Sarah C. Oltrogge
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A little neighborhood in the shadow of the state capitol, East Village in downtown Des Moines used the statehouse dome as a backdrop to establish itself in what was low, mostly unusable land along the Des Moines River. Just after the dawn of the 20th century, the neighborhood burgeoned with blue-collar industry and corner stores, while boasting the convenient use of railroads for industrial development and travel. It seemed to be in competition with the west side, where the insurance industry and wealthy neighborhoods blossomed on high ground. By midcentury, though, East Village suffered as a mobile population chose suburban shopping malls over traditional mom-and-pops. By 1990, buildings were in disrepair, and crime was increasing. A group of dedicated individuals came together and, with assistance and cooperation from the city, brought East Village back into focus, with a clear urban identity that sparked a renewed sense of pride.