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The Palace of the Prairie

Benjamin Franklin Allen, Iowa's first millionaire, built Terrace Hill as his family home.

Construction of this 18,000-square-foot home began in 1866 and was completed in 1869.

The original cost of $250,000 included the Mansion, Carriage House, all of the furnishings, and approximately 30 acres of land.

The house contained very modern features for its time, such as hot and cold running water, gas lights, a lift, and indoor restrooms.

Terrace Hill was built on the far-western edge of Des Moines. It was referred to as "The Palace of the Prairie." The population of Des Moines at that time was fewer than 7,000 people. Today, the Greater Des Moines metropolitan area has a population of half a million people, and Terrace Hill is in the heart of the city.

While the skyline of Des Moines has changed, the 90-foot tower of Terrace Hill still provides a commanding view of the capital city and its golden-domed Capitol, which was built several years after Terrace Hill.

William Boyington, a popular Chicago architect of his time, designed Terrace Hill. Some of his other works include the Water Tower in Chicago, which survived the great Chicago fire, and the General Dodge House in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Today, Terrace Hill belongs to all Iowans. But the story of this house goes back to when Iowa was young and two youthful pioneers -- each driven differently by ambition -- crossed paths in the shaping of the state's history.

 
Terrace Hill circa 1869

 
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