Terrace Hill

The commission that oversees historic Terrace Hill in Des Moines is warning that volunteers who give tours of the governor’s mansion are “aging out” and it’s time to start hiring — and paying — new tour guides.

Iowa governors have lived in the third floor apartment of the Victorian-era mansion since 1978, but the home’s first and second floors are open for tours.

Terrace Hill Commission chair Kaye Lozier says about 8000 people tour the mansion each year. In 2016, the National Governors Association summer reception was held at Terrace Hill.

“We found, a couple of years ago, when the governors were here that we were the envy of many states and many governors for this fine home and place for citizens to meet,” Lozier says.

In the past decade, the Terrace Hill Commission spearheaded an upgrade to the mansion’s massive heating and cooling system. The commission is asking for about $95,000 more state tax dollars in the next budgeting year to start paying tour guides and to conduct regular maintenance of the mansion’s aging electric, security and humidity control systems. Lozier recently reviewed the budget request during a hearing in the governor’s office.

“Terrace Hill seems to be hit by lightning a lot. Sorry to mention that to you,” Lozier said, laughing along with the crowd in the governor’s office, “but it’s right up there. It’s real tall…A lot has been done, but we continue to strategize what needs to be done so that we continue to maintain it.”

Terrace Hill, a national historic landmark, was completed in 1869. The home was vacant from 1958 until it was donated to the state in 1971. It took seven years to restore the mansion and turn the upper floor into a modern residence for Iowa governors that is closed to the public. The first two floors, which are open for tours, feature rugs, furniture and other furnishings from the Victorian era.