Terrace Hill

Benjamin Franklin Allen and his wife Arathusa celebrated the completion of Terrace Hill on their fifteenth wedding anniversary, January 29, 1869. The home was designed by W.W. Boyington from Chicago, had 20 rooms, and is said to have cost the Allens $250,000 (about $4 million in today's currency) in construction and furnishings for the home. 

Upon completion, the Allens hosted a housewarming party attended by over 600 guests from across the country. It was a spectacular display of wealth with refreshments prepared by Mr. John Wright of the Opera House Restaurant in Chicago. The Annals of Iowa quote the Daily State Register's coverage of the event:

In the center of the dining hall stood tables, loaded with viands the gods might envy. The center piece was a pyramid of baskets of natural fruit from Geo. Reisleg, Chicago. On either side, alike, the endo fthe the table, first, 2 Charlotte Russe fountains, 2 fancy Charlotte Russe baskets, 2  nouget pyramids trimmed with vintage grapes and oranges, 2 pyramids of wine jelly, trimmed with champagne jelly. At the end of the table was two boned turkeys buried in porte colored jellies, a little distant a large basket of ice cream trimmed with ice fruit, au naturale; one statuette of Washington, of lemon ice; one lion in vanilla ice cream; one basket in which was a mammoth strawberry.

Add to this the choicest of foreign fruits, oysters, confits, confections, meats in multitudious kinds, lemonade, tea, and coffee, and is summed up the banquet, which was served in the best manner, on china and silver ware.

Unfortunately, in 1884, Allen was bankrupt from a bank failure in Chicago and he sold the property to Frederick Marion Hubbell for $55,000. Hubbell's youngest child, Grover, was the last Hubbell to reside at Terrace Hill. He passed away in  1956. Shortly after, his wife moved out and no other Hubbels chose to reside there.

It took 15 years for the Hubbells to receive permission from the courts to sell the property. This was a difficult process, as F.M. Hubbell had established a trust that stated the property couldn't be sold until twenty-one years after the death of the last designated trustees. In 1971 the Polk County District Court granted the Hubbell Trustees the right to sell the mansion to the beneficiaries so they could then donate it to the State of Iowa. The Hubbell trust presented Terrace Hill to the state on August 24, 1971, for the purpose of being the governor's mansion. 



History of Architecture: Terrace Hill
Interview with William Wagner covering the building of Terrace Hill, design of its Victorian Gardens, and a description of its rooms, fixtures, doors, woodwork, furniture, and renovations. ~ Source: Iowa Oral History Project ~ Creator: Des Moines...
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Terrace Hill2300 Grand AvenueDes Moines, IA 50312