Terrace Hill

Website: Terrace Hill | (iowa.gov)

Mission: Terrace Hill, located in Des Moines, Iowa, is the Iowa Governor’s Residence and a National Historic Landmark.  Terrace Hill observed its 150th anniversary in 2019. Completed in 1869, Terrace Hill has intrigued and inspired the public since the first guests walked through its doors for the housewarming party of Arathusa and Benjamin Franklin Allen on January 29, 1869.

Location:  Des Moines (49 miles from Grinnell College)


  • Docents

All tours at Terrace Hill are by reservation only and are led by docents. Tours are offered March – December at 10:30 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. Tuesdays – Saturdays. Docents work with adults and children. In addition to Terrace Hill’s regular tour schedule, docents are occasionally needed to staff special events during evenings and weekends. Docents should enjoy working with people of all ages, have good public speaking skills, and a passion for learning and sharing the history of Terrace Hill.

  • Garden Volunteers

Volunteers are utilized throughout the spring/summer to plant, weed, and maintain the gardens.  Volunteers are also called to help during fall clean-up.  Times and hours vary.

  • Kitchen & Special Event Volunteers

Volunteers are needed to assist with dinners, receptions, Terrace Hill Teas, and other special events. Volunteers help the Terrace Hill Chef with food preparation, serving, set-up, and clean-up of dinners and receptions. Kitchen prep shifts usually run from 10:00 a.m until 2:30 p.m. on weekdays; event serving shifts usually run from 4:30 until 8:30 p.m. on weeknights.



  • One-time events: no
  • Ongoing: yes


When is service needed: We are not open for tours during January-February. Garden volunteers help with spring planting/fall clean up, and events change from year to year.

Number of hours: Flexible, as much or little as is possible for the volunteer


  • In-person: yes
  • Hybrid in-person/virtual possible: no
  • Fully virtual possible: no


Background check required: yes


Training supplied: Docents train by shadowing with other tour guides as well as studying various sources of information on Terrace Hill’s history. Event/kitchen volunteers spend time with the Terrace Hill Chef and Event Coordinator. Garden volunteers coordinate their activities with the Terrace Hill groundskeeper. Many are in the Master Gardening program.

Equipment or logistics supplied: All volunteers are eligible for the RSVP mileage reimbursement program administered by United Way. Event/kitchen volunteers wear a Terrace Hill apron supplied by Terrace Hill.


How to apply: contact our Volunteer Coordinator’s office: 515-281-3604, barbara.willey@governor.iowa.gov or fill out an online application, https://terracehill.iowa.gov/online-volunteer-application

Contact: Barbara Willey, Volunteer Coordinator, 515-281-3604, barbara.willey@governor.iowa.gov


Operation information:  A stunning example of Victorian Second Empire architecture, the 18,000-square foot building currently serves the dual purpose of the official governor’s residence and a National Historic Landmark. The first Iowa governor to live at Terrace Hill, Governor Robert Ray, moved in with his family in 1976.  The first and second floors of Terrace Hill serve as a public museum and event space and recreate the lavish Victorian lifestyle of wealthy former residents Benjamin Franklin Allen and Frederick Marion Hubbell. From the brilliantly colored stained glass window, marvelous woodwork, eight acres of historic grounds, and worldly collections, Terrace Hill leaves an impression on every visitor. Terrace Hill hosts thousands of visitors each year, from buses of school children to political figures and foreign diplomats.

Address: 2300 Grand Ave, Des Moines, IA 50312

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