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Des Moines History – The MacVicar Freeway

It seems that unless you are over 40, you would probably not know what “The MacVicar” was.  Sometimes referred to as the “McVic” it used to be a common name of Interstate I-235 Freeway that takes travelers through the heart of Des Moines.  The stretch of freeway begins and ends at the intersections of I-80 and I-35.  From the northeast mix-master to the the west mix-master, this stretch of freeway runs approximately 14 miles.


The correct spelling is MacVicar, although most people dropped the “a” in Mac, I suppose due to the popularity of McDonalds.  But the truth is that it was named after two gentlemen, John MacVicar Sr and John MacVicar Jr, both of whom were Mayors of Des Moines.  John Sr was mayor more than once (1896–1900, 1916–1918, 1928) and John Jr served as Mayor from 1942 to 1948.  The Des Moines city council designated I-235 as the John MacVicar Freeway in October of 1963 to honor both men.  Today the name is seldom used and most people simply refer to the stretch of road as I-235 or “the freeway”.

I propose that those of us that are “over 40” start a new trend in River City and start referring to I-235 as the MacVicar Freeway again!  If we are successful in renewing this name, we can take on the task of bringing back the weather beacon!

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