A prominent Republican benefactor and a Democrat who once served as Iowa’s lieutenant governor are leading the effort to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to fix the historic governor’s mansion in Des Moines.
Terrace Hill was built in the late 1860s and was originally called the “Palace of the Prairie.” Since 1977 the mansion has been home to Iowa’s governors.
The current occupant, Governor Terry Branstad, spoke with reporters late Wednesday afternoon before giving a tour of some of the mansion’s most pressing repairs.
“When you have a house that was built between 1866 and 1869 there are always going to be on-going maintenance issues that have to be addressed,” Branstad said.
Rotting wood on the home’s exterior will be replaced. The 1970s-era commercial kitchen squeezed into the home’s basement will be upgraded. During the tour Branstad conducted, he explained the two-story stained glass window on the mansion’s grand staircase must be repaired, too.
“If you look closely at it, you can see how it kind of buckles…and it’s got ripples,” Branstad told reporters as he stood at the window, gesturing toward the window’s wood and lead supports. “…It is beautiful, though and it’s really something especially if you get a day with the sun that’s bright with the sun coming through the stained glass.”
The goal is to raise $1.6 million for the mansion’s restoration projects and upgrades by the end of this year.
Bruce Rastetter, an agribusinessman with interests in ethanol plants and hog confinements, donated $160,000 to Branstad’s 2010 campaign and Rastetter has agreed to be co-chair of this Terrace Hill fundraising effort.
“Having been involved in a little bit of fundraising, I think it’s really a neat opportunity to be able to ask people for (money for) an historic house like this that all Iowans recognize is something that needs to be preserved,” Rastetter said during the news conference in Terrace Hill’s foyer.
Democrat Sally Pederson, Iowa’s lieutenant governor from 1999 to 2007, is the other co-chair of the effort.
“Fundraising is never easy, but Iowans are very generous and I think they are deeply about this building which belongs to them, belongs to the people of Iowa and they want to see it maintained and see it upgraded, so I’m sure we will be successful in our goal,” Pederson told reporters.
One improvement is already being installed, the “geothermal” heating and cooling system in the historic home’s basement, part of an effort to “go green” according to Branstad, who pegs utility savings at 25 to 30 percent once the install’s done. Branstad and his wife live in an apartment in the top story of the mansion.
“It takes about four or five minutes for the hot water to get to the third floor,” Branstad said. “So, when you want to take a shower, you’ve got to turn the water on — which means you’re wasting a lot of water — so you’ve got to turn the water on and wait for it to get warm, otherwise it’s extremely cold.”
Branstad hopes to launch another fundraising effort in 2012 for a foundation that could help finance Terrace Hill upkeep in the future.