The Salisbury House
300 years of history
Des Moines, Iowa
November 2nd, 1998

   Map name   Treasures are where we find them. Like precious stones, they lay about us, lost in the commonplace surroundings of our daily lives. We have to but look to discover them, but rarely do. Des Moines, Iowa, is in the middle of the state where I-80 and I-35 meet. We had wanted to do a story on the living farm museum but had found it had closed for the season. In looking around for something else, Laura came across a brochure for the Salisbury house. It sounded intriguing so we set out to find it.  Although nestled on a winding back street, the directions and signs were sufficiently clear to make the drive an easy one. Here we met Ann Pross, the associate   Salisbury C1   director of the Salisbury house foundation. A delightful lady who was most helpful.    Salisbury 18   We were not able to tour the house that day due to previous commitments, but set up a meeting for the next day with Kay Morgan. Arriving the next morning around 11:00, we met with Kay who would delight us with the now famous tale of the house that Weeks built. A tale that unfolded in the roaring 20’s when the Midwest was still being developed. Carl Weeks, while touring Europe, developed an idea to mix cold cream and face power, creating the first foundation makeup available in the US. His aggressive marketing techniques for his Armand Cosmetic Company soon made the pink and plaid box desired around the world, and Carl Weeks a millionaire.    Salisbury 05   He would finally make the box design into a family crest. Carl prided himself on tackling big jobs. He was known for “Doing a big thing in a large way.” It was with this enthusiasm that he would develop one of his biggest challenges. The creation of his dream home, a Tudor-style manor, for which the inspiration had come from a trip to England. During the trip he and his wife Edith, had found a delightful old building known as the King’s House. Upon their return, the Weeks employed architects and contractors, to build a house which would retain most of the features of the King’s House. The design incorporated the three distinct historical periods represented in the original: a flint and stone portion dating from the Tudor times (1885-1603); an older Gothic porch dating from the reign of King John (1167-1216); and the most recent brick addition originating in the time of Charles I (1625-1649) . Work on the house started in 1923 and would continue for 5 years. The finished home features four stories and 42 rooms totaling 22,500 square feet.    Salisbury 19   Every detail of construction right down to the material used, would be personally supervised by Mr. Weeks, although his brother-in-law, Paul Van Slyke oversaw the day-to-day construction. Much chaos would occur among those involved, with Mrs. Weeks and Mr. Weeks giving contradicting instructions to different architects. The creation of the Great Hall which was not part of the original concept and was only added as a result of the New York architect, William Rasmussen, convincing Mr. Weeks to add this    Salisbury 02   room. He also suggested that part of the cost could be written off to company expense.  In doing this he was able to move the cost of the building from its 150 thousand dollar price tag to over 3 million dollars at completion. An important and very unusual building element used in he house was the flint work. This difficult building method was virtually unheard of in the U.S. Construction crews had to be taught by Mr. Weeks, how to knap or crack the chalky white stones to expose the shiny black flint inside, which was then cemented into the walls. The main portion of the roof was made of newly hand-crafted clay tiles designed to match the look of a 300 year old roof.

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