Holly and Ivy


History and the holidays came together this weekend during the Holly & Ivy tour of historic Des Moines homes. The tour prominently featured Salisbury House (below) and Terrace Hill (above), plus two private homes.


I started at Salisbury House, a 42-room English estate just off 42nd Street south of I-235. Even without festive Christmas décor, Salisbury House is wonderful – filled with a fantastic collection of artwork and antiques, and gorgeous architecture. I learned today that the home was built in the 1920s for Carl Weeks, a cosmetics giant, and his wife, Edith.


The self-guided tour (with volunteer historians in each room) included the large common spaces on the main floor, the library, and dining rooms. Upstairs are the bedrooms, Edith’s dressing room, and other spaces.

IMG_4385Each room was decorated with elaborate period Christmas trees, greenery, ribbons, flowers, wreaths, baubles, pinecones, Santas, and other Christmas items. The rooms were decorated by Des Moines florists, interior decorators, and Salisbury House volunteers.


Next I went to Terrace Hill, which was also overflowing with holiday cheer and cheerful volunteers. Terrace Hill, today the official home of Iowa’s governors, was built in 1869 by Benjamin Franklin Allen, the first millionaire in Iowa. The mansion is said to be a fine example of Second Empire Victorian architecture. It features a grand staircase, brilliant stained-glass window, and eight marble fireplaces.

IMG_4437It’s decorated to the hilt for the holidays. Even the stuffed moose and elk were wearing bows around their poor, dead necks. Each room has a large tree, and many have secondary trees. The chandeliers are festooned with greenery, gold pinecones, and sparkly balls. Everywhere you look, there’s Christmas. Dressed for the holidays, Terrace Hill truly is a Victorian beauty.


I did not tour the two private homes, although they sounded very cool (a Cape Cod with 13 trees, each decorated with a different theme; and a 1922 Colonial Revival).

Holly & Ivy continues through Sunday, Dec. 9.


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