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Adams House Stories

Oct 13, 2011

I hope some visiting Deadwood for last weekend’s Festival of Books took time to stop at the Historic Adams House. My husband and I toured last summer and the stories the tour guide shared were the real highlight. 

First owners Harris and Anna Franklin were rich and they wanted a house that showed it. The arrival of the railroad in Deadwood made if feasible for them to build the extravagant Queen Anne-style home in 1892. A Chicago architect designed the home with central heating, hot and cold running water and electric lights. Servants could be summoned by electric bells and the family could even communicate by telephone within the house.

After Anna died in 1901, Harris sold the house to his son for $1. It was sold again in 1920 to W.E. and Alice Adams. W.E. was a wealthy retailer, wholesale grocer, and six-time mayor of Deadwood. The couple raised two daughters who later married successful husbands and moved out of state. Everything seemed grand until their daughter Lucile contracted typhoid fever in Detroit and died in 1912.

More misfortune befell the family in 1925. Alice, who had been ill with cancer, chose to travel to California for the birth of their first grandchild. She died suddenly in her daughter Helen’s home, causing Helen to go into labor. Helen died the following day and the baby died soon after.

W.E.’s family had been entirely wiped out, but he met his second wife in 1926 on a passenger train traveling from Denver to Deadwood. The widowed Mary Mastrovich Vicich was only 28 when the 72-year-old businessman courted her. Their relationship was considered scandalous by some, but the couple married a year later. They enjoyed seven years of travel and charity work together until W.E. died of a stroke in 1934. Mary inherited the home and in 1936 she closed up its contents and moved to California. Everything was left intact for over 50 years, even a jar full of cookies. You can see the cookie jar on display, although I believe the cookies have been changed.

We heard more stories on the tour including passageways that were possibly installed to allow trysts with a maid – but I can’t remember which man was supposed to have used them and I don’t want to start any rumors. I believe there was also talk of a ghost or two.

Unfortunately I don’t have pictures of the intricate interior architecture or extravagant furniture. Non-flash photography was once allowed but a couple of charlatans ruined it for the average tourist. Adams Museum staff found that visitors had photographed the home’s relics and were offering them for sale on Ebay. You are still welcome to photograph the garden and have your picture taken on the porch.


09:06 am - Thu, October 13 2011
Bernie Hunhoff said:
The cookie jar is a funny relic, and reminds me of a visit to the Stavig House in Sisseton, where canned fruit and vegetables from the 1930s or so is still on the basement shelves, and looks good enough to eat.
09:45 am - Fri, October 14 2011
Laura said:
The saddest thing about these Adams House stories is the tragic waste of cookies.

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