James C. Savery was Des Moines' first great hotel man. Arriving in 1857, Mr. Savery purchased the Marvin House on 3rd Street and renamed it the Everett House which became the terminus of the stage line.
In 1856, he led investors in the building of the Savery House on Fourth and Walnut (uptown in those days). Hard times pushed back construction until 1862. James and his brother, George, ran the hotel until bad investments forced its sale in 1879. The new owners renamed the hotel the Kirkwood in honor of Iowa's governor during the Civil War.
Annie Savery was a woman ahead of her time. Savery was Des Moines' first women's rights advocate. She gave a series of lectures promoting suffrage in Iowa, beginning in 1868. She was elected Secretary of the Iowa Woman Suffrage Movement in 1870. In 1872, the suffrage movement was attacked as a "free love" movement due to the beliefs of Victoria Woodhull, one of the leading suffragettes. Mrs. Savery would not abandon her friend Woodhull and was ousted from the organization.
When in Washington in 1873 with her husband James C. Savery, Annie became the first American woman to apply for a foreign service job, wishing to be U.S. Counsel in Le Harve, France. Annie was born in England and spoke perfect French. Returning to Iowa, Annie Savery became the second woman to obtain a law degree at the University of Iowa.
The Saverys lived in a lovely home on Grand Avenue which was the center of social life in Des Moines. Filled with a vast library, art and historical relics, along with the wit and charm of James' wife, Annie, the house was a magnet for sociability until a fire destroyed it and the Saverys left town.
In 1886 when a new hotel was built on Fourth and Locust, it was named the Savery, but no one asked Mr. Savery. He later became co-owner of the hotel, which stood at the site of the present Savery Hotel.