April 19, 1888

Oak Park Land Company files articles of incorporation.  The company was established "for the purpose of purchasing and holding lands".


May 10, 1888

Highland Park Land Company filed its incorporation papers on May 10, 1888 using the same language that Oak Park had used.  Lowrey W. Goode is credited with being the author of the Highland Park Plat and likely named both Highland and Oak Parks for their Chicago counterparts.


December 1888

The exchange listed four frame houses under way in Oak (3) and Highland Parks (1).  All were appraised for between $3000-5000.


December 1888

Des Moines became the second city in the nation with an electric trolley system.



Highland Park College was established in 1889 and ran under that name until 1918 when it was renamed Des Moines University by the new owners.  Highland Park Normal College offered a prestigious reputation from early on. 


July 1889

Riverview began as zoological gardens opening in July of 1889 just off 6th Avenue. It advertised many wild animals including: elephants, lions, tigers and leopards. Admission was a mere 15 cents for those aged 9 and over.



Oak Park School was built to serve the Parks neighborhoods in 1891 and was nicknamed “the Castle”.  The original structure was torn down in 1976.  The structure that remains, at least in part, dates back to a 1925 addition.



Land within Union Park is set aside for a park.  "The land acquired by the Commissioners at Thompson's Bend embraces 16 acres of beautifully timbered grass ground and is situated partly in Lee and partly in Des Moines townships, and hence was aptly named Union Park. It is a part of the old Thompson farm, and has for years been a favorite resort for picnic parties…”


June 23, 1898

A new pavilion is erected at Union Park. “The new pavilion is almost as large as the one recently erected at Chautauqua Park and will have a seating capacity of 3,500 people. It is built in octagon shape, with a stage of considerable dimensions, and dressing rooms at the north. It will be equipped for holding concerts, theatricals, conventions, etc., and it is believed will be the means of bringing a number of new conventions to Des Moines…”



In 1899, the Zoological Gardens closed and the Riverview area was used for harvesting ice in the winter time.



More than 100 electric trolleys serve the Des Moines area residents including those in the Parks Areas.



The Highland and Oak Park business area (at 6th and Euclid) offered a drug store, hardware, grocery, blacksmith, shoemaker, dressmaking parlor, and an ice cream parlor.


May 1911

An aviary in Union Park was built and stocked “with numerous kinds of birds”.


June 15th, 1915

The idea of Riverview Amusement Park sprang up from a visit to Coney Island by Abe Frankle. When the doors opened on June 15, 1915 to Riverview, there was a roller coaster, a swimming pool, and a dance pavilion.



McHenry Park is named for the first Des Moines officer to be killed in World War I, Captain Harrison McHenry.



The first theater opens in the Parks areas, named the Ozone Theater and located at 3602 6th Avenue.   In 1921 the theater was remodeled and the name changed to the Hiland Theater.  It remained there until early 1940 when it moved to 423 Euclid Avenue.



First space of the North Side Library was occupied at 514 Euclid in the rear room of the Euclid Avenue State Bank.



Faculty members of Highland Park College, which was under new management, were required to adhere to eighteen articles of faith and students were increasingly disciplined, including three girls for performing cartwheels during a vaudeville skit.  When all faculty members were fired on May 11, 1929 a riot broke out.  The students protested the firing of the entire faculty and threw eggs and rocks attempting to get at the board of trustees who was meeting at the time in one of the rooms.  When police ushered the students out at last the front admission hall had been destroyed.  The school closed permanently in September 1929.   The site is now the Park Fair Mall which was the first enclosed shopping mall in Iowa. 


May 2nd, 1930

The first baseball game played under permanent lights was right here in our backyard.  Located at 6th and Holcomb, near North High School, sat the Western League Park and hosted the Des Moines Demons which were a minor league team.  Baseball had been a daytime sport with a scattering of night games played under lights erected on a temporary only basis and found their sales declining as people had less money to spend and worked longer hours.  Des Moines co-owner, Lee Keyser, decided that to boost profits night time games were the answer that the minor league teams hoped to gain.  The first game under the lights drew an unprecedented crowd of 12,000 persons, a huge leap from the 600 average attendees the year before.  The last five innings of the game were also aired on NBC starting at 10:30 and lasting until 1 a.m.  The Demons beat out the Wichita Aviators 13-6 to make sure that Des Moines found its way into baseball history. 



The natural stone arch bridge across Birdland lagoon [on what is now called Birdland Drive] was built. It was a "PWA" project, according to a Dec. 21, 1933 photo and caption in the DM Register.



The Riviera ballroom was added to Riverview Park. 


May 5th, 1951

the last electric streetcar, appropriately named Retire, made its final stops in Des Moines. The curbliners replaced the trolleys and ran for a number of years until 1964. Then the transit system ran off only gas powered vehicles as well as many motorists were able to purchase their own vehicles.


January 28th, 1952

The Highland Park State Bank opens, offering one of the first drive-up tellers in Des Moines.



The famous Rocket Slide at Union Park was installed (Known as Astro City).  In 1992 the prospect of tearing down this landmark ignited a firestorm and protests to save it. 



Riverview is put up for sale.  Adventureland buys it for the purpose of having a second location.   



Riviera Ballroom is lost to the flames due to arsonists. 



The hand-carved wooden Heritage Carousel with a Stinson Band Organ in Union Park was added to Union Park.



Rendezvous on Riverview is organized by local area residents and is hosted on Riverview Island. 


History of the Parks Area:

Highland Park, Oak Park, and Union Park