Iowa State University

Inside Iowa State
January 8, 1999

The Budd House: A tradition of inspiration

by Karol Crosbie, ISU Alumni Association

The stately home on shaded Kellogg Avenue has been a symbol of knowledge and compassion since it was occupied by Joseph Budd in the late 1800s. At a time when African Americans were rarely seen in Ames, much less welcomed into the homes of town people, Budd and his daughter Etta counted George Washington Carver as a friend and frequent visitor to their home.

Carver, Iowa State's first African American student and later faculty member, went on to become one of the nation's greatest educators and agricultural researchers. This year, Iowa State celebrates the Carver legacy through a series of events scheduled throughout the year.

The Budd house is not quite the elaborately decorated place it was when owned by Budd, head of the Iowa State College department of agronomy. Back then, the living room contained fringed lamp shades, chandeliers, oriental rugs, vases, clocks and paintings. It proved a sharp contrast to Carver's student quarters and his childhood home in Diamond Grove, Mo., where he was born a slave.

Etta Budd had been responsible for Carver coming to Iowa State College from Simpson College, where she had been his art teacher. Recognizing his talent for biological drawings and ability in the sciences, she encouraged him to switch from art to horticulture -- and from Simpson to Iowa State.

Today, the youth who enter the front door of the old Budd house also receive encouragement. Inside the front door hangs a simple, hand-lettered inscription: "May the magic of recovery touch your life with love and joy."

The house, which parent agency Youth and Shelter Services has named Youth Recovery House, is at any time home to 40 boys who are chemically dependent. It is at the old Budd house that these youth, many who have broken the law, some who are homeless, discover the power of recovery.

Carver's legacy

Two themes recur throughout the history of Carver's life. One is the importance of knowledge to transform lives. The other is the power of humans to save each other through care and compassion. This combination of knowledge and compassion that transformed a slave's son into an influential scientist, is alive and well at 804 Kellogg.

"What we know about these kids," said Tom Schliesman, Youth Recovery House coordinator and ISU alumnus, "is that many of them are pretty smart kids. They've found themselves in trouble because they're addicted to drugs."

Budd family spirits

The living room of Youth Recovery House on a late afternoon, is filled with a half-dozen kids, sprawled on sofas, waiting for dinner. They look up from studying and conversations, mildly interested in the presence of a visitor. But to the question, "Who knows who George Washington Carver was?" the kids shake their heads and shrug. One youth idly comments that he believes he is related to George Washington Carver. One drawls, "Didn't he invent peanut butter?"

A question about Etta Budd, however, draws excitement. Everyone knows who she was. This house, they say in hushed tones, is haunted by Etta's ghost. Didn't she die falling down the long winding front stairs?

Staff members confirm there is widespread belief that Etta Budd is a presence at Youth Recovery House. Oh yes, they say. Unexplained phenomena. Cold winds. Chairs placed in front of locked doors. Electrical appliances turning themselves on. The story has been alive for years, and some kids take it so much to heart, they switch from undesirable "spooky" bedrooms to safer sleeping quarters.

Research on Etta Budd's death reveals that she did not die on the stairs of the old house, but ended her days, almost penniless, at a retirement home in Boone. Her advice to Carver, that horticulturists could make a better living than artists, had been prophetic.

These kids, being kids, are more attracted to ghost stories than history lessons. But there is strong evidence that during their stay here at the Budd house, they will be shaped by two of the forces that had influenced George Washington Carver before them -- the importance of knowledge, and the power of compassion.

New lives

The same idea, education partnered with compassion, is helping turn the boys around at Youth Recovery House. Schliesman remembers the story of a former resident.

"He came to the program and he really struggled, committed a couple of crimes, and ended up in another state and had to be transported back here," he said. "He had a lot of adventures and run-ins with the law, and finally it hit home, that he couldn't return to his previous life. He seemed to really get with it, graduated from Ames High, went to a vocational school.

"One day he pulled up in front of the house with an 18- wheeler truck. He had a responsible job and he was proud of it. He said, 'I just wanted to show you how I've done.'

"Those are the high points," Schliesman said. "That's when you know what we're doing here is making a difference."

ISU celebration

George Washington Carver, who died in 1943, spent a short time on the faculty at Iowa State before joining the faculty at Alabama Tuskegee Institute, where he gained an international reputation for his research. Carver will be remembered throughout the year at Iowa State. Events include lectures by Carver scholars and others, and performances -- all highlighting the Carver legacy of diversity. To learn more about Carver, check the special collections website at:

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