Recognized locally for the distinctive appearance of its brick homes, the Beaverdale Neighborhood continues to attract families because of the very traits that appealed to early suburbanites who moved here; well-built traditional style homes, tree-lined streets, and its closeness to shopping, work, and parks. The activities and accomplishments of the neighbors themselves are a major factor that draws new residents to the area. The residents have a long tradition of community support through active neighborhood associations that have brought significant improvements to this part of the city. Once considered the rural, western edge of nineteenth century Des Moines, the region consisted of large land tracts devoted to fruit orchards and truck farms. Early traffic crossed the area on an unpaved stagecoach highway known, since before the Civil War, as the Fort Dodge Stage Road. The road was renamed, Beaver Avenue, in 1903 and was later improved in 1917 with brick paving. The entire northwest section of Des Moines was commonly known as Urbandale until 1917 when the name was formally adopted by an adjacent suburban village. Soon afterwards City residents from the area met and selected Beaverdale as the name to identify their neighborhood.
Initial development of this section of Des Moines was encouraged by its first neighborhood association, the Urbandale Improvement League, begun in 1907. The goals of the original Improvement League were to bring churches, schools and better roads into the area. During this same period, the City of Des Moines platted a business district that eventually supported 16 different shops. The City also began routing horse-drawn streetcars (later exchanged for interurban railcars) on hourly schedules to meet the need and convenience of area commuters and shoppers.
Most of the subdivisions were developed in the period between 1920 and 1940, when cars were becoming an essential part of every household. A major phase of construction occurred after the economic depression of the 1930s. Federal mortgage financing was created to encourage home buying. The local developers followed a variety of traditional home designs and they incorporated the latest trends in electrical conveniences into their plans. It was during this time, in 1938, that the fashionable Beaverdale Brick homes, built by local contractor E.T. McMurray, appeared. For the most part, the subdivisions were laid out in basic grid patterns, a convenient standard throughout Midwestern urban development. Two exceptions, Maryland Park and Ashby Manor, are notable for their winding drives and their early attention to design elements that create distinctive and attractive home settings.
Beaverdale is the largest of the fifty-one recognized neighborhoods. Bordered by Meredith Drive and Forest Avenues on the north and south, and from 30th to 48th Place on the east and west, the neighborhood encompasses 143 blocks.
The Beaverdale Neighborhood contains over 50 acres of public parkland that offers a variety of recreational activities. The three City parks located in this area are Ashby, Beaverdale, and Witmer.
Ashby (10.5 acre) is located at 38th Street and Davisson Avenue in the north central part of the neighborhood. This park supports a variety of sport activities: basketball, volleyball and tennis courts and a baseball diamond. For young children, play equipment and a wading pool are available. A covered shelter is open year-round for picnics or parties.
A community-designated park, Beaverdale Park (20 acres) is located in the northeast corner of the neighborhood at 34th Street and Adams Avenue. Beaverdale Park is designed as a passive park with accommodations for various types of ball fields and picnic facilities.
The third neighborhood park is Witmer. This 22-acre recreation area offers ball diamonds, basketball, horseshoe, and tennis courts. There is also a wading pool for small children. The park is located at 34th Street and Witmer Parkway in the southeast section of the neighborhood.
Just outside the neighborhood is Tower Park. This 8-acre park site is adjacent to the southwest corner of the neighborhood, at 50th Street and Hickman Road.
The Beaverdale neighborhood is home to three public elementary schools and one private school. Monroe, Perkins, and Hillis Elementary schools serve the majority of elementary age children in the neighborhood. There are no upper-level schools located within the immediate neighborhood. Students from this area attend Callanan, Harding, and Meredith Middle Schools and Hoover or Roosevelt High Schools. Drawing its student population from all areas of Des Moines the parochial school, Holy Trinity, offers classes from K through eighth grade.
The U.S. Veterans Administration has a large hospital campus located in the northeast corner of the neighborhood. When included with Beaverdale Park, these two public-owned facilities dominate the northeast quadrant of the neighborhood.