Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Russell Abstract is the only title company operating in Dallas County. There are currently four title companies in Dallas County, according to the Iowa Land Title Association, including Bill Blue and Associates in Des Moines, Iowa Title Company in Adel, America Abstract & Title Company in Adel and Russell Abstract & Title Co.
It is a building that has witnessed the change of times. With a vault dating back to the 1860’s, the Russell Abstract & Title building has seen many important moments of Iowa’s history.
In fact, even its founder, J.W. Russell, played a major role in the development and expansion of the railroad to Adel, Iowa as an officer of the Des Moines, Adel, and Western R.R. Company back in the 1880’s.
The company has since been passed down from generation to generation with the business currently owned and operated by brothers Brett and Kent Glenn (5th generation of the Russell family).
Now, even after nearly 145 years, the Russell Abstract & Title building is still proving to stand the test of time.
“In the beginning of the business, its original name was Russell Loan & Title Co.,” Russell Abstract & Title 5th generation co-owner Brett Glenn said, “We used to give building loans just like George Bailey did in the movie ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’”
However, since its inception in 1872, the Russell Abstract & Title organization has transformed its business to mainly focus on delivering information regarding abstracts, reports of liens, and specialized real estate searches.
“We still have some of the old loan ledgers and papers in the vault. But we took the loan out of the business name when my brother and I purchased the company, as people were calling wanting car loans,” Glenn said.
In addition, the company has a complete set of indexes dating back to the original government entries. Whether handwritten, typed with a typewriter, recorded with microfilms or typed with computers many of these can not only be found in the historical vault but also on their original paper.
However, with years of existence also comes years of wear and tear along with alterations based on historical architectural trends. And while, the Russell Abstract & Title building remains unique and one-of-a kind, such changes can significantly mask the originality of the building’s structure, hiding many of those same features which make it unique, such as its original brick design.
With the help of the City of Adel and a historical renovation grant, the two brothers were able to restore the front of the building to its original look.
“About 3 years ago, the city clerk contacted us about restoration to the front of the building. After learning that the government would pay for 75% of the project, we were all in,” Glenn said.
Although the top one quarter of the building could not be stripped without damaging the brick, most of the paint was able to be removed. In addition, the front door along with all the windows were then replaced, bringing back the old transom windows that can be seen in the 1900’s photographs owned by the Glenn family.
“We had pictures from the early 1900’s and we wanted to get back to the original brick look. That meant decades of paint jobs to be removed,” Glenn said.
Coming up this winter, Russell Abstract & Title is looking to complete some renovations on the inside of the building as well. This could include removing the low ceiling in order to showcase the original ceiling of the late 1800’s. Such renovations could also include the incorporation of the brick theme from the Adel streets around the vault and other areas of the interior. The organization is also considering the possibility of an addition to the back end of the building in order to create more room for storage while maintaining a vintage but more modern look.