Chautauqua Park (1923)

By 1918, the trustees of Highland Park College had amassed a debit of $175,000, in an attempt to keep the college afloat.[i] The only way to stop the hemorrhaging was to sell the school. A deal was brokered with the Baptists after eight months of negotiations.[ii]. Union College, Des Moines College, Central College and Highland Park College would all cease to exist.[iii]

Courtesy of Des Moines Register.

Land was purchased in what is now Chautauqua Park. Designs were proposed by a firm in Chicago to model the new campus after Cambridge College and Oxford University, both in England.[iv]When World War I broke out, building material became scarce.[v] The idea of building an entirely new campus was scrapped. The Highland Park College campus would become the new campus for Des Moines College.

The land in Chautauqua Park sat idle for five years until it was decided to sell the land for profit.[vi] Louisville Real Estate and Development Company would be in charge of the sale. 150 lots would be available for home construction. The auction would start at 10:00 a.m. Under a big tent, a band and a luncheon would be provided for the festivities.[vii] Classes at the newly formed Des Moines College were dismissed so the students could partake in the food and music.[viii]

Middle to upper-middle class homes were constructed between Hickman Road, 16th Street and Chautauqua Parkway.[ix] But not everyone was able to buy into the newly built community. The city of Des Moines continued to practice redlining.[x] A former student, Archie Alexander, after making his fortune[xi], decided to purchase a home at 2200 Chautauqua Parkway, in 1944. This was against the rules and his neighbors attempted to force Archie out through intimidation. Archie wasn’t intimidated and later received a court order allowing him to stay.[xii]


[i] “Iowa Baptist College Affairs.” Des Moines Register. Des Moines, Iowa. 24 March 1918, p. 14. Accessed: 18 December 2016
[ii] “Taken By Baptists for Union College.” Des Moines Register. Des Moines, Iowa: 13 March 1918, p. 1, 10. Accessed: 18 December 2016.
[iii] The Tiger. Des Moines, Iowa: Students of Des Moines College, 1920.
[iv] “Baptists in Line to Raise Million for Union College.” Des Moines Register. Des Moines, Iowa: 28 January 1917, p. 30. Accessed: 18 December 2016.
[v] “Sale of Chautauqua Park.” Des Moines Register. Des Moines, Iowa, 11 July 1923, p. 13. Accessed: 16 July.
[vi] Ibid.
[vii] Des Moines Register. Des Moines, Iowa, 17 July 1923, p. 12. Accessed: 16 December 2016.
[viii] “Chautauqua Park Sites to be Sold at Auction Today.” Des Moines Register. Des Moines, Iowa: 17 July 1923, p. 14. Accessed: 16 December 2016.
[ix] United States Department of Interior National Park Service. “Chautauqua Park Historic District.” January 1989. Accessed: 18 December 2016.
[x] Gary, Thomas A. The Rise and Fall of Center Street. Ames, Iowa: Iowa State University, 2003, pp. 7 & 13.
[xi] Elm, L.M. “Archie Alexander.” College on the Northside. 26 January 2014. Accessed: 16 December 2016.
[xii] Lutz, Renda. “Ownership of Des Moines Home Was in Dispute.” Des Moines Register. Des Moines, Iowa: 16 February 2000, p. 9AT-SO. Accessed: 16 December 2016.

Athletic Field (1911) & (1920) – Revised

This is a revision to this post. I had previously listed the athletic field in the incorrect location. Thanks to Tom Longden for pointing out this error.

The athletic field was located at East Douglas and Cambridge NOT East Douglas and Cornell.


The athletic field was expanded in 1923, much to the grumbling of neighbors. DMU acquired an extra 25 feet to expand the field at a cost of $10,000. A concrete bleacher/grandstand with capacity of seating 5,000 people would be built before the first football game in September. Many residents felt the expansion would narrow Cambridge Street too much and make travel down the road during games difficult. DMU went ahead with their expansion anyway.

The Tiger Annual, 1927

“The City’s Business.” Des Moines Register. Des Moines, Iowa: 25 August 1923, p. 12. Accessed: 06 December 2016.
“Concrete Bleachers Des U. Plan.” The Decatur Herald. Decatur, Illinois: 19 August 1923, p. 22. Accessed: 06 December 2016.
“Council Visits Stadium Site.” Des Moines Register. Des Moines, Iowa: 23 August 1923, p. 2. Accessed: 06 December 2016.
“Iowa News.” Des Moines Register. Des Moines, Iowa: 23 August 1923, p. 6. Accessed: 06 December 2016.
The Tiger. Des Moines: Iowa: Students of Des Moines University, 1927.

The Courtroom (1929)

The back of this photo reads:

Courtroom scene during the fight for control of Des Moines University, Baptist fundamentalist institution. In the picture are () Judge Charles F. Bradshaw, attorney of students attempting to uphold injunction to keep university under control of deposed President Harry C. Wayman until June 4, graduation time. (2) Casper Schenk, attorney for students. (3) Donald Evans, attorney seeking to dissolve injunction in interest of Dr. T.T. Shields and board of trustees who ordered school closed after riots May 11. (4) Dr. Shields, who with his secretary, Miss Edith Rebman, has been charged with immoral actions and who, when cleared by the board of trustees May 11, discharged Dr. Wayman and the entire faculty leading to the student riots. (5) Mr. “X”, mysterious companion of Dr. Shields, supposedly from Toronto, Canada who Monday accompanied Dr. Shields and Miss Rebman to Des Moines. (6) Miss Rebman.

The hearing Wednesday continued until Friday when it is expected that sensational charges will be brought against Dr. Shields and Miss Rebman and evidence to show that they are unfit morally to administer the school.



The Benefactor (1951)

Alfred Lawson purchased the Des Moines University property in 1943 through his Humanity Benefactor Foundation. He dreamed of establishing a university that delved deeper into the mysterious of physics and his teachings of Lawsonomy. In December of that year, articles of incorporation were filed in Des Moines for the establishment of Des Moines University of Lawsonomy.

Through Lawson’s writing, he promised he would return Des Moines University to its former glory. But it wasn’t long before the area surrounding the college realized that all Lawson offered were promises.

Lawson was away a great deal and put a group of trustees in charge of the college. They erected a five foot fence around the property. Neighbors were awakened at 6:00 a.m. every morning to a bugle call. Young children worked on the grounds from morning until dusk, making some residents wonder how he bypassed child labor laws. Merchants became upset because Des Moines University of Lawsonomy would not do business with local business unless they advertised in the Benefactor, shown below.