Salisbury House: A Hidden Historic Treasure is Awaiting your Visit

Looking for a romantic getaway but don’t have the time or money to go too far? Look no further. The Salisbury House & Gardens is one of the top romantic, world-class cultural and artistic destinations in Iowa.

This hidden treasure was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977. The Salisbury House is a fusion of Tudor, gothic and Carolean styles. It gets its name because it is modeled after a king’s home in Salisbury, England. After seeing the mansion, Carl and Edith Weeks, Iowa natives, knew that it would serve as the inspiration for the home they would build. The Des Moines house and gardens, located on Tonawonda Drive, were built in the 1920’s. Because of its intricate detail and design, the mansion took almost three years to build.

The family gave Drake University rights to the house and gardens for fine arts purposes. Iowa State Education Association is also involved through a deal with Drake and the Weeks family. They purchased these rights for $200,000 in 1954. After the Weeks’ died, the mansion was taken under by the current Salisbury House foundation and began restoration.

The mansion is always decorated for the holidays and hosts holiday related events throughout the year. There are family friendly activities Halloween at the event, Mysteries of the Castle. At Christmas, there is a Holly and Ivy tour.

Seven-year-old twins Ted and Peter Swanson, neighbors to the Salisbury House, said that they enjoy walking their dog around the property. “It looks like a castle,” Peter said, “There’s a lot of cool old stuff inside at the museum. My mom likes all of the flowers in the big gardens.” Their mother, Tilda Brown Swanson is a glass artist in Des Moines and creates pieces for gardens and other unique settings. Her art was just featured in the Glass in the Garden exhibit at the Botanical Center.

The Salisbury House and Gardens are a non-profit organization, so donations are always accepted to help with maintenance and restoration. There are also several membership plans for those who feel inclined to give on a regular basis. These are based on three different levels:

Individual

  • Priority news and event announcements via email
  • Option to join the Salisbury House Young Professionals (if you are between the ages of 21 and 35)
  • $35

Household

  • Priority news and event announcements via email
  • Option to join the Salisbury House Young Professionals (if you are between the ages of 21 and 35)
  • Membership benefits for two adults and children under 18 from the same household
  • $60

Friendship

  • Priority news and event announcements via email
  • Option to join the Salisbury House Young Professionals (if you are between the ages of 21 and 35)
  • Membership benefits for two adults and children under 18 from the same household
  • Invitation to donor recognition event
  • $100

People interested in getting involved can also volunteer at public events or by guiding tours or providing interpretations. Volunteers have the opportunity to experience culture and art. An application can be found online.

Right now, the gardens are filled with budding flowers, just waiting to blossom. Spring is right around the corner at the Salisbury House.

Operating Hours

The Salisbury house is open to the public from 10:00 am – 5:00 pm Tuesday through Saturday and 12:00 pm – 5:00 pm on Sundays, and is available for tours and events. These events can take place in the gardens or mansion, also home to a museum, library and concert hall. There are events that are open to the public such as daily tours or yoga in the gardens.

If you’re looking for a place to host your next event or even just somewhere to take a relaxing and scenic Sunday stroll, make sure to add this historic treasure to your list.