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.

The ISEA Years by Sheila Bingamann

saliisbury guide book cover

The ISEA Years

Each year in the late 1960s the Iowa State Education Association (ISEA) held a convention in Des Moines during October. For those of us in the Des Moines Schools it meant an all-day recess in the beautiful fall weather. During their convention, ISEA opened the Salisbury House for tours by their members. In 1969 as a senior at nearby Roosevelt High School, I was honored to be a student-guide in the House. I recently found my notes from this tour and the Guidebook published by ISEA with a copyright of 1967. These documents record how the house was used by the ISEA.

The First Floor

Only a few rooms on each floor were available to tour. The first floor rooms included the Great Hall, the Common Room and the Library. According to my memory, the Common Room still had its original draperies in 1969. The Library or as the ISEA referred to it the “Rare Books Library” had become the office for the secretary to ISEA’s Executive Secretary. The Dining Room was the Executive Secretary’s office. The breakfast room was work space for two additional secretaries. The kitchen and pantries were office space for the Publications Division of ISEA.

The Second Floor

To access the rooms on the second floor, we merrily went up and down the main staircase on the Wilton Carpet. The only rooms on public view were Mrs. Weeks’s bedroom, Mr. Weeks’s bedroom, the Coachman’s Room and the Queen Anne Room. Mrs. Weeks’s sitting room was the women’s lounge. Mrs. Weeks’s beautiful lavender bathroom was the women’s public toilet (Oh My!). Mr. Weeks’s bathroom served at the men’s public toilet. (Was it during this time that the marble sink was broken?) His bedroom was the ISEA board room with the dining room table used as the board room table. The four boy’s bedrooms were used as office space.

Basement and Third Floor

After the ISEA members were given tours of the first and second floors, the tour continued up the back staircase to the third floor. The third floor was used as offices for the Public Relations and Research Divisions of ISEA. Steel cupboards that had previously been in the kitchen and pantries were relocated to the third floor for storage.

After touring the third floor, the ISEA members proceeded down to the basement level which housed more offices for various ISEA divisions. There is a reference on page 27 of the Guidebook to a gymnasium in the basement. Finally, the Indian Room was used as a conference/dining room with a kitchen/cafeteria next to it.

The Mystery of the Dining Room Table

One of the ongoing debates at Salisbury House was whether the dining room table (circa 1600) was cut down by the Weeks or ISEA. The Guidebook appears to answer that question:

“The board room table was originally the dining table in what is now the executive secretary’s office. It has been refinished and restyled but is still supported by the carved bulbous legs of the original table. The table top is now narrower at one end to give all board members a full view of the chairman.” (page 25)

Pictures and Furniture Moved

A number of pictures and some major pieces of furniture were exhibited in different locations. The Van Dyck portrait of Cardinal Rivarola was displayed in the Common Room. It had been loaned out for an exhibition of Van Dyck’s work at Genoa, Italy (Cardinal Rivarola’s home town). The Guidebook claims that the painting is “one of the three greatest of Van Dyck’s works.” (page 16)

The Warwick Romney (now no longer thought to be a genuine Romney) and George Romney’s portrait of Lady Charlotte Milnes were hung in the Dining Room. Both of these paintings are now in the Common Room.

Two Stella paintings were in the East Passageway. These included the Birth of Venus now in the Great Hall and Tree of My Life which was sold by the ISEA for much needed funding.

Finally the choir stalls from Wimbourne Abbey that are now in the upstairs passageway were located in the Friendship Hall.

I hope you have enjoyed this walk down memory lane. A copy of the Guidebook and my notes are available for perusing.  Feel free to have the admissions desk associate in the Great Hall of the museum to show you these, if you’d like.

Salisbury House Guide book back cover

Salisbury House, 1935: Grant Wood, Thomas Hart Benton, & Carl Weeks

On a January afternoon over eighty years ago, two celebrated American artists visited Des Moines as guests of Carl Weeks.

Grant Wood and Thomas Hart Benton, increasingly famous for their Regionalist art, lectured at Hoyt Sherman Place as guests of the Des Moines Women’s Club in the winter of 1935. The Des Moines Register covered the event and noted that, “Appearing in a gray suit in need of pressing and assuming a nonchalant, slouchy stance with hands in trouser pockets, Benton…launched into a detailed explanation of the development of art through the various ages.”

A newspaper clipping from The Des Moines Register picturing Thomas H. Benton seated in the middle with Grant Wood on the left and Carl Weeks on the right.

Next, the artists motored several blocks to Salisbury House. Carl Weeks, Grant Wood, and Thomas Hart Benton were photographed together in the Library at Salisbury House. All three appeared to be having a grand time!

We can’t say for certain if Wood and Hart Benton stayed the night at Salisbury House (it seems likely.) However, we do feel confident that Carl and Edith would have entertained their guests in fine style.

The Weekses acquired a Benton painting while they lived at Salisbury House. This work was later gifted to the family of Hud Weeks, Carl’s third son. To the best of our knowledge, the Weeks family did not own an original Grant Wood painting…but they’ve got an amazing story!

Grapes of Wrath title page

The title page of a 1940 edition of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath published by the Limited Editions Club and illustrated by Thomas Hart Benton, Salisbury House Permanent Collection.

Main Street illustrated by Grant Wood

An illustration by Grant Wood from a 1937 edition of Sinclair Lewis’s Main Street published by the Limited Editions Club, Salisbury House Permanent Collection.


Books illustrated by Thomas Hart Benton and Grant Wood from the Salisbury House Permanent Collection can be seen on display in the Library during a regular guided tour of Salisbury House through January 28, 2018.



Satchmo at Salisbury House

Legends about Salisbury House abound. Lately, we’ve been thinking about one in particular: the oft-told story that Louis Armstrong, the giant of twentieth-century jazz, once stayed at Salisbury House after a 1949 performance in Des Moines. Satchmo is at the forefront of our minds these days, as this summer marks the return of a fan-favorite event at Salisbury House. Our Louis Armstrong birthday celebration is back!



We have two days of festivities planned. The first, hosted by the Salisbury House Young Professionals, will take place on Saturday night (August 2). Young folks (21-35) who want to partake in A Hot Piece of Brass are welcome to attend. On Sunday (August 3), we’re throwing open the doors of Salisbury House to all visitors, and two bands will be playing on the south terrace throughout the afternoon. A $15 ticket gains you entrance to the House and to the entertainment for this Louis Armstrong Birthday Bash.

Aside from all the merriment, your correspondent wondered: how accurately can we trace the legend of Louis Armstrong’s visit to Salisbury House in 1949? To be sure, an abundance of anecdotal sources indicate that the jazz great visited and/or stayed at the Weekses’ home. However, can the story be confirmed via archival sources? Might a stray newspaper article or two trace Louis’ path from a gig in Iowa to the Great Hall of Salisbury House?

Certainly, Satchmo had a long history in the Hawkeye State. As early as the 1920s, he played in a band on a Mississippi riverboat with several ports of call in Iowa. The the steamers would turn around in Davenport to head back south, and Armstrong recalled playing a variety of Iowa towns during those days. It was also during this period of Armstrong’s life, according to some accounts, that he met Bix Beiderbecke, the legendary trumpeter from Davenport.

Armstrong continued to toured widely in the 1930s, and he also appeared in several films. By the 1940s, his touring dates continued to include Iowa.

On August 1, 1940, the northern Iowa Milford Mail  ran a piece about the performances slated for the upcoming Iowa State Fair. Louis Armstrong and his band, among other performers, were booked to play on August 28, 1940 as part of the fair’s “swing festival.”

Louis at State Fair 1940

Three years later, Armstrong performed at another Iowa landmark. The Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, hosted the “Trumpet King of Swing,” as reported in Mason City Globe-Gazette on July 24, 1943.

The Surf 1943

In addition to these well-known Iowa venues, Armstrong played smaller towns and concerts halls as well. In July 1949, the Waterloo Sunday Courier reported that the jazz legend was slated to play at the Marcon Ballroom, located just south of Iowa Falls.

Marcon IA perfomance 1949

So: the question remains. In the midst of Armstrong’s semi-regular visits around the the state, where did Salisbury House fit into this story? The (partial) answer appeared in a file saved in a Salisbury House staff computer folder.  According to this piece – which was likely printed in the Des Moines Register  – Armstrong and his band were invited to Salisbury House by Evert “Hud” Weeks, following a performance at Hoyt Sherman Place in Des Moines.

While this electronic clipping lacks any firm identifiers in terms of printing date or source, it does seem to settle the question. Yes! Louis Armstrong did, in fact, visit Salisbury House.


Still, there’s more to the Louis Armstrong legend as it has come down to us over the years. Some folks say that the Weekses invited Armstrong to stay overnight at Salisbury House because racist policies at local hotels barred people of color. However, no archival source are currently at hand to prove this story. If this story was true, perhaps it would have been included in the above article as well.

Satchmo_Finland 1949Jack Teagarden, Louis Armstrong, & Barney Bigard. Helinski, Finland, 1949.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_Armstrong#mediaviewer/File:Satchmo_Messuhallissa.jpg

We do know that this 1949 visit to Des Moineis was not Satchmo’s last visit to the state. In 1954, for example, Armstrong played the Lake Robbins Ballroom in Woodward, Iowa. He then stayed the night at the Hotel Pattee in Perry, Iowa. The hotel, still in operation today, memorializes the musician’s visit in their Louis Armstrong Suite.

Louis Armstrong died in 1971, but his legacy remains strong today. We at Salisbury House are lucky enough to claim a connection to this American legend. Come out and celebrate with us this weekend!