Feb 27, 2024 - News

Des Moines' Temple Chess & Poetry Garden is decommissioned

A photo of the Des Moines Chess & Poetry Garden.

Artist Siah Armajani designed the special chess tables pictured for the project to encourage social interaction. They were recently removed. Photo: Courtesy of the Greater DSM Public Art Foundation

Temple Chess & Poetry Garden has been permanently decommissioned.

Catch up quick: Located between the Temple for Performing Arts and the downtown library, the garden cost $305,000 to build and was commissioned about 20 years ago by the Greater DSM Public Art Foundation.

  • It was a gift from the family of Bennett Webster, a metro attorney who died in 2002.

Driving the news: The outdoor installations were not intended to be permanent. They were previously repaired multiple times but were again in need of work, city spokesperson Debbie McClung tells Axios.

  • Project donors, the foundation and city officials determined the garden had served its designated purpose and that deinstallation was a better choice than refurbishment, McClung says.
  • The agreement was approved by the City Council last week.

State of play: The chess tables have already been removed but decorative fencing, pavers and a raised planter box will remain.

  • There are no immediate plans for significant upgrades to the space, Parks and Recreation director Ben Page tells Axios.
Temple Chess & Poetry Garden without the chess tables.
The park as it looks now, without the chess tables. Photo: Jason Clayworth/Axios
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