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Iowa History Daily: September 16 - Ottumwa's Coal Palace

Iowa History Daily: On September 16, 1890, thousands gathered in Ottumwa’s Sunken Park alongside the Des Moines River for the grand opening of the city’s Coal Palace. The 200’ tall and 230’ wide Gothic and Byzantine structure celebrated the foundational role of coal in the development of southeastern Iowa.

Initially organized by prominent Ottumwa citizens Henry Phillips, Calvin Manning, and Peter Ballingall, the group set out on “erecting a coal palace to proclaim to the world the rich gifts of nature in southern Iowa.” With feverish boosterism the group helped raise tens of thousands of dollars by selling shares in the project to local citizens.

By the late-summer of 1890, high battlemented walls shone as the rising sun illuminated the jet of coal covering the structure. At the Inauguration Governor Horace Boies led a procession accompanied by the Iowa State Band as eager citizens from far and wide pressed in to admire the exhibits, waterfall, and working coal mine housed in the Coal Palace.

Visitation peaked later in the fall when President Benjamin Harrison addressed a crowd estimated in excess of 10,000 people. Although the Coal Palace seemed destined for continued success, visitation tailed off during a second season and crews demolished the structure in 1892. #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryCalendar

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