An evening at historic Hoyt Sherman Place for the Des Moines Storytellers Project

February 18, 2019

If you've ever attended an event at the historic and very opulent Hoyt Sherman Place in the Sherman Hill Historic District in the heart of Des Moines, you know what an absolute gem this venue truly is.

The home was built in 1877 by Hoyt Sherman, the youngest brother of the very famous Union General William Tecumseh Sherman (Sherman's March to the Sea).

Hoyt is regarded as one of the "founding fathers" of Des Moines and helped lay the groundwork for it's eventual economic vitality. There's a grand painting of him inside the building.

Hoyt Sherman Place was originally the family home and hosted many famous guests, including former President Ulysses S. Grant. In the 1890's, it was rented to The Sisters of Mercy from Davenport and became the first Mercy Hospital. Sherman passed away in 1904 but it was subsequently used as the Des Moines Women's Club gathering spot. They were the group that spearheaded the creation of a 1,400 person theatre in 1923. In 2003, the facility underwent a significant renovation and preservation effort. The theatre now holds about 1250 seats. In recent months, it was announced that a capital campaign would commence to prepare the building for the next century. There is a webpage on the website which details what they hope to accomplish.

 

The building is a massive brick structure with grandiose detailing. It's very stately and handsome.

 

 

A relatively sizable parking lot exists on the east end of the property. 

The neighborhood is one of the prettiest in the entire city and includes numerous beautiful and historic homes along tree-lined streets.

 

You enter Hoyt Sherman Place through the box office doors on the east side of the building.

Almost immediately, you are greeted by an amazing collection of valuable artwork. In room after room on floor after floor, you will find gorgeous artwork, ornate detail, and beautiful furniture.

It's like going to an art museum.

 

 

 

Obviously, the auditorium is where you go to see big shows, but the space can be utilized for a number of functions. Hoyt Sherman Place hosts a lot of different events. In fact, I saw Iliza Schlesinger, a popular millenial commedienne, there at the end of January.

 

 

 

 

 

The auditorium is quite beautiful. There is a main floor and a balcony.  

 

 

 

 

If you are not familiar with the Des Moines Storytellers Project, it's a series that has locations elsewhere in the country but was brought to Des Moines by USA Today and the Des Moines Register.

 

The Storytellers Project brings people together around a common appreciation for entertaining and illuminating stories about a prescribed topic. The website has a good description with lots of information and examples. 

Because it was the week of Valentine's Day, a very full auditorium was treated to six storytellers providing tales about love. Some of it heartwarming...some of it sad...all of it interesting, entertaining, and relatable.

 

The event lasted about an hour and a half and included a 15 minute intermission. A bar was serving various beverages. 

The logo is displayed onto the back curtain but that's about it when it comes to the stage set. It's just a microphone on stage - as if someone would be delivering stand-up comedy.

These were the six performers on this particular evening. You can watch their performances on the Des Moines Register website.

They have several more shows planned, including an upcoming one on "adventure" in April. If you are interested in being one of the storytellers or want to get tickets, you can visit their website. You can even get season tickets for a pretty reasonable price! 

A friend and I went together, along with a group of Des Moines Hummingbirds, and had a great time. It was very interesting and the crowd was significantly larger than I expected. I would definitely recommend this as a fun night out - whether with friends or a significant other.

 

If you need a somewhere to stop before or after the show, Carl's Place in the Sherman Hill neighborhood is a terrific spot. It's about a block from Hoyt Sherman Place on Woodland Avenue.

 

 

 

 

It's a good spot to go year-a-round and is definitely a Chicago Cubs hangout. They are pretty proud of their "dive" bar status.

 

 

 

On any given night, there is a lot of things going on in the Des Moines area that compete for attention and dollars. However, the Storytellers Project more than exceeded my expectations. I look forward to going to future productions. Not to mention, a dollar from every ticket sold helps to support the renovations and preservation of the beautiful Hoyt Sherman Place.

 

As always, I welcome your suggestions of places to visit and profile whether in Polk County or any of the other 98 counties in Iowa. If you have a good idea or would like to host the Iowa Adventurer, please drop me a note through my website.

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