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Opinion Terrace Hill Iowa's prairie palace

Des Moines hosted the grandest housewarming 155 years ago. Terrace Hill, built by Benjamin F. Allen, remains a symbol of prosperity.

155 years ago, the grandest residence ever constructed in the state of Iowa was unveiled in Des Moines. Terrace Hill, also known as the Palace of the Prairie, was built by Benjamin F. Allen and his wife, Arathusa, on a high hilltop four miles west of downtown Des Moines. Allen, who had arrived in the frontier settlement in the mid-1800s, had amassed a fortune through various business ventures, including steamship transportation and investing in the Rock Island Line.

After the American Civil War, Allen's assets had grown to an estimated $4 million, which is equivalent to nearly $90 million today. With plans to build one of the most beautiful and spacious mansions in the American West, he hired architect William Boyington to design a massive three-story, 20-room edifice in the Second Empire style. The mansion was adorned with elaborate hand-carved ornaments, custom furniture, and luxurious marble and stone finishes.

To celebrate the completion of their grand residence, the Allens hosted a lavish housewarming party, spending thousands of dollars on catering and floral arrangements. The celebration was reported in newspapers across the country, showcasing the opulence of the mansion.

However, Allen's fortunes took a turn for the worse, and he eventually lost much of his wealth and businesses, including the Des Moines home. After a series of legal battles with creditors, the mansion was eventually sold to Allen's former business partner, Frederick Hubbell.

The Hubbell family continued to occupy the mansion for nearly 90 years until the title was awarded to the state of Iowa. Today, Terrace Hill stands as a symbol of Iowa's potential and prosperity and serves as the official residence of the state's governors.

The legacy of Terrace Hill endures as a testament to the grandeur and opulence of Iowa's history, representing one of the greatest residential edifices in America's West. The mansion's rich history and architectural significance continue to captivate visitors, offering a glimpse into the state's past and its enduring legacy.

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