Quick Facts

Building Name, Address:

Lucas Building, 321 East 12th Street, Des Moines

Primary Occupants:

Attorney General Offices, Auditor of State Offices, Department of Human Rights, Department of Inspections & Appeals, Department of Management, Department of Public Health, Iowa Communications Network, Iowa State Patrol, Secretary of State Offices

Years Constructed:


Designers & Builders:

Tinsley, Higgins & Lighter - Architect-in-Chief
Anthony & Hunter - Associate Architect
Beuttler & Arnold - Associate Architect
Wetherell & Harrison - Associate Architect


Known for many years simply as the "State Office Building," the Lucas State Office Building is the oldest - and was for several years the only - general office building on the Capitol Complex. Planning for the Lucas Building first began in 1941 but construction was delayed by the Second World War. Construction finally began in 1949 and was completed in 1952.

The Lucas Building wasn't named until 1966, when construction was nearing completion on a second state office building. The state building committee at the time agreed that it wouldn't make sense to call one the State Office Building while giving the new building a name, or to have two "State Office Buildings."

The six-story Lucas Building was so named for Robert Lucas, recognized as Iowa's first territorial governor, serving from 1838 to 1841. Ironically, the other office building was named for Governor Lucas' political foe at the time, James Grimes.

The need for a general office building was recognized long before the Lucas Building was completed and occupied. In fact, as early as 1919 the state legislature appropriated one million dollars for a "temple of justice" to relieve some of the crowding in the Capitol. By the 1940s and '50s, however, it was recognized that the most urgent need was for general office space. Up until then, several state departments were housed in rented space in downtown Des Moines office buildings, or occupied legislative committee rooms when the Legislature was not in session.

Planning for the state's first general office building began in earnest around 1941, but those plans were soon affected by World War II. A newspaper article from that time said that planners were still determined, however: "A never-say-die state office building committee decided Wednesday to send a representative to Washington, D.C., to determine if the supplies, priorities and allocations board meant to include the proposed $1,650,000 Iowa office building in its recent ban on public construction."

Construction was indeed delayed, further efforts to move forward with construction thwarted by a shortage of building supplies such as steel, as well as a shortage of draftsmen and construction workers.

Architects were still interviewed and selected, however, and a site location on the east side of the Capitol narrowly won out over a spot to the northwest of the Capitol, approximately where Iowa Workforce Development is located today.

Plans for the exterior of the Lucas Building called for Indiana limestone to "harmonize with the state historical building," which is now called the Ola Babcock Miller Building. At the time, it was the only other major construction, aside from the Capitol, on the Capitol Complex.

The new state office building was designed to face a park-like "mall" area stretching from the east of the Capitol, thus the main entrance faces in a northerly direction and not toward nearby East 12th Street or Walnut Avenue.

The building itself was designed to be a "utilitarian" facility, and the plaque inside echoes this sentiment, stating that the Lucas Building was "dedicated to efficiency and economy in government."

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 and LEDs
  • Incandescent bulbs replaced with energy-saving compact fluorescent lamps and LEDs
Lucas 1 Lucas 2 Lucas 3
Main entrance to the Lucas Building.
Gold colored doors with ornate brass detail above.

Photo by: Quality Automation Graphics

Hallway on the sixth floor of the Lucas Building.

Photo by: Quality Automation Graphics

View of the Capitol dome from the Lucas Building.

Photo by: Quality Automation Graphics