln showing him as a father rather than as president. This particular statue was made by a sculptor from Iowa City and his wife sculpted Tad. The school children of Iowa paid for this statue by donating pennies and I personally remember giving money for this particular piece of art.

The first real monument would've been the Soldiers And Sailors monument, which was started in 1893. It was designed by Harriet Ketchum of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa and they began building it in 1893. Unfortunately Mrs. Ketchum never lived to see it finished. It wasn't finished until 1897 and she died in 1894.

Probably the most commonly asked question is: 'Why does Mother Iowa not wear a top?' But that was just the artistic deign of the time. She's on the Soldiers and Sailors monument.

I'm standing in front of the William Boyd Allison monument which is just south of the Soldiers And Sailors monument, and this is one of my favorite monuments.

William Allison was a United States Senator and Congressman from Iowa for 43 years and he worked with every president from Abraham Lincoln up through Theodore Roosevelt. After his death his friends and supporters dedicated to place this fountain here on the capitol grounds. When this monument was first designed back in 1917 was a beautiful fountain. Unfortunately the state saw fit to fill in the fountain.

We have a number of cannons on the grounds. This particular cannon which is referred to as a mortar was used during the Civil War on board a gunboat in the Mississippi and it was used during the battle of Vicksburg. And given to the state of Iowa after the war to remind people of the Civil War.

We are right now just behind the new Judiciary building, and this is the only grave site on the Capitol grounds. It is the gravesite of Wilson Alexander Scott. Mr. Scott donated the land for the old brick Capitol that stood on the site of what is now the Soldiers and Sailors monument. He died on his way out west in search for and his body was brought back here and buried at his request on this bluff.

So I do hope people will take the opportunity to come to the Capitol and take a look at the grounds, because they are truly impressive. We have about 190 acres right up here on the top of the hill on the East Side of Des Moines.


Tags: architecture Des Moines Iowa Iowa capitol memorials


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