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Walnut & Fourth: 1940

April 1940. "Des Moines, Iowa" is all it says here. Medium format acetate negative by John Vachon for the Resettlement Administration. View full size.

April 1940. "Des Moines, Iowa" is all it says here. Medium format acetate negative by John Vachon for the Resettlement Administration. View full size.


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Progress is coming.

There is an extra wire for Curbliners, but only over the track with the trolley car, not in the other direction.

Memories of a time I never knew

My parents were both in Des Moines as students in 1940. They met the following year, and were married in December of 1942; my dad was then in the Army and headed overseas. They both remembered their years in Des Moines fondly, and it makes me happy to think that they were somewhere close by on the very day this photo was taken.

Modes of Delivery

I can't stop looking at the delivery van that is turning the corner. That doesn't seem to be a common design but looks very similar on top to the modern UPS trucks with the skylights in the back.

Having walked the streets of Des Moines on many lunch hours I have come across bits of railroad track protruding from the ground where the asphalt has crumbled in the winter. This is the first picture that I have seen of those very tracks.

Additionally, I keep a Des Moines Railway Co. fare token in my pocket that my grandmother gave me. I thought it was such a neat piece of the past and I'm glad to finally see a picture of those services in action. Attached is a picture of that very token.

Streetcars and "Curbliners"

While there is evidence in this photo that tracks are being removed, streetcars ran for another 11 years in Des Moines. They were replaced with electric trolleybuses (example below) uniquely named "Curbliners" in a contest; they lasted until the mid-1960s. Des Moines has an interesting history in urban transportation that you can check out here.

Hotel Row

When completed in 1930 the new 12-story Kirkwood Hotel (left) became Des Moines' third "skyscraper hotel," in addition to the two 11-story 1919 additions, the Hotel Fort Des Moines to the west and the Hotel Savery (top center). The Kirkwood, where I had lunch with the federal judge for whom I clerked every day he sat in Des Moines, remains but has been converted to apartments. The Savery has reopened as a chain hotel after a long renovation.

The office building between the Kirkwood and Savery hotels is 1916's Valley National Bank building, which was imploded in March 1981 and replaced by Capital Square.

Mr. Sole Must Be Lonely

In this highly automobile-populated photo that includes a Buick dealership, it seems odd that (beyond the dealership premises) there is nary a Buick to be seen except for the 10-year-old sedan in the oncoming lane near the fire hydrant.

[It was Des Moines' Sole Buick. - Dave]

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