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Jessie Parker Building

Quick Facts

Building Name, Address:

Jessie Parker Building, 510 East 12th Street, Des Moines

Primary Occupants:

Department of Corrections, Department of Education - Vocational Rehabilitation, Department of Elder Affairs, Iowa Ethics & Campaign Disclosure Board, Parole Board, Public Employment Relations Board

Years Constructed:

1959, with expansions and additions ca. 1969, 1977

Designers & Builders:



The Jessie M. Parker State Office Building was originally known as the Vocational Rehabilitation Building. In 1988 it was renamed to honor "a distinguished Iowa native who gave a lifetime of caring and dedication to Iowa's youth and to persons with disabilities," thereby becoming the first Iowa state office building named after a woman.

The State's Vocational Rehabilitation facility started out as a house, according to historical documents. Gradually additions and expansions were added to the house, until it was finally torn down and replace with additional office space. It was, at least in part, Ms. Jessie Parker's work to ensure the facilities at this location were accessible to those with disabilities that would eventually lead to the Vocational Rehabilitation Building being named for her.

Jessie M. Parker was born February 25, 1879 in Black Hawk county and grew up in Lake Mills, Iowa. She furthered her education at colleges and universities in Grinnell, Iowa; Cedar Falls, Iowa; Des Moines; and Valparaiso, Indiana. From 1897 to 1915, Parker taught the third and eighth grades in the Lake Mills school system and became the city's first woman high school principal. When she became superintendent in 1927, she was appointed school supervisor and inspector for Iowa's Standard Rural Schools. In 1938, Parker became State Superintendent of Public Instruction. As superintendent, Parker reorganized the school system, established professional teacher certification guidelines, expanded curriculum aids, revised the school accounting system, and developed the "home-to-school" phone system for ill children. Parker served one term on the Lake Mills Community School Board. In recognition of her contributions to education, Parker was included in the 1940 edition of Who's Who in America. Parker died May 1, 1959. Following her death, the Mills Graphic newspaper wrote: "The impact of her leadership and promotion of education has been felt throughout Iowa, barring possibly only a few schools to which she has not made a personal visit."

Parker was inducted into the Iowa Women's Hall of Fame in 1986 and the Vocational Rehabilitation Building was renamed in her honor in 1988. Today the Jessie Parker Building houses a number of agencies outside of Voc Rehab, including the Parole Board, Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board, and others.

Green Features

  • Free cooling
  • Optimized steam heating
  • Air Handling Unit (AHU) economizers
  • Lighting schedules and Air Handling Unit (AHU) occupied/unoccupied schedules are programmed through the building automation system
  • Fluorescent lighting upgraded to efficient T-8 lamps with electronic ballasts
  • Incandescent bulbs replaced with energy-saving compact fluorescent lamps
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In 1988 the Jessie Parker Building became the first state office building named in honor of a woman.

Photo by: Darcy Pech

This glass divider wall separates an employee lounge from the reception desk.

Photo by: Quality Automation Graphics

A display case in the Department of Corrections showcases items made by Iowa Prison Industries.

Photo by: Darcy Pech