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Grimes Building

Quick Facts

Building Name, Address:

Grimes Building, 400 East 14th Street, Des Moines

Primary Occupants:

Civil Rights Commission, Department of Education, Iowa Communications Network

Years Constructed:

1965 (planning) - 1968 (building was occupied)

Designers & Builders:

Smith Vorhees Jensen - Architects Associated
Frank N. Bunker - State Architect
Fane F. Vawter & Co. - General Contractor
Central Plumbing & Heating - Mechanical Contractor
Brown Brothers, Inc. - Electrical Contractor


The James W. Grimes State Office Building, completed in late 1967/ early 1968, was the second general-use office building constructed on the Capitol Complex, the Lucas Building being the first. At the time of its construction it was hailed as a “contemporary-style building” that emphasized simplicity in its design. On the outside walls, alternate panels are recessed about four feet with glass panels in the set-back space. From the road, however, the building appears to have no windows.

The Grimes Building was also designed to hide all pipes, vents and rooftop air conditioning equipment by a low enclosure on the roof. George Shane, an art critic for The Des Moines Register newspaper, noted of the design in 1965 that “some might find in the extended roof a pleasant hint of the Oriental digressions of Frank Lloyd Wright or Edward Durrell Stone but there are no clichés or impedimenta to interfere with the design’s forth-right simplicity.”

The three-story building, which also has a basement, cost approximately $3 million to construct. Governor Harold Hughes laid the cornerstone, and the Legislature named the building for James W. Grimes, the third governor of Iowa. Prior to becoming governor, Grimes was a member of the Iowa Territorial Legislature. He was a political enemy of Governor Robert Lucas, even asking the President to remove Lucas from office. Interestingly, the first two general state office buildings on the Capitol Complex were named “Lucas” and “Grimes” in 1966.

During Grimes’ time as governor, the state Capitol was moved from Iowa City to Des Moines. Governor Grimes approved the present location of the Statehouse. He went on to be elected to the U.S. Senate in 1858 and again in 1864, and gained notoriety as a Senator for breaking party ranks, along with six other Republican senators, and voting against the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson.

James Wilson Grimes died in Burlington, Iowa, in February 1872 at the age of 55.

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
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The windows of the Grimes Building are set in four-foot regressions of the outside wall panels.

Photo by: Darcy Pech

View of the Capitol from the Grimes Building. The Lucas Building (left), World War II Memorial Plaza (center), and the Ola Babcock Miller Building (right) can also been seen.

Photo by: Darcy Pech

The World War II Memorial Plaza, dedicated November 1997, sits to the west of the Grimes Building. Incorporated in the Plaza is the Pearl Harbor Memorial, which was dedicated on Veterans Day, November 11, 1991.

Photo by: Darcy Pech