History of Hoyt Sherman Place

1827-1904: Major Hoyt Sherman

Born in 1827, Hoyt Sherman was the youngest son of eleven children. His family included older brothers, John Sherman, the writer of Sherman Anti-Trust Act, and Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman.

Hoyt Sherman arrived in Des Moines in 1848, and shortly thereafter, he was appointed Postmaster. He built the first post office and bank, he served on the town council, and he was very involved in local and state politics. In 1850, Hoyt purchased five acres of land for $105. President Abraham Lincoln appointed him the Army Paymaster at the start of the Civil War, with the rank of Major.

Upon his return, Hoyt teamed up with others and created Equitable of Iowa Insurance Company. During this time, he also gave his counsel, his time, and his money to ensure Des Moines had schools, including a college, a waterworks system, and many more facilities.

In 1877, Hoyt Sherman Place, the family home, was completed with the help of architect William Foster. Almost immediately, it is noted in writings to be, "a society showplace of the grandest scale." Among its distinguished guests in history are General Sherman, General Grant, General Sheridan, and Major McKinley.

In 1893, Hoyt Sherman rented his home out to The Sister's of Mercy from Davenport, Iowa. Within the walls of the home, the Sisters created the first Mercy Hospital. It held 52 beds and operated for nearly two years.

Sherman and his wife, Sara, raised five children, Frank, Addie, Charles, Arthur, and Helen, in the home. Major Hoyt Sherman passed away in January 1904.    

1907-Present: The Des Moines Women's Club

Hoyt Sherman Place stood empty after Hoyt's death until 1907 when members of The Des Moines Women's Club began using it as their clubhouse. The DMWC added a gallery to display their art collection and thus, Hoyt Sherman Place became the first public art museum in Des Moines.

The Des Moines Women's Club, always active in the community, invited many guest speakers to Hoyt Sherman Place to entertain and to educate. Speakers included Amelia Earhart, Helen Keller, and Grant Wood. Eventually, they needed more room for their speakers and activities, and the 1,400-seat theater was completed in 1923.

Hoyt Sherman Place is still home for The Des Moines Women's Club. They meet every Wednesday, October through May. For more information about the DMWC, visit their website.

Hoyt Sherman Place Today

Now, over one hundred years since Hoyt Sherman built his home, Hoyt Sherman Place, which includes an impressive and elegant art gallery and also a grand and historic theater, is still a popular attraction.

In 2003, the facility underwent a large renovation project to restore the spaces to their original grandeur and also to add present-day amenities including state-of-the-art electrical fixtures and heating and air conditioning systems. After the renovation, the theater now contains 1,252 seats. In addition to the large scale upgrades within the theater, the mansion and art gallery underwent several updates over the years. These include refinishing the original hard wood floors, hand-stenciling finishes on the mansion walls, and launching our Art Restoration campaign. This ongoing campaign aims to restore the priceless pieces housed within the facility in the hopes that art lovers of all ages can enjoy these beautiful treasures for years to come.

With the help of the Des Moines Women's Club and the Hoyt Sherman Place Foundation, this historical landmark is alive with concerts, art exhibits, tours, weddings, and business affairs. In 2015, Hoyt Sherman Place was inducted into the Iowa Rock 'n' Roll Music Association Hall of Fame for its continued excellence in providing a beautiful venue in which musicians can perform and for its rich history of presenting music to the masses.