Benjamin Franklin Allen

Benjamin Franklin (B.F.) Allen had Terrace Hill constructed between 1866 and 1869. His story and connection to Des Moines, however, began much earlier. His uncle Captain James Allen, one of the founders of Fort Des Moines in 1843, was instrumental in his nephew’s start in Des Moines. In 1846, Captain Allen left for a new post, but died en route leaving all of his business holdings and land to his 18 year-old-nephew, B.F. Allen.

When B.F. Allen moved to Des Moines in 1848, he opened a successful general store and acquired ownership of his uncle’s ventures. He quickly grew his wealth through land speculation, and by the late 1860’s, in addition to his bank and other businesses, Allen owned more than 35,000 acres of land. In 1866, he commissioned Chicago-based architect William W. Boyington to build Terrace Hill. Allen built and furnished Terrace Hill with the best that money could buy. The house contained very modern features for its time including, hot and cold running water, gas lights, a lift, and indoor restrooms. Situated on the highest hill in Des Moines, the original 30-acre estate boasted pathways, fountains, an arbor and greenhouse as well as formal and cutting gardens. The final cost of the building and grounds was approximately $400,000.

In February of 1875, amidst multiple mortgages and bank defaults, Allen declared bankruptcy. The next several years Allen fought legal charges ranging from bank fraud to embezzlement. Matters regarding ownership of Terrace Hill dragged on in court until the decision against Allen in 1878. Despite the ruling, Allen was granted the title to the property in 1883. He then sold the house and surrounding eight acres to Des Moines real estate, railroad and insurance magnate, Frederick Marion Hubbell, for $60,000.

Printed from the Terrace Hill website on July 22, 2017 at 9:55am.