Who owns the governor of Iowa’s furniture? Lawsuit seeks to address

DES MOINES, Iowa – Two different groups are laying claim to the furniture and other items used by Iowa governor, Kim Reynolds, at her official Terrace Hill mansion in Des Moines.

In a lawsuit filed in 2022, the private Terrace Hill Society Foundation sued the Terrace Hill Commission – the state-run agency responsible for the mansion – alleging it denied the foundation access to the mansion to maintain a collection of items it legally owns. The foundation then alleged the commission denied the items were owned by the foundation altogether.

The commission moved to dismiss the suit, arguing it had sovereign immunity, a legal doctrine stating that the state cannot commit a legal wrong.

The district court denied the commission’s motion to dismiss, finding the case was sufficient to overcome the state’s immunity. That decision was appealed. Now, the state’s supreme court has affirmed the district court’s decision, ruling the state is not immune in this case. The case is set to move forward.

The foundation doesn’t lay claim to everything in the mansion, but it says it owns a collection of “irreplaceable” pieces of furniture, books, fine china and other artifacts, according to the Des Moines Register.

Terrace Hill was designed by Chicago-based architect William W. Boyington and built from 1866 to 1869. The mansion was the largest residence in the city, costing $250,000 to build. It was funded and owned by millionaire Benjamin Franklin Allen, who lived in the house with his family until 1884. The house was highly modern for the time, featuring an elevator, indoor restrooms, and hot and cold running water. The residence was donated to the state in 1971.

It was then voted to be renovated to serve as a mansion for the governor. The Terrace Hill Society Foundation was formed in 1972 to raise funds for the renovation, as well as provide the house with furniture, art and other items for decoration.

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