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Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014

Iowa's historic homes showcase treasures, tales

Thursday, September 20, 2001

You may not typically equate Iowa with Victorian-era castles and mansions with formal gardens and lodging for a wild lion.

With some exploring, visitors in Iowa will find priceless architectural treasures that highlight the privileged lives of another time.

* If Gothic Britain is of interest, a trip to the Salisbury House in Des Moines is in order. This 42-room mansion nestled on 10 acres of virgin woodlands in the heart of Iowa's capital, is a re-creation of the King's House in Salisbury, England. Carl Weeks, a wealthy cosmetics mogul in the early 1920s, built the home. Finished in 1928, it was designed to look 100 years old at its completion. Tour the 22,000 square foot mansion to view a world-class art collection, fine tapestries and rare letters and books. Tours are available all year.

* In the heart of Cedar Rapids is Brucemore, a 26-acre estate with sprawling lawns, formal gardens, a 1927 swimming pool and duck pond. A 33-year-old widow built the Queen Anne style mansion. It was home to three prominent eastern Iowa families. It's now a museum and cultural center offering fine arts performances, musical events, holiday celebrations and garden walks. The last family to live at Brucemore had a pet lion on the grounds, which now serves as the estate's symbol. Tours of this designated National Historic Landmark are available all year.

* Among the most famous of Iowa's mansions, Terrace Hill today is the official residence of Iowa's governor and first family. The home was once referred to as "The Palace of the Prairie." Iowa's first millionaire, Benjamin F. Allen, completed the mansion in 1869. Overlooking downtown Des Moines, the home is located on eight and one-half acres with a re-created formal garden. This nationally recognized Second Empire-style (also called Americanized Italian) home has a mansard roof, a north tower, carved window moldings and bracketed balconies and canopies. Its splendor is seen through elaborate interior wood, marble, and stained glass. Tours are available from March through December.

* Mr. and Mrs. Grenville Dodge built a beautiful Victorian home - now known as the Dodge House - in Council Bluffs in 1869. Dodge was a Civil War general, railroad builder, banker and politician. He oversaw the Union Pacific's efforts to unite the nation from east to west by rail, completing a lifetime goal with the driving of the famous "Golden Spike" in Utah in 1869. That same year, William Boyington, a popular Chicago architect of his time, designed the Dodge home. Boyington also designed Terrace Hill in Des Moines. Each year, the mansion, a National Historic Landmark, is fully decorated for Christmas, exhibiting 20 Christmas trees in a variety of holiday charm. Tours are available February through December.

* While you're at it, don't miss the opportunity to tour the Harker House in Storm Lake. The city's oldest surviving home is now operated as a non-profit museum, fitted out completely with antiques of the area, many of them directly relating to the pioneering Storm Lake family that built the unique landmark.

- On the web: www.traveliowa.com.

Or call 800-345-IOWA and request a free Iowa travel packet.