Out of the Attic: Capitol building fragment has ties to Iowa's journey to statehood

·2 min read

Did you know that Iowa is celebrating it’s 175th year of Statehood?

The official “birthday” was Dec. 28, 2021, but in reality, Iowa as a territory has been around a lot longer. And object no. 79.134 ties into Iowa’s journey to statehood.

The first known semi-permanent colonizers to live in the area were white fur traders who operated a trading post near what is now Bluff Harbor Marina, where Flint Creek empties into the Mississippi river, possibly around 1822.

Accounts differ as to who actually sponsored the operation; some claim it was George Davenport, while others say it was the American Fur Trading Co. on behalf of John Jacob Astor.

Either way, a semi-permanent structure occupied the site for several years (accounts differ on how long it was actually there).

In 1833, Iowa officially opened for settlement (despite a few false starts by would-be colonizers). A site for the proposed capital was soon settled on, and the building was built.

However, Burlington was not to hold the distinction of being the capital for long, as it was subsequently moved to Iowa City by decree of Gov. Robert Lucas, not quite two years later. Then, 16 years later, the capital was moved again. This time to Des Moines, where it remains.

So, where does our object fit into all of this, you ask?

Our object is a piece of the façade from the Capitol building, and was harvested during a renovation that took place in 1973. It later was presented to DMCHS in 1979 by the Iowa Historical Department, in recognition of our position as a former capital.

According to Leo Landis (State Curator for the State Historical Society of Iowa), it was taken from above the North Portico area of the State Capitol building during renovation work.

The rock used for the façade is Anamosa Limestone, a type of dolomitic stone that was quarried about two miles west of Anamosa.

While Burlington is no longer the capital, the remains the county seat for Des Moines County and has its own claim to geological fame in the form of the Burlington Limestone formation and the infamous Burlington crinoids, both of which can be seen throughout the Tri-State area.

This article originally appeared on The Hawk Eye: Des Moines County Heritage Center Capitol building fragment