River Bend Annual Home Tour

2019 River Bend Neighborhood Annual Home Tour

Saturday, September 7th, 2019 • 10 AM TO 4 PM
Sunday, September 8th, 2019 • 10 AM TO 4 PM

Ticket Booth/Trolley Pick-up/Parking Location: Moulton Elementary at 8th and College

Have Questions? Email: Contact Us or call 515-271-0683

You will receive a online confirmation email from PayPal, for your ticket purchase. But you will NOT be receiving a physical admission ticket, from you online ticket purchase.
Instead you name and the quantity of tickets purchased, will be listed at the Ticket Booth/Trolley Pick-up/Parking Location.

 Online Discount Ticket sales have ended. Tickets can be purchased at the Ticket Booth.

The River Bend Neighborhood is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the City of Des Moines, Iowa. Within this area, you’ll find a diverse mix of families living in some of the oldest homes in the city. Many of the houses in River Bend date back to the 1870’s. Each year, the Neighborhood Association sponsors a tour of homes in the district.

The annual Historic Home Tour is River Bend Neighborhood Association’s largest fundraising event. It has helped fund projects such as the new neighborhood entrance signs, restoration of the Ruan House, and maintenance of various empty and neglected lots and properties.

The tour is an opportunity to provide the community at large a glimpse into some of the homes and gardens in the district. The tour highlights homes in varying stages of renovation and restoration, several designed by prominent architects. This year marks the 22th year for the tour. It will be held on Saturday, September 7th and Sunday, September 8th. Whether you’ve been on the tour many times or this will be your first time, we are excited to welcome you to our neighborhood and our Home Tour!

River Bend Home Tour information:

Schedule of Demonstrations – SUNDAY ONLY

11 a.m. and 12 a.m. – stained glass demonstration 1710 7th Street
1 p.m. – Making Stained Glass, 1426 9th Street
1 p.m. and 2 p.m. – Window restoration methods discussion and demonstration. Window replication samples will be on display, 410 Franklin Avenue
3 p.m. – Paint stripping methods demonstration, 523 Franklin

1942 Arlington – SATURDAY ONLY

This house is one of the more modest homes built in Jackson’s Subdivision. The original concept of Riverview Park as a suburb filled with grand homes for the wealthy was changed when developers realized they had set their expectations too high. After several distinctive homes were built, the remaining land was subdivided and smaller homes were built among the grander ones, offering a price more likely to sell quickly.

This home was subject to the same restrictive covenant as the rest of the homes in the Riverview Park Plat. The first of its kind on record in Des Moines, this covenant required homeowners who wanted to sell to first offer the lots (or their shares of stock in the company) to others who were already invested. Only if no offers were made could they list the property on the open market.

This house is known as a “Hallett type” because it bears a strong resemblance to the cottages George Hallett designed during the time this house was built. George Hallett, a well-known architect in Des Moines, was working independently at the time this house was built. Later he would be a principal in the firm Hallett and Rawson. While exact drawings of this house have not been found, the house is commonly considered to be one of Hallett’s designs. At least two other houses on the street from the same time period have also been attributed to Hallett. Comparing this house to photographs of similar Hallett houses reveals that they share the same box gable roof, front-facing gable windows, decorative balustrade, and bump-out side windows on the first story.

The building’s occupancy history reflects the expectations that this neighborhood would house affluent citizens as well as those aspiring to affluence. For example, Jesse F. Stevenson, a lawyer from Kentucky, moved into the house in 1900 shortly after completing his law degree at Drake University. While living in this house, he established his law firm, became treasurer of the Iowa Bar Association, and started his own investment securities business. He was also a member of the Iowa State Historical Society. When he and his family left this house in 1907 it was to move into a much grander two-story home at 1514 4th St. In this way the house at 1942 Arlington Avenue, like others in that subdivision, was a stepping stone on the way up the social and economic ladder.

The home as with many in the neighborhood was sub-divided to a multiple unit apartment.  It suffered significant damage due to fire in the mid 2000’s and sat empty, exposed to the elements.  Some repair work was performed and the structure was gutted but no significant efforts were made to preserve the home.  In late 2014 the home was transferred to a group of neighborhood residents who began the task of stabilizing and saving the structure.  Since the home was gutted, it served as a blank slate for some modernization without the risk of removing historic features.  The main staircase did not exist due to its removal by past owners to increase the square footage of the structure to fit more apartments.  An external staircase was located on the west side of the structure.  Renovations were completed in mid-2016 and has been a single family since.

410 Franklin Avenue

This was the home of George H. France and his wife Nannie. Mr. France worked in various financial and real estate interests in Des Moines, but he and his wife were also involved in many charitable and philanthropic activities and hosted many social events at their home.  He was born in Sharon, Wisconsin on September 17, 1851 and came to Des Moines in 1887.

Constructed in 1905, the George H. France House is a documented design of Liebbe, Nourse, and Rasmussen. Featuring beige-colored brick exterior walls, cast concrete trim, and horizontal bands worked in brick, this substantial building illustrates how that firm could manipulate Prairie School influences into the format of an American Four Square house. In its employment of a porte-cochere, the France House repeats an architectural feature embellishing other dwellings in the district.  The 4500 square foot structure once sat on almost an acre of land including half of the adjacent lot to the South that was purchased by the Frances prior to construction.

The home was sub-divided into multiple units sometime in the 1940’s by, it is believed, the Open Bible Church.    The house was built facing Oakland Avenue with the address of 1820 Oakland but sometime in the 50’s the plot of land was divided and the address changed to 410 Franklin Ave.  The apartment building to the East of the home was built in the mid to late 1950’s.  According the George Archer, owner of the property prior to 2000, the original ornate tile roof and dormer features of the France home were removed or covered by metal siding in the 1970’s.

The house remained unchanged until 2007 with the current owners purchased the property and converted the home back to a single family residence.  Much of the home was returned to its original state with modernization occurring on the 4 upper level bathrooms and kitchen.  The faux tile roof was installed in late 2012.  What is now the library was a kitchen/bathroom for one of the apartment units and all wood detail had been removed.  A couple panels of wainscoting had been moved to other portions of the house and were returned to their original location during renovation.  The book cases, beams, and crown moldings were all replicated after other sections of the main living area or from remnants recovered from the home.  Currently the home owners are replicating the built-in and wainscoting that would have embellished the dining room.  Scaring and reference to other features in the main living area as well as reference to other structures built in the era are serving as a guide for the restoration.

1710 7th Street

This house is a contributing structure to the Polk County Homestead & Trust Co. Addition Historic District. Its architectural style, position on the lot, and relationship to its surrounding structures tie it in with the district. Its significance lies in its contribution to the understanding of the economic forces that influenced this plat’s development as a fashionable suburb. This is shown through the building’s architecture, the quality of its construction materials, and the history of its residents. This house shares several characteristics with the four houses north of it on the same side of the street, which suggests they were all designed to compliment each other and create a shared sense of scale for that part of the plat. All four of those houses are oriented to face the east but each one has significant decorative details on the south elevation. Each house is positioned toward the north side of its lot so that the decorative south elevation faces an expansive side yard.

The occupancy history of this house reflects a similar pattern to the other significant houses on that block and indeed the rest of the district. This house was built for the Christian William Mennig family, who made their fortune in vinegar and pickles. The Mennig and Slater brand was a staple in many households. Mennig, like his neighbors, valued the fashionable nature of the neighborhood and lived in this house for ten years. When he moved away it was to build another grand house in another up and coming neighborhood just west of downtown, later known as South of Grand. Mennig’s towering stone house at 4220 (later 3920) Grand Ave., which he dubbed Grey Terrace, was torn down in 1974, leaving this house at 1710 7th St. as the only surviving home displaying the wealth and success of the Mennig family. (The building that once housed the Mennig & Slater Vinegar Works at 120 2nd Ave. is now the Polk County Auditor’s Office.)

After the Mennig family left in 1900, the house was owned by two consecutive widows, each of whom either shared their home with family members or took in other boarders. In this way 1710 7th St. was similar to its neighbor to the north at 1720 7th St., which had clearly become a rooming house by the 1940s.

This house suffered the same indignities as most of the other grand homes in this Historic District, being split into several apartments and experiencing deferred maintenance and fire damage.

In December of 2015, the house was acquired by a group of neighborhood residents after years of setting empty, saving it from eminent demolition and renovation began.  Tons of debris was removed from the structure as the arduous process of removing the years of multi-family alterations to uncover the original single family home.

The current residents took possession of the home around the end of 2016 and continued the renovation work.  In the early hours of March 23rd 2017, the house suffered another devastating fire.  Flames destroyed much of the foyer and the remainder of the home suffered major smoke damage.  Undeterred, the owners began restoration for the second time.  Completion of what you now see was completed in early 2018.

The home suffered and survived much adversity in its lifetime but has emerged as one of the premier gems of the neighborhood.

1903/1905 6th Avenue

Construction of the duplex at 1903 & 1905 6th Ave was completed by 1910 and is typical of the Arts and Craft style homes popular in the late 19th and early 20th century. The Arts and Crafts style is evident by the overhanging eaves with exposed rafter tails, double hung windows, and cedar shingle siding. Between 1900 – 1930, Double Homes became extremely popular throughout the country. During this time period, Double Homes made up about 20% of total dwellings in cities such as Minneapolis, Cleveland, New York, and Chicago, while only making up about 7% of dwellings in Des Moines. This may be due to the lack of industry in Des Moines (most were clerical workers, skilled laborers, or individual proprietors), affordability and abundance of land, and the rise of the automobile which eased the need for worker housing developments. Mr. and Mrs. Andrew S. Bonner, and their son, Polk District Judge W.G. Bonner, were the first known occupants of the duplex at 1903 6th Avenue. Andrew Bonner came to Iowa in 1859 with his family and was later part of the “Northern Brigade” during the Civil War, stationed at Spirit Lake to protect the area from “Indian Uprisings”. The Bonner’s daughter and her family, the Jamisons, then occupied the home until 1950, at which point

it was added on to and became a multi-family property. The building fell into disrepair in the 1990s and was renovated in 2002.

1961 Arlington Avenue – SUNDAY ONLY

1898-1914: The Herbert Wyman House.  In 1898, the property was purchased by Herbert B. Wyman, a native of Connecticut and a pioneer of Western Iowa.  He was the first mayor of Spencer and an early representative in the Iowa House, and he was later President of the Mechanics’ Savings Bank in Des Moines.  He built the house currently seen on the property, which was designed by the prominent architects Liebbe and Nourse.  The house is neo-classical with a pronounced Prairie influence.  He lived in the home with his wife and son and several servants, including a Swedish maid.  In 1909, H.B. Wyman was described by a local paper as one of the “richest men” in the City of Des Moines.  He purchased a gasoline-powered motor boat, and he was appointed by the Superintendent of the Department of Public Safety to serve as a river patrol.  The paper reported that “Seldom indeed is a bank president, worth several hundred thousand dollars, found scouting about the Des Moines River, perfectly content to let other business cares rest.”

1914-1948: The Colby Homestead.  In 1914, H.B. Wyman and family moved to a ranch in California, and the property was purchased by Charles Hayden Colby and his wife, Flora May (Clark) Colby.  It is said that the Colby family actively considered purchasing the mansion at 42nd and Grand in Des Moines, but selected 1961 Arlington Avenue instead because of its commanding view of the Des Moines River.  It is also said that they brought cement and rock by barge to create the large retaining walls that protect the property.  Those walls still stand strong, even as retaining walls constructed in later years deteriorated.  Mr. and Mrs. Colby owned and developed extensive real estate along the railroad lines heading to northwest Iowa, but lost much of their holdings in the farm crisis that preceded the Great Depression.  Even so, they continued to invest in real estate, and they reared four children in the home.  The Colby investments, continued by their children and grandchildren, are reflected in Colby Park, Colby Woods, and numerous other important developments in the western suburbs of Des Moines.  1961 Arlington Avenue may be regarded as the homestead of the Colby family in Des Moines.

1948-1999: The Apartments.  From and after World War II, in keeping with a pattern seen elsewhere, the home was divided into eight apartments.  The owners during the apartment phase consecutively included William and Molly Barry, Ed and Ruby Neiman, and William and Juanita Michael.  All owners lived on the premises, and each of these couples took pains to preserve important architectural features of the home–including built in cabinets and bookcases, bronze door hardware, and oak paneling.

1999-2007: The Initial Restoration.  In 1999, John Beard and Steven Schawl purchased the property and began its restoration as a single family home.  Although many important architectural features had been preserved, the initial restoration was a labor of love and required countless hours of serious work.

2007-present: The Continuing Restoration.  Curt Sytsma and his wife, Ellen King Huntoon, purchased the home in 2007 and are continuing the restoration.  Completed projects include the building of the front steps, the repair of the front porch, the restoration of the beveled glass windows in the main stairwell, and restoration of woodwork and radiators.  Improvements also include extensive landscaping, including the creation of Grandma Colby’s gardens  from what used to be a concrete dump west of the home.  In 2019, the improvements included new electric wiring throughout, a new roof that resembles the original slate, and copper rooftop finials that resemble the spires that originally graced the uppermost peak of the home.

The Carriage House.  The Carriage House is now a single-family rental unit, but was originally a barn.  It was converted to a living unit, however, at a very early period. Its basement is connected by tunnel to the basement of the main house.  The arched window on the front of the Carriage House duplicates the size and shape of the original hay mow door.  The door on the south is an heirloom from the Mahaska County homestead of John and Anna Matilda Hawkinson, Swedish immigrants and Curt’s great great grandparents.  Suzan Krasoff, the current tenant, will open her home for this year’s tour.  For those of you who traverse Birdland Drive in the Winter months, Suzan is the one who annually creates the magnificent display of Christmas lights that extend from our homes and down the bank to the river.

1330 9th – SATURDAY ONLY

1426 9th Street

1426 9th was built in 1917 and features strong Craftsman-style influences. The first owners were Joseph and Isadora Blotcky who were heavily involved in the early Des Moines Jewish Community. Blotchky was engaged in the retail and wholesale merchadising business. Starting in the late 90s the home was a boarding house and a resident death prompted a City-wide investigation into the status and safety of boarding houses in the City. The home was purchased in 2017 by Evan Herlocker and is undergoing a complete rehabilitation.

After a long two and a half year process the first floor is now complete except for the fireplace surround and some doors. The upstairs is nearly complete. Evan is looking forward to relaxing and enjoying the home for many years to come.

Allison Apartments - 6th and Hickman Road

The largest building opened in 1920 as the Glen Bailey Apartments. It featured luxury apartments with black walnut finishes, a beautiful Ivory Ball Room on the roof, and a club room and dancing space on the main floor. Originally, its address was 603 Prospect Road because Hickman Road was known as Prospect Road until 1936.

The entire complex of seven buildings, completed by 1925, was commonly referred to as the Bailey Court Apartments. The head of the Hiland Potato Chip Company once owned the property.

The construction of these apartment buildings demonstrated the growing popularity of living along a streetcar line with convenient access to downtown.

The property was recently acquired and the units are being restored and will become available for rent in the near future. At least one unit will be available to tour (and we’re super excited to see).

1811 Oakland Avenue

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the Victorian house was home to “Mrs. Huegle’s Preparatory School”, a private boarding school operated by Jennie Steele Huegle which hosted students from across the state. Huegle went on to become the first female County Superintendent of Schools and was also active in the women’s rights movement.

The house later became a rooming house and then a duplex before being converted back to a single-family home.
This home is being rehabilitated by Archway Properties and available for purchase soon.

1601 6th Avenue

North Des Moines Hall was built in 1888 and is individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The double storefront building originally featured a second floor meeting hall once used by the independent community of North Des Moines for a meeting and voting space. Preliminary investigation has uncovered rare original cost iron columns on the facade, which had been covered in the 1920s or 1930s when a more “modern” storefront with transom windows was installed. The building has served many commercial uses over its existence – grocery store, rug/bedding factory, silent motion picture theater, ice cream shop, Maid-Rite, and various taverns. The 6th Avenue Corridor Urban Neighborhood Main Street Program acquired the property and is holding it for mixed-use rehabilitation.

Sweet Tooth Farms - 1809 8th Street

Sweet Tooth Farms is an urban farm in the heart of River Bend, and is run by Monika and Rene Owczarski.
The farm will be open both days of the tour, and will also be selling fresh produce and freshly baked bread.

Trinity La Americas Church – SATURDAY ONLY

The church, located at 8th & College Avenue in Des Moines, Iowa, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

With a special thanks to our Sponsors:


Additional Support provided by:

Marce and Bethany Real Estate Team
Transformations HSN
Old Pane, windows and doors
400 Franklin LLC
York Taenzer, Realtor, Coldwell Banker