Mary and Bertrand Adams
1013 ADAMS STREET
For decades many north Ames residents have been curious about the modernistic Adams home rising from the gently sloping lawn at the intersection of Adams and Calhoun streets. Although the owners lead fairly private lives, close friends and special groups enjoyed the house through the years. Patients of Dr. Adams, an osteopath, were familiar with the home since his office was located on the lower level. Ames Area Amateur Astronomers knew the place from attending stargazing parties using the telescope in the backyard observatory. Local artists such as Christian Petersen were well acquainted with the high-ceilinged living room where so many stimulating conversations were held.
Dr. Adams passed away in 1994, and his wife, Mary, died in April, 2005, with no immediate survivors. The couple strongly desired to protect their real estate from development and preserve their unique home for posterity. In their will the property was left to the City of Ames to assure protection of the land and house. The contents of the dwelling were donated to the Ames Historical Society (AHS) to assure preservation of the art, antiques and 1950s medical office. This constituted the largest gift of historical materials yet received by that organization. Household goods not retained by AHS were sold at auction to raise funds to help preserve the Adams bequest. Bert and Mary were both savers. Consequently, quantities of prime archival materials and artifacts are preserved. These include historical regional artwork (Grant Wood, “Ding” Darling, Christian Petersen, Arnold Pyle, Harry Jones, Roscoe Lorenz); archival material (correspondence, documentation for building the house, photos, audio tapes); eclectic medical library; vintage therapy devices (Raylax table, Medcolator, Novafon, Acu-U-Meter, Electro-Acuscope); and intact medical office.
Letter to Bertrand Adams from Grant Wood
Dr. Bertrand R. Adams (1907-1994), was an osteopathic physician who practiced in Ames from 1944 until his retirement in 1991. Born on Meadow View Farm five miles south of Webster City, he was expected to continue his father’s business of raising Poland-China hogs and Percheron horses. Instead he became fascinated with art and enrolled, after graduating from high school, in an art correspondence course offered by the Federal School of Commercial Designing. Based in Minneapolis, this was the premier art correspondence school in the nation. Bert persisted with the course for seven years and received his diploma in 1932. He graduated from the University of Iowa that same year with a degree in art and economics. Famed Iowa regionalist, Grant Wood, selected Bert as one of his 14 assistants to help paint a set of murals in the Iowa State College Library in 1934. Later he did two murals of his own design: “Early Settlers of Dubuque” (1937) for the Dubuque Post Office, and “Lumbering in Arkansas” (1940) for the post office in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. Bert is listed in “Iowa Artists of the First Hundred Years,” and has been written up in the New York Times, New York Herald Tribune, and Architectural Record. At one time Bert traveled to California, intending to seek work as an animator at the Walt Disney studios. Persuaded by friends to pursue a career in medicine rather than art, he studied at the Des Moines Still College of Osteopathy and obtained his license in 1943. He set up practice at 213 ½ Main Street in 1944, eventually moving his office to the home he was building.
Although nominally an osteopathic physician, Bert pursued a holistic approach to health and promoted “wellness” before it became fashionable. Weight control was another of his specialties. He was interested in a broad spectrum of areas such as diet, exercise, nutrition, and organic food, and explored fringe areas of medicine like auriculo-therapy, acupuncture, reflexology, and electronic medicine. Bert also illustrated positive “town and gown” cooperation in Ames when he consulted with Jack Lathrop, technician with the ISU Physics Department, in constructing his Faraday cage for electromagnetic wave therapy.
Beyond medicine and art his wide-ranging interests included hypnosis, auras, psychic phenomena, graphology, phrenology, astronomy, astrology, world religions, music, building and gardening. He “always had his head in a book” according to his wife. Bert was a member of Collegiate United Methodist Church, Ames Area Amateur Astronomers, Ames Lions Club, Pi Gamma Alpha fraternity, American Osteopathic Association, International Academy of Preventative Medicine, a charter member and past president of the Town and College Toastmaster’s Club, and past vice-president of the American Federation of Astrology.
Mary E. Beymer Adams (1909-2005) was an accomplished artist in her own right. She grew up in Des Moines where her father was owner and operator of Beymer Company, an electrical business, from 1909 until the 1940s. Mary enjoyed a privileged childhood taking piano, dance and riding lessons. After graduating from North High School in 1927, she attended Capital City Commercial College (now A.I.B.), followed by two years at Drake University. In 1931 she transferred to the University of Iowa where she graduated the following year with a degree in art. Mary then taught for awhile as a substitute middle school teacher in the Des Moines School District. She also worked at a photographer’s studio hand-tinting photographs before the days of color photography. From 1935-1956 she was employed as cashier and later as secretary at the Des Moines Water Works business office at 10th and Locust. There she got to know Arie den Boer, the Dutchman for whom the Water Works arboretum is named.
Mary continued her artistic interests by taking classes at the Des Moines Art Center and studying with Eliot O’Hara in Laguna Beach, California. She especially loved to travel, riding a bus to Mexico, flying to Hawaii, and sailing to Europe on the Queen Mary for the “grand tour.” As testimony to Mary’s enduring patience, she married classmate Bertrand Adams after waiting 25 years for him to “pop the question.” They finally wed in Des Moines in 1956, at which time Mary moved into Prairie Ark in Ames. The couple enjoyed many trips together – Hawaii (again) for a honeymoon, much of the U.S. while traveling to medical meetings, Stone City for the annual Grant Wood reunions, and a tour of the Holy Land in 1970. Although the couple had no children, they helped raise Mary’s nephew, William Wolters. Bill followed in Bert and Mary’s footsteps, graduating from the University of Iowa and becoming an accomplished artist and military history buff as well. His untimely death in 1997 was a severe blow to the couple.
Throughout her long life Mary continued to enjoy sketching, painting in oils and watercolor, doing graphic art for the Ames Woman’s Club (AWC), and with Bert, creating their annual Christmas card design. She also bowled for the AWC and was the oldest member of a Des Moines bridge club she joined in 1933. A granddaughter of the first mayor of Carlisle, Iowa, she inherited many family heirlooms and historical records which she organized. Both Bert and Mary were savers, and thus preserved many invaluable records for posterity.
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Grading for a gravel drive which is now the east end of Adams Street.
Dr. Bert Adams had this grading done in late 1948 to access the site for his future house to be built northwest of this corner. The farm house at the right was on R.R. 1, and still exists today (with an addition on the south) as 4003 Dawes Drive. At the time of this photo the road in front of the house was Highway 69, which was relocated to the east in 1956. The view is from the old highway looking to the west.
This is one of the caterpillar tractors used to excavate the basement. It was so neat a job. The walls of clay were smoothly cut downward. Then a wind and wet snow came late in April. The wind blew the basement full of wet corn shucks and stalks. Night after night after office hours I came out and wheeled wheel barrow and more wheel barrows full of cornfield manure up an inclined plank and dumped it away from the basement area.
I had to cut out seven large box elder trees out of an old basement where a log cabin had been many years ago, so this was a job that kept me busy for a time when I took the Wednesdays off each week.
Trucks had to carry many loads of clay dirt from the scooping of the caterpillar dumpings and take them out south for the lawn area.
(page two) - construction photos - The House
(page three) - more construction photos
(page four) - The Guests - Architecture