George the Chili King: 5722 Hickman (1952)
This location of the century-old business was built in 1952 by George Karaidos, Jr. on land his father purchased in the 1930s. George, Sr. had locations downtown and on the northwest corner of Harding Road (now MLK) & Euclid for over 25 years. The chili recipe was handed down from George, Sr. who was dubbed the original ‘chili king’ about 1919. The house specialties were
the coney burger and Fat Man Special tenderloin pounded on site.
The building has not significantly changed since opening in July of 1952. ‘Car hops’, sometimes on roller skates, took orders from cars that signaled they were ready to order by leaving their headlights on under the canopy and the food was delivered on a metal tray that hooked onto a partially rolled down
window. A counter and tables were available inside. Graffiti Nights with a DJ were held for many years as were other special nostalgic events. Bill Bryson wrote about the drive-in and it was also featured on the TV show ‘Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives’ produced by Guy Fieri. George, Jr. died Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019. The restaurant has been closed about 2 years and future plans for the site are unknown.
Highland Apartments: 3524 Sixth Avenue (1915)
This location of the century-old business was built in 1952 by George Karaidos, Jr. on land his father purchased in the 1930s. George, Sr. had locations downtown and on the northwest corner of Harding Road (now MLK) & Euclid for over 25 years. The chili recipe was handed down from George, Sr. who was dubbed the original ‘chili king’ about 1919. The house specialties were the coney burger and Fat Man Special tenderloin pounded on site.
first floor. The commercial space has been a dentist’s office, Smith’s Highland Park Pharmacy, a laundromat and record store, among other uses. The building had been part of a redevelopment plan with the support of Invest DSM; however, the developer dropped out of the window. A counter and tables were available inside. Graffiti Nights with a DJ were held for many years as were other special nostalgic events. Bill Bryson wrote about the drive-in and it was also featured on the TV show ‘Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives’ produced by Guy Fieri. George, Jr. died Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019. The restaurant has been closed about 2 years and future plans for the site are unknown.
Washington School: 2 Hartford Avenue (1898, 1909, 1941)
Since the 1870s an elementary school has occupied this site when the brick First Ward, 4-room school, the first of three parts of the building was built to serve south Des Moines and Sevastapol; several additional rooms were later added to it. A fire on February 2, 1941, severely damaged the almost 70-year-old original section, which was razed thereafter. The newer additions were partially rebuilt as the gymnasium. A separate kindergarten building was erected in 1898 and a 1909 remodeling added several rooms and caused the face of the building to move from Hillside to Hartford Ave. Enrollment peaked at 550 until McKinley School was built in 1904 and St. Anthony’s in 1912. Many 2nd and 3rd generation Italian families attended the school. Enrollment dropped to under 200 students in 1976. Washington Elementary closed after the 1982/83 school year. The building was sold in 1984 and the community center plan was abandoned, and in 1986 the city suggested making the building into 14 apartments, but also did not happen. Frank Scaglione, a Washington alumnus who bought the building in 1984 and did not want to have it torn down, repaired the school which had suffered from vandalism and since 1988 it has been rented to Child Care Centers. The building, which has a great view of downtown, is currently vacant.
Salvation Army Building (former Nabisco building): 219 E. Court (1920)
219 E. Court was built in 1920 at a cost of $1,000,000 to house the new factory and distribution office of the National Biscuit Co. (NaBisCo) for central Iowa. It was necessary to vacate an alley to accommodate the size of the building. The large windows for light were common in factory and warehouse buildings of that era. The entire building became the Salvation Army Warehouse and Distribution Center in the early 1960s, after the newer 3-story Salvation Army building to the west at 211 E. Court was built in 1956. In September of 1999 the building was closed due to improper asbestos removal. In 2008 the building had several feet of water in it from flooding and it was used for a short time in 2009 as an Events Center. The Salvation Army requested in early 2021 that the building be razed and replaced with a new structure for their use, but the plan was not approved due to land use issues. March 17th of 2022 the owners requested that the remaining portion of the east-to-west alley be vacated and the request was unanimously approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission. Current plans for the building are unknown.
Butler Apartments (Gaslamp): 1501 Grand Av./510 Fifteenth St. (1906)
Over 115 years old, the four-story Butler Apartment/Gaslamp Building was
constructed in 1906 with 16 apartments and two retail spaces. Of the Renaissance/Georgian style; it is a good example of the early 20th century designed buildings which combined commercial and residential design. The HS Chase Grocery Store and Meat Market was the original tenant of both of the retail sections facing Grand and the 16 apartments used the 15th Street address and entrance. At this time there are 23 apartments. For at least fifty years the commercial bays have been home to music venues such as Blues on Grand and Vicky’s Pour House. Gaslamp, the most recent occupant has announced it will close July 9, 2023. The closing noticed stated the building will be included in further redevelopment in the Gateway District, but Gaslamp was not in that plan. Having passed through several owners in the last few years, a subsidiary of the Kum & Go Corp. bought this building and the Jefferson Apartments in 2015 as plans were being made for their new headquarters just across the street to the east. The Krause Group, now known as Krause+, has already successfully applied for $23M in state tax incentives to redevelop the area in 2025.
The Jefferson Apartments: 1519 Grand Ave. (1915)
Constructed in 1915, the Jefferson Apartment Building was purchased in 2015 by the Krause Group at the same time as the Krause Group bought the Butler Apartments. A building permit for 52 apartments was requested by Harry Herndon Polk in April of 1915. A café opened in the building in September of 1915. In 1938 the Bankers Life Company remodeled the building, making the 52 larger apartments into 72 smaller units. According to a Register article by Kim Norvell of August 2, 2021, it is planned to be rehabbed. At that time the tenants were told their leases would not be renewed so the extent of the repairs needed could be assessed better when the building became vacant. The rents were very affordable and are expected to increase after the building is redone, but the company pledges to keep some of the units affordable. Even though the company would prefer to not to raze the structure, it is still a possibility if the extent of the repairs needed becomes too costly.
Lustron Home: 4504 Fleur Drive (1948)
In response to the post WW2 housing shortages, the Lustron homes with about 1,000 square feet of living space were developed because they could be manufactured at a low cost and built on a slab in a short time. Most had two bedrooms, kitchen, dining room and living room, eight closets, a utility room and bathroom and cost about $8,000 on a lot. Matching garages were available. They have modern pastel colored porcelain-enameled construction steel panels on the outside with interior walls of steel and complete built-in features of metal cupboards, vanities, mirrors and drawers and a three-purpose washer, dryer and dishwasher unit. Additionally the heating was by radiant panels fueled by oil; the homes are fire, rust, decay, fade, stain, vermin and termite-proof and cleaning is by only soap and water. In July of 1948 H. B. Buckbaum & Co. brought the first Lustron to Iowa and the Midwest. and it was the 5th in the country, to 4343 Chamberlain Av., across from Roosevelt High. When this Fleur Drive Lustron was built in 1948, Fleur Drive was predominantly residential and on the edge of town, but it was becoming more commercial due to the city expanding to the south and the construction of the airport in 1933, and a new passenger terminal in 1948. Gray’s Lake developed after 1955 and brought more changes. Homes were being turned into restaurants such as Rocky’s White Shutter Inn and Johnny and Kay’s. Formerly Bloomfield Road, Fleur Drive is named for Captain Edward O. Fleur, a casualty of WW1. The home remained as a personal residence until 1996 and then became a home and business for ventures such as a Psychic Reader and Photographer. It has been vacant since 2019.