Title: Book chronicles ups and downs of East Village
Author: Cynthia Reynaud
Publisher: Des Moines Register
A new book about Des Moines' East Village paints a picture of just how much the area has changed during the past century.
"East Village," the latest in Arcadia Publishing's Images of America series, uses local resident accounts and more than 200 vintage photographs to share the history of the area between 1908 and 2008. The book hits shelves on Monday.
"It really tells the ups and the downs and the ups again," said author Sarah Oltrogge.
Oltrogge has worked for the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, a state agency housed in the State Historical Building located in East Village, since 2000. "East Village" is her first book.
"When you go back and look at these images, it was just astounding to me what this neighborhood was and what it looked like compared to what it looks like today," she said.
In the early part of the 20th century, the streets were lined with storefronts and bustled with blue-collar industry. Railroads provided convenient travel and industrial development.
By mid-century, though, East Village suffered. People began to choose suburban shopping malls over traditional mom-and-pops. By 1990, buildings were in disrepair and crime was increasing.
Today, several of the original buildings are gone. It has taken the work of a group of dedicated individuals, along with assistance and cooperation from the city, to revive and develop the East Village into the trendy multipurpose neighborhood it has become today.
"It has just blossomed," said Oltrogge, who watched first-hand as many of the recent changes occurred.
Oltrogge served as a board member and president of Historic East Village Inc. for several years during the neighborhood's revival. Recently, she has become involved in the historic preservation of some of the culturally significant structures in the area as well.
"We had too many years where the history of this area was just ignored," she said. "I think there's definitely been a shift in that thinking now. Des Moines is finally seeing a value in its history."
Oltrogge said she hopes her book will help enlighten more people about the area's background so that it can be incorporated into the future as development continues.
"Most people see what East Village has become today. I don't know if they really think about how it was 100 years ago," she said. "Just having them be exposed to that is pretty cool."