History of Hoyt Sherman Place

Hoyt Sherman

Hoyt Sherman

Hoyt Sherman was born in Lancaster, Ohio, on November 1, 1827. (1) He was the 10th of 11 children. Two of his older brothers--the Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman and Senator John Sherman, known today as the author of the Sherman Antitrust Act--had rather illustrious careers. The home where Hoyt was born is currently Lancaster's Sherman House Museum.

Arriving in Des Moines, Iowa, at the age of 21, the ambitious young man soon partnered with other business entrepreneurs. Together they pursued land speculation and, in 1849, built the city's first post office and bank. At the start of the Civil War, President Lincoln appointed Hoyt Sherman as Army paymaster with the rank of major. (2)

Hoyt and Sara Sherman
ca. 1855

After the Civil War, Hoyt returned to Des Moines and in 1867 became one of the founders of the highly successful Equitable Life Insurance Company. He was elected the company's president in 1874. During this period, he gave time and money toward the growth of Des Moines's schools, colleges, and civic organizations. He also represented Polk County in the Iowa legislature from 1866 to 1868. (3)

Sherman Family Reunion at the Home of Senator John Sherman in Mansfield, Ohio, 1885
Senator John Sherman, Sixth From the Left
General William Tecumseh Sherman, Fifth From the Right
Hoyt Sherman, Third From the Right

In 1877, Hoyt and his wife, Sara, built their magnificent family residence, which came to be known as Hoyt Sherman Place. Together they had five children. The home quickly became “a society showplace of the grandest scale” featuring parquet floors, marble fireplaces, and elegant trimming. Early guests included General Sherman, General Grant, and General Sheridan. (4) In 1898, Hoyt became president of Des Moines's Board of Charities. Hoyt Sherman died in 1904 and was buried in Woodland Cemetery in Des Moines.

Hoyt Sherman Place
Des Moines, Iowa

Hoyt Sherman
Grave Site

Hoyt Sherman Place Foundation

After Hoyt Sherman's death, his home remained empty until 1907, when the Des Moines Women's Club leased the building as a meeting space. (5) The Sherman heirs gifted the house to the city of Des Moines soon thereafter. The city entered into a 100-year lease for $1 per year with the Women's Club; in return, the club agreed to raise funds to build an art gallery in the home to showcase their collection.

Hoyt Sherman Place Art Gallery

Hoyt Sherman Place Art Gallery

A second gallery offering a combined gallery space of 2,860 square feet was added in 1923. That year, a 1,400-seat theater was completed for speakers, performances, and activities. The 1907 lease agreement remained in effect until 1995, when the Hoyt Sherman Place Foundation was formed. At that time, the city turned the property over to the foundation and the Women's Club agreed to give their art collection to the foundation. In 2003, upgrades to the theater were completed. Today, Hoyt Sherman Place is one of Des Moines's unique cultural institutions, combining a historic home placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977, an elegant art gallery, and a magnificent theater.

Hoyt Sherman Place Auditorium

Hoyt Sherman Place Auditorium

In May 2012, Hoyt Sherman Place requested an examination of their painting collection in the hope that funds could be raised for treatment purposes. What started out as a benevolent, well intentioned undertaking led to the discovery of a major art treasure: a lost Old Master painting. The conservation program and discovery will be reviewed on the following page.

Page 3--Adopt a Painting/First Discovery

Page 1--Introduction,   Page 2--History of Hoyt Sherman Place,   Page 3--Adopt a Painting/First Discovery,
Page 4--Provenance,  Page 5--Examination,   Page 6--Treatment,   Page 7--The Letters/Second Discovery,
Page 8--Attribution, Page 9--Ut pictura poesis, Page 10--Final Thoughts/PBS Video


1. Biographical information taken from http://uipress.lib.uiowa.edu/bdi/DetailsPage.aspx?id=342, http://ir.uiowa.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=5650&context=annals-of-iowa, http://data.desmoinesregister.com/famous-iowans/hoyt-sherman, https://www.legis.iowa.gov/legislators/legislator?ga=11&personID=5296, http://hoytsherman.org/.
2. Below photo courtesy of Hoyt Sherman Place.
3. Below photo courtesy of the Fairfield Heritage Association/Sherman House Museum, Lancaster, Ohio.
4. Quote and information taken from http://hoytsherman.org/.
5. History of Hoyt Sherman Place Foundation from several phone interviews with Mr. Robert Warren, executive director, Hoyt Sherman Place.



Barry Bauman Conservation
Contact: Mr. Barry Bauman
1122 N. Jackson Ave., River Forest, IL. 60305
Ph.(708)771-0382  Fax.(708)771-1532