Frederick Marion Hubbell
Frederick Marion Hubbell, who was known as either Fred or F.M. in later years, left Connecticut with his father and arrived in Fort Des Moines, Iowa on May 7, 1855. Hubbell found work at the United States Land Office where Phineas Casady hired him to work for $100 a year plus board. It was during the 1860’s and 1870’s that Hubbell began building his real estate empire in Des Moines by buying property in the downtown area and also in a valuable industrial district known as the Factory Addition. Beyond real estate, Hubbell was instrumental in many industries in early Des Moines. He partnered with three others to start Des Moines’ first streetcar line in 1866, helped found Equitable Life Insurance Company of Iowa in 1867, helped establish the Des Moines Water Works in 1871, and created the Narrow Gauge Railway Construction Company in 1880.
In 1884, Hubbell acquired Terrace Hill for only $60,000, when its previous owner, B.F. Allen, went bankrupt. The family made Terrace Hill the setting for many social and historical events during, including the site of Beulah Hubbell’s lavish marriage to Swedish Count Carl Wachtmeister. Hubbell loved his home and took steps to preserve it by setting up a trust to protect the Terrace Hill.
Two months after they celebrated their sixty-first wedding anniversary, Hubbell’s wife, Frances, died. Her passing brought dramatic change in the life at Terrace Hill, as Grover Hubbell, his wife Anna, and their three young daughters moved in to care for their aged patriarch.
“When I first moved to Terrace Hill, the house seemed enormous, cavernous, mysterious—even a little frightening,” Grover’s daughter Mary Belle Hubbell Windsor remembered. “But I had the freedom to explore and to play as I wished, and so my fears were gone quickly.” Mary Belle also recalled that Grover, “…loved Terrace Hill as much as my grandfather did,” but the father and son differed significantly on what “maintaining and preserving” Terrace Hill meant.
When Grover undertook modernizing the house in the mid 1920’s, F.M wrote, “A lot of men are tearing the house to pieces according to Grover’s wishes. They claim to be improving it. I don’t like it.” Renovations to Terrace Hill included replacing electricity for gas lamps, moving the heat plant from the carriage house to the basement, installing an elevator, and digging a swimming pool southeast of the house.
Memories continued to be made at Terrace Hill during Grover’s time in the home. Moon lit dance parties on the south lawn, lavish marriages and receptions for his daughters, and yearly Christmas celebrations. Family tradition at Terrace Hill deepened with the coming of grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Terrace Hill housed one last grand event in 1955, Grover and Anna Hubbell’s fiftieth wedding anniversary. A year later Grover died, and Terrace Hill’s future was jeopardized in a way it never had been before. Values and attitudes had changed, large homes were considered impractical for modern family use. After Anna Hubbell dispersed Terrace Hill’s furnishings to family members and moved to an apartment in 1957, none of the Hubbell heirs wished to make the mansion their home. In 1971, with permission of the court, the Hubbell family gave Terrace Hill to the people of Iowa.