An Introduction to Terrace Hill's History
Terrace Hill is an architectural marvel that was completed in 1869 in the developing, fast-growing community of Des Moines. Des Moines became Iowa’s capital city in 1857 and exploded in size and importance after the Civil War. As the capital city grew, its first millionaire, Benjamin Franklin Allen, began working on his dream home: Terrace Hill. Allen hired renowned Chicago-based architect William W. Boyington to shape his vision into a reality. The cost of construction amounted to a lofty $250,000.
Terrace Hill displays not one, but two elaborately mansarded towers, as well as projections, bays, balconies, lambrequined canopies and columned porches on every front, making the house truly unique. Terrace Hill also has the advantage of a superb location. Perched high above the Raccoon River on its “terraced hill,” it commands expansive views in every direction.
Terrace Hill has intrigued and inspired the public since the first guests walked through its doors for the housewarming party of Arathusa and Benjamin Franklin Allen on January 29, 1869. Not long after Allen built Terrace Hill, he lost his fortune and sold the mansion to Frederick Marion Hubbell, a prominent Des Moines real estate, railroad, and insurance magnate, for only $60,000.
Frederick Marion Hubbell and his descendants lived in Terrace Hill for over 70 years. The last Hubbell in residence left Terrace Hill in 1957, whereupon it remained vacant and unused, leaving its fate and ultimate disposition uncertain. For fifteen years, B.F. Allen’s dream and F.M. Hubbell’s proud symbol stood empty. In 1971, slightly over a century after its completion, the Hubbell heirs donated Terrace Hill to the state of Iowa, and the latest period in its long and compelling history began. Terrace Hill transformed to become the official residence for Iowa’s governors. The first governor to take up residence was Governor Robert Ray, who moved in with his family in 1976. Terrace Hill celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2019.
Explore Terrace Hill’s History with the Terrace Hill App
Use the custom Terrace Hill mobile app to explore Terrace Hill’s history - from anywhere in the world! You can choose personalized tours and use an interactive map while learning about Terrace Hill at your own pace. The app is free to download in the Apple App Store and Google Play. Click here to read more about the custom Terrace Hill mobile app.