Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Sherman Hill's Sheuerman House

This old house at 1605 Woodland Ave. in Des Moines' Sherman Hill National Historic District, now on the market for $595,000, is one I've walked or driven by many times and been curious about. The entertaining thing about Realtor listings is that, sometimes, the urge to snoop can be satisfied with a few mouse clicks.

Although --- interior photos included with the listing focus on the distinctive and thoroughly modern apartment inserted in the previously under-finished third floor and the stunning first-floor kitchen, 21st century dropped unexpectedly into the 19th.

This photo of the grand walnut staircase rail, stripped of paint and restored, and the stained glass windows that light the stair gives some idea of the home's first-floor features. The first-floor restoration apparently has been completed since Realtor photos were taken, but to get some idea of what it looks like now you're going to have to go to this Web site mantained by owner York Taenzer, who rents that area out for occasional entertaining.

Look under "pictures" and you'll see what the fully restored staircase looks like, as well as other areas of the first floor. You'll even see President Obama, who spent New Years Eve here during 2007.

Here's a view of the house from the southwest, showing how those stair-stepped windows fit into the exterior scheme of things.

The Web site also includes a good history of the house, including the information that it's had a tower transplant. Although a tower was original equipment, it was removed by a later owner and replaced by a gable, then rebuilt after restoration began during the 1980s.

According to the Web site history, the house was built in 1884 by Leopold and Matilda Sheuerman, who raised 10 children in the home's 18 rooms (a planned third-floor ballroom was never finished). He was president of Capital City Woolen Mills and lived in the house until 1914 (Matilda died during 1894). At the time the house was built, this neighborhood --- then known as Oak Hill --- was one of Des Moines' finest. I'm guessing that the Sheuermans are buried in wonderful old Woodland Cemetery, now the western boundary of Sherman Hill.

William and Marie Grose purchased the house in 1929 and turned it into a rooming house. They removed the tower. It later served as a nursing home, with more than 50 residents; then as a halfway house; and then it sat empty for several years. Many of its interior features were substantially altered or removed during those years.

In 1984, Norma Hirsch, a physician, purchased the house and began the restoration process. The third-floor apartment was hers (this is a photo of one of the third-floor bedrooms). She also replaced the tower  and renovated the first and second floors so that they could be occupied, but did not restore them. York Taenzer purchased the house in 2005 and, with Hal Davis, went to work on the lower floors.

I really like the top-floor apartment as well as the contemporary interiors created as spaces to cook and entertain on the first floor (see those on the Web site) which allow original features to shine (although there probably were none left in the kitchen). But then I don't particularly like overstuffed Victorian interiors, especially when they're attempts to recreate (unless there's a good historical reason for doing so) something that has long since vanished. Others grumble about such things, however, and insist a 21st century kitchen should somehow "look" 19th.

These are photos of the first-floor kitchen, which I could feel really well-organized in --- until I reduced it to the level of squalor that usually reigns in the one I've got.

If you're interested in learning more about Sherman Hill, the Sherman Hill Association has a Web site here. Briefly, this was a grand residential neighborhood edging downtown Des Moines to the north that had deteriorated dramatically by the 1970s when the first urban pioneers moved in.

They picked the name Sherman Hill during the National Historic District nomination process, to honor Hoyt Sherman (William Tecumseh Sherman's brother and founder of the Equitable Insurance Co.), whose substantially altered brick mansion with later auditorium, now known as Hoyt Sherman Place, still has pride of place in the neighborhood.

It's been many years since I had the right connections to rise and take a morning walk through Sherman Hill, but it's looking good and I may have to drive up and do that again one of these day


Anonymous said...

When it was for sale a few years back, a friend and I toured it. It was hopelessly out of our price range, but I wanted to see it. I admit that I would have preferred to see the first floor restored in a period fashion, but that does look nice. It is still my dream house.

Daisy1Oopsy said...

This home was the childhood home of my grandfather, Jacob Leopold Sheuerman along with his many brothers and sisters. Some of whom went on to marry very famous people. The census of 1900 mentioned a driver to man the carriage to deliver family members to business and daily excursions.

The home had to be a bustling gathering spot and when i see the stairs i can envision the ladies coming down the stairs in their long lovely dresses. And on the front porch, family members, lemonade and sugar cookies awaiting the horse drawn Ice Wagon to chill the afternoon refreshments. Oh for the good ol' days. And bless this house and all who lived here 100 + years ago.

A thankful granddaughter whose mother's birth day is 11/17/1913.
And special thanks to those who saw the beauty of this home and have spent endless days/years restoring it. Thank you especially York Taenzer. Linda Joan Reppert