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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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City Sidewalks: 1940

City Sidewalks: 1940

May 1940. Business district and gas station in Des Moines, Iowa. View full size. 35mm nitrate negative by John Vachon for the Farm Security Administration.

On Shorpy:
Today's Top 5

Odd isn't it...

...this oasis of normalcy among the gritty ethnic industrial centers and dry starved-out dust farms that today make up the era to us.

I'm from central Iowa and know Des Moines well. There really were places like this then, but obviously taking pictures of them didn't educate the public about all the privation out there.

You wouldn't recognize downtown Des Moines today. So this pic isn't even history, really. In a way, it is too perfect to ever have been real ... whatever Vachon took pictures of out of his window that day in 1940.

PS: The Savery Hotel became a barracks for WAC officers during WW2. It's still there. I spent the night there once.

Web site

For me, this is one of the best sites I've ever found. It deals with real and decent subject matter. I, personally, find it very educational. It is very well thought out and executed perfectly. The "comments" section is a very integral and necessary function in this presentation (the educational part). Kind of pulls it all together. I'm 63 yrs. old and enjoy every "time-line" represented.

It gives me great comfort knowing that there are still people out there that can put something together like this for us. By us, I mean everyone who views this site and maybe makes a comment now and then. It all seems to have a very "American" slant among all the craziness around us these days.

Mike J.
Albany, Oregon

Contrasting images

This is just incredible contrast to some of the other photos that you show of people living in abject poverty in the 40's. This looks so prosperous.

Just like a movie set

It's amazing, but it really does not look like it is real. It looks too perfect, right down the couple swinging their children.

City Sidewalks

What always amazes me is that in these vintage street scenes the people are so nicely dressed. Quite the opposite of today.

Des Moines

This is looking north up Fourth Street. The building with the Buick sign (on Grand Avenue) and the Hotel Savery (on Locust) are the only structures left of those shown in the photo. There is now a Domino's Pizza where the Buick sign is and the Hills building is now Nolen Plaza, a fountain plaza. To the east of that is the Des Moines Civic Center (also relatively new). The block west of the Hills building is now a business center called Capitol Square. The Shell station would have been on Walnut. There are now high-rise condos there. Fourth street was eliminated between Locust and Walnut. Wish it was still like this ...

Cake Sign

I can't seem to get the pictures as large as before, but the cake-shaped sign on the right corner is pretty amazing. I also don't think I've ever seen anything called a "Savery"--had to look twice.

SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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