DES MOINES — It’s official: The community that calls itself Historic Valley Junction is now certifiably historic – and they have the papers to prove it.
The West Des Moines neighborhood group and the State Historic Preservation Office announced today that the area has been added to the National Register of Historic Places. The designation from the National Park Service covers 52 historic properties along a three-block stretch of Fifth Street and several cross streets that developed in the railroad boom years of the 1890s.
Ever since the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad moved its East Des Moines roundhouse to West Des Moines, Valley Junction has offered a mix of businesses – first to cater to the railroad industry and then to the residents who followed. Today the area touts itself as small-town pocket within a bigger city, filled with shops, galleries, bars, restaurants and events.
As the area evolved, so did its architecture. Some of its early Italianate brick buildings now stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Classical Revival designs with terra cotta facades, built between the two world wars, and the sleeker mid-century storefronts that went up in the 1950s and 1960s.
“Historic Valley Junction has thrived for more than a century,” said Jim Miller, executive director of the Historic Valley Junction Foundation. “There are so many great stories here, so we’re delighted the National Register designation can help us share our history with future generations.”
The National Register of Historic Places was established in 1966 and is part of the National Park Service’s program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to protect America’s historic and archeological resources. To date, the register includes more than 90,000 properties in almost every county across the United States.
Getting listed on the register is the first step toward eligibility for various federal preservation tax credits, which have so far leveraged more than $45 billion in private investment and National Park Service grant programs.
“The register is a way to honor a community’s past and inspire people to think about the legacy they’ll carve out for the future,” said Steve King, who oversees the State Historic Preservation Office, which is funded by the National Park Service and operated by the State Historical Society of Iowa, a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs. “Historic Valley Junction should be commended for the work they’ve done to preserve the area’s unique character.”
The timing of today’s announcement coincides with Historic Valley Junction’s month-long campaign to win a $150,000 grant to help restore the marquee and brick façade of the historic Theatrical Shop, housed in a former theater at 145 Fifth St. The property is one of 25 national finalists in an online voting contest that National Geographic and the National Trust for Historic Preservation are conducting through Oct. 31.
The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs and its three divisions – the Iowa Arts Council, Produce Iowa - State Office of Media Production and the State Historical Society of Iowa – empower Iowa to build and sustain culturally vibrant communities by connecting Iowans to the people, places and points of pride that define our state. The department’s work enables Iowa to be recognized as a state that fosters creativity and serves as a catalyst for innovation where the stories of Iowa are preserved and communicated to connect past, present and future generations.