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Architectural History Survey of Downtown Des Moines

In 2017, the Destination Des Moines (DDM) Main Street Program initiated a Reconnaissance-level Architectural History Survey of Downtown Des Moines through a grant from 4Culture to expand their knowledge of downtown properties and development patterns.

The survey area, centered around the anchor property of the Des Moines Theater, focused on the commercial core of historic downtown Des Moines. That building is slated for adaptive reuse in 2020 or later, which may be a catalyst for the entirety of the downtown area and the activation of the downtown alleyways.

Des Moines has a number of empty lots and vacant buildings along Marine View Drive. Many pieces of the city’s past have already been lost to redevelopment, with new construction projects happening currently. Balancing progress with maintaining a sense of place, fostering a thriving business community while celebrating what makes Des Moines unique -- these are some of the issues Destination Des Moines is attempting to address via the Main Street program, starting with this survey project.

The survey creates a detailed narrative about historic properties in the 3-block stretch and how they relate to the rest of the city. This study addresses only built environment properties; no evaluation of pre-historic or historic archaeology was conducted as part of this study. All work followed the Washington State Standards for Cultural Resource Reporting (2015) and the National Register Bulletin Guidelines for Local Surveys: A Basis for Preservation Planning (rev. 1985).

There are no listed historic properties, either individually or as districts, within the survey area on the National Register of Historic Places nor the Washington Heritage Register. Most of the buildings had not been surveyed before. 

Within the survey area, reconnaissance level field forms were completed and data entered into Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation’s (DAHP) online database, the Washington Information System for Architectural and Archaeological Records Data (WISAARD). Copies of the forms have also been provided to the King County Historic Preservation Program.

The recently completed Historical Survey and individual building data is available at

Project Credits: 4Culture; Artifacts Consulting, Inc., specifically Susan Johnson and Mary Thompson; Destination Des Moines Main Street, Tony Hettler, President ;Scott Evans, board member; Patrice Thorell, board member; James Langston, local resident and the Des Moines Historical Society; Brian Kamens of the Northwest Room, Tacoma Public Library; and, all the residents of Des Moines who attended public meetings to share their interest and knowledge.


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