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Ola Babcock Miller Building

Quick Facts

Building Name, Address:

Ola Babcock Miller Building, 
1112 East Grand Avenue, Des Moines

Primary Occupants:

Department of Education - State Library, Legislative Services Agency, Office of Citizens' Aide/Ombudsman

Years Constructed:

1899 - 1910

Designers & Builders:

Smith & Gage


The Ola Babcock Miller Building is one of the oldest and grandest buildings on the Capitol Complex, dating back to 1899. It was the second significant Iowa government building built on the Capitol Complex, after the Statehouse. Originally the Historical, Memorial and Arts Building, it now houses the State Library, the Ombudsman's offices, and legislative offices. The building was renamed in 2002 for Ola Babcock Miller, the first woman to serve as Iowa Secretary of State and founder of the Iowa Highway Patrol.

Although she is noted for being the first woman to sit on the Iowa Executive Council (as Secretary of State from 1932 until her death in 1937), Mrs. Miller's most outstanding achievement is considered to be the founding of the Iowa Highway Patrol, in an effort to promote highway safety. In 1933 the Motor Vehicle Department was under the Secretary of State. Shortly before taking office, a close friend of Mrs. Miller's lost her son in an automobile accident. Up until that point, there was no organized highway safety program in the state. Miller directed her 15 "inspectors" to begin enforcing road safety regulations, which subsequently decreased the number of automobile deaths and injuries. She also led an early campaign against drunken driving.

Mrs. Miller was active in the women's suffrage movement during the 1920s and served in leadership positions in numerous organizations, including president of the Iowa State Chapter and International Chapter of the P.E.O. Sisterhood. She would become one of the first four women inducted into the Iowa Women's Hall of Fame in 1975.

When the State Historical Building on East Locust was opened in 1987, much-needed space was added for state archives and the historical museum, which moved to the new building.

The Ola Babcock Miller Building underwent extensive renovation beginning in 1999 - one hundred years from the laying of the cornerstone during its construction. The renovation, completed in 2002 when the building was renamed, included basic improvements to bring the building up to standard fire safety guidelines and updates to technology for the facility, but also restored the original grandeur of the building through painstaking adherence to original plans for the building that, when it was first opened, was declared to be "one of the most imposing and beautiful edifices in the State."

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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The main floor of the Ola Babcock Miller Building is decorated for the holidays. The mosaics, made of tiles from England, on all floors in the rotunda are original to the building.

Photo by: Quality Automation Graphics

The Ola Babcock Miller Building was originally called the Historical, Memorial and Arts Building. The figures in the beautiful stained glass window overlooking the grand staircase represent these elements. Images on the left represent the arts, in the center a woman holds a book of history, and on the right are books representing the library.

Photo by: Quality Automation Graphics

View of the vivid murals and intricate details on the third floor of the Ola Babcock Miller Building.

Photo by: Quality Automation Graphics