West Des Moines, Iowa

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West Des Moines is a city in Polk, Dallas, and Warren counties in the U.S. state of Iowa. As of the 2000 census, the city population was 46,403; a special census taken in the spring of 2005 counted 51,744 residents and the United States Census Bureau estimated that 53,889 residents lived there in 2008.[1][2] West Des Moines is the second-largest city in the Des Moines metropolitan area and the ninth-largest city in Iowa. It ranked 94th in Money magazine's list of the "100 Best Places to Live and Launch" in 2008.[3]. It is one of Iowa's largest and wealthiest cities and one of Des Moines's richest suburbs.



The West Des Moines area used to be home to the Sac and Fox tribes. Near the stroke of midnight on 11 October 1845 a gunshot was fired by a cattle farmer, James Cunningham Jordan (born 1813; died 1893) and the tribes left. His residence, the Jordan House, has been restored and is now home to the West Des Moines Historical Society. In West Des Moines' early years, the town was a trading and shipping junction. West Des Moines incorporated as the city of Valley Junction on October 9, 1893.

In its early days Valley Junction was home to the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad's switching facilities and repair shops due to its location at the junction of several railroad lines. The Rock Island's facilities moved out of Valley Junction and back into Des Moines in 1936.

The speed limit of ten miles (16 km) an hour had existed in Valley Junction since 1911 for all automobiles. But in 1915 an Englishman named Jack Prince built a one-mile (1.6 km) oval race track, designed to let race cars break that speed limit ten times over. The wooden track was made of 980,000 feet (300,000 m) of 2x4's laid on edge. It was one of 24 such tracks nation-wide; with seating for over 10,000 people. On 1915-08-07, the eyes of the auto world were on Valley Junction in anticipation of the fastest 300-mile (480 km) auto race in history. Ralph DePalma, winner of the Indianapolis 500 that year, was one of at least a dozen drivers vying for the $10,000 purse. Before a crowd of 7,000 people, a tire blew, lunging Joe Cooper's car over the rail. Later while rounding a curb, a wheel of Billy Chandler's Duesenberg failed, cartwheeling the car into the infield and fatally injuring his mechanic, Morris Keller. Chandler was seriously injured. Smiling Ralph Mulford won the race with DePalma a close 2nd. This baptism by blood left a bad taste in the mouth of the locals, and the track was closed two years later. The wood was salvaged and then used to construct buildings in Valley Junction.

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