2025 SE Brown’s Woods Ln., West Des Moines
A prime example of mid-century modern architecture is for sale in West Des Moines, built in 1964 for a former director of the Des Moines Art Center
Located across from the 486-acre Brown’s Woods, Iowa’s largest urban forest, the three-bedroom, three-bathroom, 1,939-square-foot ranch home is hidden from view on its own 0.76-acre, tree-filled lot.
Restored over the last two years, former Des Moines Art Center director Thomas Stansbury Tibbs originally laid claim to the striking design. But despite continued efforts searching archives, city records and local architectural records, no paperwork to back up his assertion has yet been found.
“It’s a very unknown mystery,” said Rhiannon Barbour, who is representing the seller.
Admitting the home’s style appeals to an exclusive sector of the market, Barbour is confident the right homebuyer will eventually be found.
“I love the simplicity, how understated it is, but it is beautiful,” she said.
Tibbs was the Art Center’s director from 1960-68 and was instrumental in hiring New York City architect IM Pei to create a $1.6 million addition to the Art Center. Pei’s 18,000-square-foot wing debuted in October 1968, featuring an exposed concrete exterior that provided an immediate contrast to architect Eliel Saarinen’s 20-year old building.
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Tibbs’ home on Brown’s Woods Lane has undergone a series of upgrades since he left in 1968 and now features a sunroom, laundry room, a porch with views of the nearby pool and woodlands, a mud room and an attached two-car garage.
The present owners have added a detached 1,800-square-foot combination garage and art studio, equipped with a hydraulic car lift, and LED lighting to better facilitate car painting and restoration.
Inside the main residence, the master bedroom includes an en-suite bathroom and the kitchen has been remodeled with new appliances and countertops. The wood floors and beamed ceilings have been refinished and the large windows ensure an abundance of natural light.
The open plan space “is not really set up to have a family with two or three kids,” Barbour said. But the accessible layout was a direct result of Tibbs facilitating his wife Ruth’s recovery following a stroke.
Husband and wife team Denika and Brad Almburg of Mod Home Collection and Almburg Properties were previous owners of the property when it was still covered in vines and overgrowth. The couple began the home’s early conservation and restoration.
“He really built that house to accommodate her after her stroke, and her caretaker,” Denika Almburg said.
During the pandemic, Almburg’s conversations with local architects “confirmed our beliefs that it was somebody skilled in architecture that designed it,” she said.
No documents have been discovered to indicate Tibbs received any training to transition from a museum director into a sophisticated amateur architect.
Despite that anomaly, Almburg remains a great admirer of the property and also Tibbs’ career at the Art Center. “My take on him is that he was just a forward thinker, a creative guy who pushed the envelope here in Des Moines, and Des Moines was too conservative to appreciate some of what he was doing,” she said.
The property is listed at $699,000 by Rhiannon Barbour of Realty One Group and DSM Modern Real Estate. Contact (515) 446-7524 to tour this home or similar properties.
Richard Lane is the real estate reporter for the Des Moines Register. He can be reached at email@example.com.