40th Anniversary of Home Tour Offers Door to the Past

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DES MOINES, Iowa –People can get a peek into the past on the Doors to the Past Sherman Hill Historic Home Tour the next two weekends.

When Carrie McCollum and her husband bought their Sherman Hill home last November, she knew they had a project. "You think what you want to do is one or two projects, but then as you get into it, and walls are torn open, and you see things or have visions of what you want it to be, sometimes the process, and the budget just gets bigger."

The reward is all the stories inside the home at 20th and Woodland Avenue. "It was built somewhere around 1880," said McCollum.

From the original doorbell, to the creaking step, and all the treasures upstairs. McCollum said, "A lady's hat pin was found under one of the layers of flooring, a lady's watch was found, and an old-time baby diaper."

They also found containers full of newspapers, "We have found all these are full of Des Moines Register, Saturday Evening Post, different ads from the '20's and '30's that were stuck up in the attic. We even found a Chicago phone book from 1929."

You'll realize why that was handy for the long-ago homeowners when you go to the basement. Rumor has it, people came to the home for alcohol during prohibition. "We are taking it back to the fun of the speakeasy we've kept the old pie safe."

McCollum will open the lower level of her home for the Sherman Hill Home tour. People can see how they're renovating the basement while keeping true to the home's roots. "We have an ongoing mural being made to give, again, a nod to the prohibition time."

This is the 40th year for the Doors to the Past walking tour of homes in the historic Sherman Hill neighborhood, and people in the neighborhood say this area has changed.

York Taenzer, who serves on the association’s board of directors, said, "When I moved into the neighborhood 27 years ago, there were many transient people. There were people earning their living on the street.”

Taenzer recently bought his 11th home in the neighborhood and said it took work with police and in the area to clean it up. "So now, instead of having people working on the streets, we have people pushing baby carriages and walking their dogs and socializing on their porches it's really neat," he said.

The tour will feature forty points of interest, including gardens, fully renovated homes, and those like McCollum's, still in progress. "I've decided while I live here, I’ll have a time capsule that I'm creating as a false wall back here. So, as I find neat things of pop culture or little notes, I want to leave, I'm just going to drop it down in my ongoing time capsule."

The Doors to the Past Historic Home Tour is September 16th and 17th and September 23rd and 24th. Tickets are $15 for one weekend or $20 for both weekends. You get the tickets at Hoyt Sherman Place, located at 1501 Woodland Avenue. You’ll get a program and a map there and can explore the neighborhood at your own pace.  Money from ticket sales supports historic preservation efforts and the historic street lamps.