Polk County General Services

Polk County Heritage Gallery

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Hours of Operation: 11:30 am - 4:30 pm (Mon - Fri)
Phone: 286-2242
Free Admission
Website: www.polkcountyheritagegallery.org

Built in 1908, the Polk County Administrative Office Building originally was the old Post Office Building in Des Moines. It was an example of the high quality Civic Center Architecture that the Federal Government erected during the early years of this century. Like most of its counterparts, it is a building in Beaux-Arts Classical Style. The public spaces of the interior continue the Beaux-Arts architectural theme, with the main lobby being the most architecturally pretentious space. In early 1975, the Old Post Office was approved for listing on the National Register of Historical Places because of its classical Federal building style.

In 1975, County voters approved spending $5.8 million to buy the old Post Office and remodel it for County offices. The first major phase of that project was completed in 1979, but the future use of the building's most significant interior space, the main lobby, was left unresolved beyond the basic intent to preserve its integrity. In May, 1979, the Polk County Board of Supervisors directed that the possibility of utilizing the lobby as exhibition space be examined and proposals be developed.

A study funded in part with a matching grant-in-aid from the United States Department of Interior, Heritage Conservation and Recreation Service, under provisions of the Historic Preservation Act of 1966, as amended, was completed in September, 1979, by the architectural firm of Wehner, Nowysz, Pattschull and Pfiffner of Iowa City, Iowa. After completion of the study, the firm advised that the lobby space be developed into a gallery with a maximum flexibility to allow exhibits ranging from art to history to science.

On September 30, 1980, the Board of Supervisors approved a Resolution establishing an Advisory Committee to oversee the development of the historic lobby for the purpose of presenting changing exhibits of artistic and historical material. This Committee first met on October 14, 1980, with Fred Hiatt as first chairman. In November, 1980, the Polk County Board of Supervisors voted to name the historic lobby "The Polk County Heritage Gallery." Since that time, the Gallery has continued to sponsor exhibits for the education and entertainment of both citizens and visitors in Polk County. It was originally funded through Hotel/Motel Tax funds.

For many years, the Gallery was managed by the Department of General Services and funded through that department's fiscal year operating budget. A Citizen Advisory Board of up to twelve persons, representing the civic and business communities and the fields of arts and humanities, education, and historic preservation, provided advisory assistance to the County concerning exhibit scheduling and promotion.

Today, the Gallery operates as an independent entity with minimal support provided by the County. A volunteer board, directed by Tom Greene, manages all events including providing on-site support.

Timeline of the Gallery

  • 1908
    • Building was constructed.
  • Early 1975
    • Building listed on the National Register of Historical Places because of its Beaux Arts Classical architectural style (Federal government buildings).
  • Later in 1975
    • County voters approved spending $5.8 million to buy the old Post Office and remodel it for County offices. The first major phase of that project was completed in 1979.
  • In May of 1979
    • Polk County Board of Supervisors directed that the possibility of utilizing the lobby as exhibition space be examined and proposals be developed.
  • September of 1979
    • Architectural firm of Wehner, Nowysz, Pattschull and Pfiffner of Iowa City, Iowa was hired. After completion of the study, the firm advised that the lobby space be developed into a gallery.
  • September 30, 1980
    • Board of Supervisors approved a Resolution establishing an Advisory Committee to oversee the development of the gallery.
  • October 14, 1980
    • First Gallery Advisory Committee meeting was held with Fred Hiatt as first chair.
  • November, 1980
    • Polk County Board of Supervisors voted to name the historic lobby "The Polk County Heritage Gallery."

Contact Us

Polk County Administrative Building
111 Court Avenue Suite 365
Des Moines, Iowa 50309-2251
Phone: 515-286-3215