When Mary Adams closed the house at 22 Van Buren Street in 1936 following the death of her husband W.E. Adams in 1934, the future of the grand old mansion was uncertain. The house stood silent, curtains at the windows and furniture in place, with little maintenance and infrequent visits, growing steadily shabbier for the next 50 years.
After a brief stint as a Bed and Breakfast from 1988 to 1992, the City of Deadwood acquired the building. The timing was lucky. In 1989 the citizens of South Dakota had voted to allow gaming in Deadwood with the provision that proceeds fund the historic preservation of the town. Deadwood hired a Historic Preservation Officer, Mark Wolfe, to oversee those projects. Wolfe recognized the historical importance of the Adams house, and he knew it must be saved. He assembled a committee including Mary Kopco, then curator of the Adams Museum, now Director of the Adams Museum & House, to determine the best use for the city-owned facility.
A team of the nation's leading historic house experts, stunned by the quality and completeness of the property, recommended that the best use of the house was to preserve it as a museum. They produced a Historic Structure Report (HSR) that served as a guide to turn the Adams House into a museum, with a budget of $1.5 million. The Adams-Mastrovich Family Foundation, a charitable agency begun by Mary Adams with money left to her by W.E. upon his death, offered a 50% match to the City of Deadwood Historic Preservation Commission's 50% pledge. Restoration work began in 1998.
The roof was recovered with metal shingles and the house was restored to its 1892 color scheme. The foundation was tuckpointed 10 feet below grade inside and out, and the basement was stabilized. The unsound garage was dismantled and two walls re-built using the original brick. A handicapped accessible entry was installed in the back.
Inside, the hand-painted canvas walls were cleaned, stained glass and tiles restored, textiles and upholstery replicated. Every door was brought back to plumb and made functional. A second floor bathroom installed for B&B use was taken out and the master suite restored to its turn-of-the-century stateliness. Decorative plaster friezes were secured to walls, cleaned and repaired. The elegant dining room, which had over the years become pea green, was reglazed in the rich cinnamon color Nathan and Ada Franklin selected in 1904. Upstairs B&B wallpaper was removed, and exact replicas of the wallpaper chosen by Mary Adams in 1930 were hung.
Finally, the front iron fence was replicated from historic photographs and installed. A structure was completed at the back of the property to house public restrooms, a gift shop, and an orientation exhibit. Sod was laid, and a long-range landscaping plan was put into place. The Adams House opened to the public as a museum, on time and under budget, on July 1, 2000.
In 1999 the Adams Museum entered into a co-stewardship agreement with the City of Deadwood by which the City owns the mansion and grounds, and the Adams Museum owns the collection and is responsible for operating the Adams House. The Adams Museum on 54 Sherman Street and the Adams House on 22 Van Buren Street have since become one organization: The Adams Museum & House, Inc.
Summer: May 1 - September 30
Open daily from 9 a.m. till 5 p.m.
Winter: October 1 - April 30
Open Tuesday - Saturday: 10 a.m. till 4 p.m.
Closed: Winter holidays (call for closing schedule)