High Street – A New Life at Salisbury

In the summer of 1923, Carl Weeks was venturing home after a day at the Armand Company factory and came upon workers tearing up High Street, located in downtown Des Moines. High Street had been approved for new paving in February of 1923 to improve grading and make safer intersections.

Des Moines Register article informing citizens of work – Article published February 5, 1923

Carl was building a home historically inspired by an English manor known as the King’s House and had been sourcing materials from all over the world for the build. It has been said that once during construction, Carl announced, “If this house doesn’t look one hundred years old the day it is finished, we have failed.”

King’s House, Salisbury, England – Photo taken in 1922

When High Street was being removed, Carl was still in the beginning stages of construction, finalizing plans and sourcing materials. Contractors would not break ground on Salisbury House until October of 1923. The High Street bricks, which had been in place for 20 – 25 years, had a distinctly worn quality that spoke to Carl’s intention of creating a new building the looked centuries old.

Construction on the north west corner of the garage at Salisbury House – Photo taken December 8, 1923

In Carl’s own words –

“One day in driving down town they were tearing up High Street. I looked at the brick and built about a ten foot wall two or three feet high. Then I went to the contractor and said, “What are you doing with the brick?” He said, “We are hauling them to the dump.” I said, “Why not let me haul it?” I did, and so all the handsome antique bricks in Salisbury House cost us the price of the hauling.”

South east corner and excavations of site – Photo taken December 8, 1923

Carl ended up taking almost two blocks of the old paving brick, a total of 90,000 bricks in all. On November 10th, 1923, workers laid the first bricks. Local men worked as bricklayers, masons, and plasterers and were paid anywhere from 70 cents to $1.35 per hour.

North west corner of the garage and cottage – Photo taken January 8, 1924

One house story passed down through the decades, states that when Carl saw how slowly the brick walls were going up, he told the workers that they would get an extra dollar for every brick they laid. Needless to say that after this, the walls flew up.

West wing of Salisbury House – Photo taken summer of 2020

Today, the bricks from High Street can be seen primarily on the west side of the house – in the walls of the cottage, historic garage, and friendship hall.

Major Events During the Life of Carl Weeks (Part 1: 1870-1900)

Carl Weeks lived during an innovative and quickly evolving time, seeing major wars and technological inventions. The late1800s and early 1900s saw humanity change drastically, and so this post is split into several sections to look at the significant world moments in the life of Salisbury House creator, Carl Weeks. The first of these sections to be discussed are the early life years (1876-1900).

Carl Weeks in 1879

The 1870s-1890s – Born in 1876, Carl’s grew up in the years directly following the U.S. Civil War – known as the Reconstruction years. The deadliest war in U.S. history took five years after the Civil War’s end to recover and reunite the deceased with their loved ones. The whole country required a rebuild of economy and infrastructure. The Reconstruction also saw Black Codes introduced, later known as Jim Crow laws, laws put in place to restrict and segregate the recently freed African American community. An unfortunate reality from the Reconstruction phase is that the racial injustice and violence present during those years persists to this day.

A saloon warning its customers that will only serve whites – Atlanta, Georgia 1908
New York Public Library

Carl’s youth and young adult life saw the United States engaged in numerous battles and wars with the Native American peoples of the country in its quest for Westward expansion. These events, later to be known as the American Indian War, would include – the Apache Wars (1851-1900), Great Sioux War of 1876 (1876-1877), Buffalo Hunters’ War (1876-1877), Nez Perce War (1877), Bannock War (1878), Cheyenne War (1878-1879), Sheepeater Indian War (1879), Victorio’s War (1879-1881), Pine Ridge Campaign (1890-1891), and the Yqrui Wars (1896-1918).

American Indian Wars
American Indian Wars – By the Office of the Chief of Military History

In 1898, the U.S. went to war with Spain after the USS Maine explosion in the Havana Harbor in Cuba. Cuba was engaged in the Cuban War of Independence, fighting against the Spanish colonial rule. After just 10 weeks of fighting, Spain called for peace. After two months of negotiations, the war was over, and the U.S. had gained Spain’s colonies – the Philippines, Guam, Puerto Rico, and Cuba.

Political cartoon about the Spanish-American War

Following the conclusion of the Spanish-American War, the United States engaged in the Philippine-American War (lasting from 1899 through 1902). Conflict arose in the Philippines after the First Philippine Republic (a government established by Filipino nationalists) objected to the Treaty of Paris. The treaty, which concluded the Spanish-American War and gave the Philippines to the U.S, had not taken the population’s wishes into account. They wanted their independence from yet another colonizing force. Fighting broke between the Philippine Republic and the U.S. on February 4th, 1899, at the Battle of Manila. After years of brutal fighting, General Miguel Malvar surrendered to the American government on April 16th, 1902. Guerrilla-style fighting would continue for several more years, but the U.S. would consider these soldiers as little more than bandits and not a threat to U.S. rule. America would hold control over the Philippines until after the conclusion of World War II.

While the first few decades of Carl’s life are rife with domestic and international conflict, we do not have accounts from him regarding an impression or impact on day-to-day life. Iowa has had only a limited amount of fighting done within its borders and of the battles fought in Kansas, only a handful were during Carl’s lifetime, and the loss of life was minimal. In fact, the only war that has a known link to Carl is the Philippine-American War as Carl’s sister, Della, served as a nurse during the conflict.

Political cartoon about the Philippine-American War.

The next installment will look at the early years of the 1900s, focusing on the impacts of tech advances, the sinking of the Titanic, and World War I.

Precisionism in the Collection of Carl and Edith Weeks: A Look at the Works of Joseph Stella

Carl and Edith Weeks were fans of the Italian/American artist, Joseph Stella, and during their tenure as owners of Salisbury House, collected four of Stella’s paintings – King of the Beggars, Tree of My Life, The Birth of Venus, and Apotheosis of the Rose. Today, the Salisbury House Foundation retains in its collection three beautiful Joseph Stella paintings. Each painting dates to a different year and illustrates the evolution of his artistic style.

Joseph Stella painting Apotheosis of the Rose

On June 13th, 1877, Joseph Stella was born to a middle-class family in Muro Lucano, Italy. Full name Giuseppe Michele Stella, he Americanized it when he took up residence in New York. Coming from an educated family consisting of attorneys and doctors, Stella originally planned to follow in their footsteps and moved to New York to pursue a medical degree in 1896. However, this plan was abandoned when he left medical school to pursue art. During his professional career, Stella’s artistic style would evolve several times.

In the 1920s, Stella was introduced to Carl and Edith Weeks through the art dealer, F. Dudensing. This initial introduction led to the development of a friendship between artist and patrons. Stella frequently corresponded with the Weeks and stayed at Salisbury House upon its completion as a residence.

Title – King of the Beggars
Style – Academic Realism, Year – 1900

As mentioned above, the Weeks’ collected several of Stella’s works, the earliest being King of the Beggars. The painting was completed in 1900 and represented Stella’s Academic Realism phase, his earliest style. Academic Realism was taught to young artists in art school but was criticized by Impressionist and Avant-garde artists due to its highly idealized, smooth, and polished feel. This type of painting style often contains allegorical nudes and theatrical figures.

Following his shift from Academic Realism, Stella became an illustrator for a magazine. It was during this time that he began an industrial series featuring Pittsburgh. Disenchanted with America and longing for his native Italy, Stella returned to his homeland in 1909. While back in Italy, Stella became acquainted with Modernism and Futurism, inspired, his later work took on a whole new air.

When he returned to New York in 1913, Stella joined the cultural circles of Alfred Stieglitz, Marcel Duchamp, and Walter Arensberg. His paintings took on a geometric quality, full of sweeping lines, bold colors, and linear movement. While known for his futuristic designs, Stella was also inspired by botanical and nature scenes – this artistic movement, while similar to Futurism, lacks the mechanical and industrial elements, is only found in America, and was categorized as Precisionism.

Title – Tree of my Life, Style – Precisionism, Year – 1919

Futurism was an artistic and social movement that originated in Italy during the early 1900s. Stella’s Futuristic works focus on speed, technology, lines of force, and movement. Looking at the last three paintings that the Weeks’ collected from the artist, they are all categorized as Precisionism.

Title – The Birth of Venus, Style – Precisionism, Year – 1920

Influenced by Futurism and Cubism, Precisionism utilizes shafts of light as rigid lines, striking coloration, and geometric renderings. The angularity of the animals, linear vegetation, and bold coloring harken back to Stella’s cityscapes. Unlike other artistic movements of this period, Precisionism has no presence outside of the United States and was only active for about 20 years before falling out of favor after World War II.

Title – Apotheosis of the Rose
Style – Precisionism, Year – 1926

By the 1930s, Stella’s style had fallen from favor, and his antagonistic personality had alienated him to would be collectors and contemporaries. The Weeks family would also fall out with the artist. The conflict was rumored to be caused by Stella’s quarrelsome nature and unfaithfulness to Mary French. In the years following World War II, Stella’s health began to decline. In 1946, he passed away from heart failure. Today, the Salisbury House Foundation retains three beautiful Joseph Stella paintings in its collection.

The Dumaresq Family: The Coats of Arms Around Salisbury House

In our last post about heraldry and the coats of arms found around Salisbury House, we did some looking into the hatchment hanging in the Great Hall where there is an “escutcheon”. Today, we will be looking at the escutcheon a bit further.

escutcheon: in heraldry, a shield, typically referring to a smaller shield or crest placed over a larger one

Great Hall Hatchment Escutcheon – Close Up

As mentioned previously, this is the crest of someone from the Dumaresq family – which we know by looking at the top left quarter. Today we will be walking through how to trace genealogy through a crest, using this as an example. Reading left to right, top to bottom, we see the order that families married in.

In this case:

Dumaresq marries Dumaresq, whose son marries Bagot, whose son marries Payn, whose son marries Larbelestier.

Diagram of partial Dumaresq family tree

What is interesting (and could be debated) is the last quarter. What could have happened is either

1: another Dumaresq married in


2: Larbelestier was the last notable family to marry in, leaving an odd number of quarters and an empty space.

When the second situation happens the first quarter (in this case, Dumaresq) is repeated in the last quarter. Currently, we are unsure which is the case here. Where these marriages occur in this order in the Dumaresq family tree is quite a few generations before Frances Dumaresq, who we believe this belonged to. However, our research is ongoing and we are excited to bring more information.

Stay tuned for the next update on the coats of arms around Salisbury House.

Coats of Arms at Salisbury House

For those unfamiliar, heraldry is the study of family crests and coats of arms, and like anything else deeply studied, it can be a bit complicated. From understanding the rule of tinctures to scrolling through rolls of arms, we at Salisbury House have been doing a deep dive into the crests and coats of arms found throughout the house.

Most are familiar with what a family crest looks like, and Salisbury House’s own Carl Weeks had one.

Weeks Family Crest – Great Hall

Family crests are passed down through the patrilineal line, going from father to son (with some elements added to differentiate between father the sons). Crests can be added onto or combined with other pre-existing crests in a process is called “marshaling.” Crest marshaling was done for several reasons, one of which was the celebration of marriage. Carl Weeks did just that for his personal crest, combining the Weeks coat of arms with Chamberlain, Carl’s maternal side.

Weeks/Chamberlain Crest – Common Room

This style splits the shield in half, showing the paternal family’s crest on the left and maternal family on the right. Another common way to add crests is through “quartering.” Looking at the Chamberlain side of the crest above, we see an example of just that and how it looks when added into other crests.

Quartering Example – Found With the Suit of Armor Near the Main Staircase

As time goes on and arms added to the family crests, one creates a “pedigree” of sorts, showcasing the notable families within a person’s genealogy. After hundreds of years, something like this may happen:

Hatchment – Great Hall

The crest depicted can be overwhelming, but there are some things worth noting right off the bat. The first is the shape: this large diamond with the black border marks this as a hatchment. A hatchment is the coat of arms for someone deceased.

The second is the layering, with a larger crest in the back and a smaller over the center. This smaller shield is called an “escutcheon.” This shows the paternal family in the back on the larger shield, and the maternal smaller in front. By adding the maternal crest in front instead of adding more quarters (which was also possible), the lineage of the wife is preserved. The owners of the hatchment would most likely do this if she were a “heraldic heiress.”

Escutcheon – Close Up

This means that the wife in the couple had no living male relatives to carry on the family coat of arms, so it went to her.

To learn who this may belong to, look to the top left corner. When there is quartering in a crest, that quarter is the “original,” if you will, and is the name carried through the family.

With that, we know that the larger crest belonged to the Lempriere family.

Lempriere coat of arms at St Ouen’s Manor

And that the smaller crest belonged to the Dumaresq family.

Dumaresq coat of arms at Trinity Church

As of right now, we believe that this hatchment is that of Vice-Admiral George Oury Lempriere (m. Frances Dumaresq). However, our research continues as we search through the genealogy of both the Vice-Admiral and the hatchment.

Stay tuned for updates on the hatchment and the other crests at Salisbury House as we discover more.

October – December 2020 Featured Book: Den Geheelen Bibel

Grinnell College Libraries Feature: Den Geheelen Bibel

(Holy Bible in Dutch)

This Bible was published in 1553 and was one of the oldest religious books in the Weeks family collection. Published after the Reformation (1517), this Bible was created during a time when Protestantism was gaining strength in the Netherlands.  

Publication place: Netherlands

Publication date: 1553

Descriptive notes: Book bound in vellum or alum-tawed and has red stamping around the foredge. Inside are multiple wood-cut printed pictures.

Fun facts:

  • There are 1,189 chapters in the modern English Bible.
  • The oldest man mentioned in the Bible was 969 years old.
  • The full Bible has been translated into 683 languages.
  • Leonardo da Vinci’s “Last Supper” and Michelangelo’s “Creation of Adam” are the most replicated paintings.
  • The first complete Dutch Bible was published in 1526 in Antwerp and is known as the Statenvertaling or States’ Bible.
  • King Henry VIII’s Great Bible of 1539 was the first authorized of edition in English.

The Traveling Toad of Salisbury House

Two of the first things one encounters when entering the Great Hall of Salisbury House is the pair of 18th-century bronze, Japanese toad statues. These oversized garden creatures are guest favorites and have children and adults alike, exclaiming excitement when they see them.

It is unknown when or through whom Carl Week purchased the toads, they are believed to have entered the Salisbury House collection between 1925 and 1929. Traveling from Asia to America, the Weeks installed the toads outside Salisbury House leading up to the South terrace. The toads stood guard outside for several decades….

…That is until one started partaking in nocturnal travels.

Des Moines Register article from August 18th, 1957

In 1954, Carl and Edith Weeks sold Salisbury House and the collection to the Iowa State Education Association. Much remained the same for several years, that was until 1966.

Des Moines Tribune article from March 8th, 1966

On March 8th of 1966, unknown persons stole the toad to the left of the terrace steps from Salisbury House. The Des Moines Tribune reported on the theft.

The Des Moines Register article from March 9th, 1966

March 9th, Jessie Schaeffer found the toad abandoned in his residential driveway. Schaeffer turned the traveling statuary over to local police, who saw it safely back to Salisbury House. No information was available at the time as to why of who took the toad.

Iowa City Press Citizen article from October 31st, 1966

Pranksters stole the same toad on Monday, October 31, just seven months after the first theft. The toad was located later the same day on the steps of the Iowa capitol building.

Quad City Times article from November 1st, 1966

This time the event was reported to be the work of teens making mischief on Halloween. Once again, the toad was returned to Salisbury House and installed on its outdoor pedestal in the South garden.

Des Moines Tribune article from October 31st, 1967

After being taken twice in 1966, thieves again took the Salisbury House toad from the terrace on October 31st, 1967. As this was the third abduction in two years, the Iowa State Education Association moved both toads indoors.

1967 article from unknown paper

As this was the third abduction in two years, the Iowa State Education Association moved both toads indoors. While the toad’s traveling days are over, its many journeys around Des Moines continue to delight. Make sure to stop by soon to see the ‘Traveling Toad of Salisbury House!’

The Kings House: Centuries of Inspiring Architecture

When you walk through the door of Salisbury House, you are immediately transported back in time; this is all thanks to the Kings House in Salisbury, England.

The Kings House, Salisbury, England – 1923

Carl and Edith Weeks happened upon the centuries-old building in the early 1920’s while on a trip to England and knew they wanted the home they were building in Des Moines, Iowa, to have the same timeless presence.

Kings House (Left) – Salisbury House (Right)

Though not an exact replica, the similarities between Salisbury House and the Kings House are striking.

Kings House (Left) – Salisbury House (Right)

While Salisbury House’s story began in the 20th century, the King’s House was constructed throughout hundreds of years. First referenced in 13th-century documents, the King’s House was the residence of the Abbot of Sherborne Abbey and was known as the Court of the Abbott of Sherborne.

The property underwent a restructuring in the 15th century; this construction work can still be seen as the central frontage. In the 16th century, the Dean and Chapter of Salisbury Cathedral let the property to secular tenants, and the north end of the house was extended.

Engraving of the King’s House showing exterior prior to the 1634 addition.
1923 photo of the 1634 addition to the King’s House

During the reign of Henry VIII and the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539, the property became known as Sherborne Palace.

Henry VIII Monk Hunting at the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Illustration by John Leech from Gilbert Abbott A’Beckett’s Comic History of England, Bradbury, Agnew & Co., London, 1880.

The property would earn the name the ‘Kings House’ after visits from King James I in 1610 and 1613.

Portrait of King James I and VI
Royal seal of James I – Located in the collection of Salisbury House & Gardens

Throughout the following centuries, the house would continue to be altered and subdivided, used for tenancy, a school for young ladies, and a college.

King’s House, Salisbury England – 1923 – Classroom in the former common room

In 1981, the King’s House became the new home of the Salisbury Museum. Today the museum offers eight permanent display spaces and three temporary exhibition galleries and is open to visitors Thursday through Sunday.

The Salisbury Museum, Salisbury, England

Though both properties have a distinct look, it is evident which features from the Kings House were reproduced by Carl and Edith across the pond. From the team here at Salisbury House, we hope you enjoy the following photos that illustrate the reverence the Weeks family paid to the King’s House through their imitation.

King’s House – Gothic Portico 1923
Salisbury House – Gothic Portico Reproduction
King’s House – Gothic Portico Ceiling 1923
Salisbury House – Reproduction Gothic Portico Ceiling
King’s House – Porch Room 1923
Salisbury House – Porch Room
King’s House – Great Hall 1923
Salisbury House – Great Hall