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Des Moines Historical Society Undertakes Historic Funeral Home Tour

Posted November 08, 2012 in Des Moines West, Downtown, Community Web Exclusives, Windsor Heights

DES MOINES – One of Des Moines’ most elegant and historic funeral homes will be the subject of the next tour hosted by the Des Moines Historical Society.

The tour will be held at Iles Funeral Homes – Dunn’s Chapel, 2121 Grand Ave., Des Moines, Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012 at 6 p.m. The tour is designed for dues-paying members of the Des Moines Historical Society, but the public is welcome to attend and join that evening in order to participate. More information on the tour and membership is available at

In 1926, after more than 20 years in the business, LeRoy Dunn was making plans for a funeral home at 2121 Grand. At the time, some of the city’s funeral directors were moving their businesses into grand and stately homes, but Dunn’s vision was to make his location amongst the grandest. For this project he purchased three adjacent homes on the north side of Grand from the Harbach family, who were also funeral home owners.

An addition was built to join the two houses, forming a massive, new colonial style funeral home. (The original plans called for the third house to become a flower shop but that never materialized.) The home and business have ties to Grant Wood, who lived in its third floor for a period of time to paint.

Wood was introduced to LeRoy Dunn shortly after Dunn’s Funeral Home moved to its current location and Dunn immediately commissioned Wood to paint a portrait of the funeral home’s beautiful atrium fountain. While in residence, Wood also completed paintings of trees by the Des Moines River, the Soldiers and Sailors Monument near the State Capitol and an outside view of Dunn’s Funeral Home. Each painting was completed before Wood honed the regional style that made him famous.

Though the original works have been given to the Des Moines Art Center, replicas hang in the Library at Dunn’s Funeral Home. Located on Grand Avenue just west of downtown, Dunn’s is the most historic of the funeral homes owned and operated by Iles Funeral Homes. Founder Charles Iles acquired Dunn’s from the family of LeRoy Dunn in 1978.

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