Property at 320 S.W. Seventh St. in Des Moines has been sold to a California group for $7.35 million, according to Polk County records. Photo courtesey of Google Earth

 

A building constructed by a man who greatly influenced Des Moines’ early development has been sold to an out-of-state investor, Polk County real estate records show.

The property at 320 S.W. Seventh St., commonly known as the Rocket Transfer Building, was built around 1902 by Frederick Hubbell, founder of F.M. Hubbell and Son, which eventually became Hubbell Realty Co.

Hubbell Realty, through its Rocket Transfer I LLC, sold the property for $7.35 million to FLT Rocket Transfer Lofts LLC, a group located in Irvine, Calif.

It is the first time the property has been owned by a group not affiliated with Hubbell Realty, according to a company spokeswoman.

"The timing was right for us to sell the property," Hubbell spokeswoman Claire Brehmer told the Business Record.

Hubbell Realty sold the property through a competitive marketing process, according to Brehmer.

Frederick Hubbell, who was 16 when he arrived in Des Moines in 1855 from Connecticut, began buying property in the downtown area as well as the industrial area known as Factory Addition when he was in his mid-20s, according to his biography on the Terrace Hill website. Hubbell, with partners, financed the construction of Des Moines’ first street car line and established the waterworks for Des Moines. Hubbell also purchased Terrace Hill, which now serves as Iowa’s governor's mansion.

Hubbell also developed numerous warehouses located in the Factory Addition, including the one at 320 S.W. Seventh St. The structure was originally called the Hawkeye Transfer Co. Building, according to its nomination letter to the National Register of Historic Places in 2010. Hawkeye Transfer specialized in agricultural implements and heavy equipment sales and moving.

The warehouse, which was named to the Register of Historic Places, is significant because of its ties to Hawkeye Transfer, according to the nomination.

The construction of the warehouse enabled the "growing company to add storage to its retail and moving business," according to the nomination. The building is also important because of its "association with the development of the city’s industrial and warehousing district that was established by Frederick M. Hubbell and his Factory Addition Plat. Hubbell built this building as an incentive to lure major tenant companies … to his new development."

The four-story warehouse cost $25,000 to build, according to a building permit issued in August 1901. At the time, the warehouse was "rated the largest in the city," according to the nomination.

Hawkeye Transfer moved out of the building around 1915 and Luthe Hardware Co. moved in the following year, according to the nomination. Luthe Hardware specialized in the wholesale distribution of "tinware, cutlery, sporting goods, guns, ammunition, paints, oils, wooden ware and cordage and harness." The company occupied the building until 1941.

Over the years, the building was home to other companies including, in the 1970s, Rocket Transfer Co., Iowa Paper Warehouse and Bell Moving Co.

In the early 1900s, dozens of warehouses were constructed in the area, which spanned more than 100 city blocks, according to the nomination form. In subsequent years, many of the warehouses were razed to make room for road expansions and newer buildings.

Hubbell Realty in 2009 converted the four-story Rocket Transfer building to 58 apartment units. It was among several warehouses at the time that were converted to residential living units, either as condominiums or apartments.

"We believe we did our best to preserve the integrity and unique qualities of the building during the renovations in the early 2000s, which established the historical property for long-term, multi-use successes into the future," Brehmer wrote in an email.

The property in 2020 was valued at $4.4 million.