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Case Studies

Salisbury House Historically Significant Museum Restored to Former Glory

Salisbury House Historically Significant Museum Restored to Former Glory

Salisbury House Historically Significant Museum Restored to Former Glory
Posted on: Aug, 05, 2014

Foundation of Salisbury House 

In the heartland of Des Moines, Iowa, there exists a gem of a museum called Salisbury House. Built in 1928 as the family home of Carl and Edith Weeks, the 42-room mansion graces a 10 acre estate.

Salisbury House in Transition

The Weeks family occupied Salisbury House for 26 years, then donated the home to Drake University. However, the University could not take advantage of the property and sold it to the Iowa State Education Association in the 1950’s for use as office space. The maintenance and costly repairs to such a unique structure soon began to overwhelm the association, and they were faced with selling the property.

Local preservationists recognized the value of this beautiful estate and formed the Salisbury House Foundation in 1993 to negotiate its purchase and restoration.

A New Beginning

Renovation of Salisbury House started in 1996. Restoration plans called for the creation of a visitor center in what was formerly the carriage house. This segment of reconstruction, initiated in 2001, presented some serious challenges.

Construction Challenges

The carriage doors had been removed and replaced with windows. Separating walls had been dismantled, the brick, painted. Although the archives at Salisbury House contained original house blueprints, these documents were not necessarily a reflection of reality.

Scott Brunscheen, Director of Salisbury House, “I tried to find the very best people and products for the restoration. My challenge was to honor the original design, yet meet the new usage as a gathering place for tours. The Carriage House turned Visitor Center would have to allow safe entry and egress for large crowds, while complying with current codes.”

The Process

Using a combination of blueprints and old photos, the architectural firm determined the original composition and design of the unusual bi-fold carriage doors and hardware.

Drawings from 1928 referenced Richards-Wilcox product, so the architect contacted the company to inquire whether track, hangers, support brackets, handles, strap hinges, backplates, and spring bolts were still in production.

Dan Lorden, National Sales Manager, was consulted to find a solution. “Most of Richards-Wilcox hardware manufactured today has a more modern look, but some of the pieces are actually identical to the original design in Salisbury House. With input from the Richards-Wilcox Engineering Team, we committed to create the missing specialty items to match the original design.”

New laser cutting technology resurrected designs that had been made obsolete. Within a short time, the “antique” hardware was ready to ship and install on the new carriage doors.

Seeing the hardware in place drew this reaction from Dan Lorden. “When I visited Salisbury House after the installation, it was incredible to see the restored beauty of this museum. I was very proud that Richards-Wilcox had been part of the original construction in 1928, and was delighted to help in providing continuity and authenticity in the restoration.”