The iconic Butler Mansion at 2633 Fleur Drive has been sold for $3.3 million. The property was on the market for more than two years. Below are interior photos of the mansion. Photos by Joe Crimmings

 

The Butler Mansion, the striking white concrete building that sits on a hill overlooking Gray’s Lake and downtown Des Moines, has a new owner.

The Italian American Cultural Center of Iowa is buying the property at 2633 Fleur Drive on contract for $3.3 million, according to Polk County real estate records. The transaction was recorded Dec. 28.

"We are really happy with where we are and now, where our future will be," said Paolo Bartesaghi, president of organization. "We needed a bigger place. It’s still on the south side [of Des Moines]. … It’s a perfect location for us."
 
 
 
The group has outgrown its current facility at 1961 Indianola Ave., where it’s been located for 28 years. The new location will allow the organization to expand its event offerings, Bartesaghi wrote in the most recent edition of the Italian American Cultural Center of Iowa newsletter. Plans include offering an interactive museum, research library, event center, culinary classes, language and art classes, and a garden.
The new facility "will bring this vision to fruition," Bartesaghi wrote.

 

The group has a campaign underway to raise money to help pay for the purchase of the property.

 

Bob Boesen bought the Butler Mansion property in 2006 from friends Jack Kragie and Elizabeth Newell, who started a Des Moines advertising agency in the 1970s. Kragie and Newell bought the mansion in 1987 and moved their firm into the multilevel structure. When Kragie and Newell left Des Moines in 2006, they asked Boesen if he’d like to buy it.

"Growing up in Des Moines, you would always go by that building and admire it," Boesen said in a 2019 interview with the Business Record. "It’s always been one of those properties that’s been pretty special."

The house was built in 1934, according to Polk County real estate records.

Earl Butler, an engineer and world traveler, wanted a house that would "inspire him to stay home," according to Jay Pridmore, the author of "Des Moines Architecture & Design."

Butler commissioned Kraetsch and Kraetsch, a local architecture firm, to design the house that "features white case concrete walls, curved interiors, indirect lighting and arrangement of rooms that … put the most important living areas in the back, where they overlooked the countryside," Pridmore wrote.

Boesen listed the property for sale in 2018 when a marketing firm that had merged with the Kragie-Newell group ended its lease with Boesen.

Boesen had said he didn’t think he’d have trouble finding a new tenant but finding a buyer took longer than he originally thought it would. Then the pandemic hit.
 
 
 
 
BJ Connolly III, the property’s listing agent, said it took about 13 months to close the transaction with the Italian American Cultural Center of Iowa.

"A lot of people put a lot of effort into getting this deal done," said Connolly, a senior commercial broker with NAI Iowa Realty Commercial. "At the end of the day, everyone is very happy."
Pat Schneider, a vice president with Ferguson Commercial Real Estate Services, represented the Italian American Cultural Center of Iowa in the transaction.

As part of the transaction agreement, Boesen purchased the property where the cultural center is now located. The property’s purchase price was $300,000, records show. The group will lease the building until they fully move into the Butler Mansion, Connolly said.

According to the contract between Robert and Christie Boesen and the Italian American Cultural Center of Iowa, the group will pay the Boesens $25,000 a month beginning in January through December 2022. A balloon payment of $2.9 million will be due on Jan. 1, 2023, according to the contract, which is filed with the Polk County Recorder's Office.

The group cannot make any "material alteration" to the Butler Mansion without prior permission from the Boesens, according to the contract.

Butler Mansion facts

Address: 2633 Fleur Drive, Des Moines
Year built: 1934, according to Polk County Assessor
Total number of rooms: 28, plus 10 bathrooms
Total square footage: 13,000
Central ramp: Seven levels of the house accessed by a 300-foot-long ramp
All the "proofs": Fire-, tornado-, earthquake- and termite-proof
Amount of steel used to build original house: 110 tons
Amount of concrete in original house: 115 train-car loads
It was called the "Home of the Future" in the late 1930s because it included: Automatic heating and air conditioning; automatic water softening; electric garbage disposal, dishwasher, dish towel dryer and garage door opener; cold storage room for freezing game; ice cube freezer with 675-cube capacity; 19,000 feet of telephone cable connecting eight telephones; and in the dining room, a frosted-glass panel that concealed 96 red, blue and yellow light bulbs that allowed the room to be any color.


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The rooftop patio of the Butler Mansion at 2633 Fleur Drive. Photo by Joe Crimmings