GOLD WINNER – 2023 EFA Remodel/Renovation

To revitalize WesleyLife’s flagship community in Des Moines, Iowa, the organization embarked on a project to reposition the campus with new wellness and community amenities. This included preserving and transforming the cornerstone of the community, the D.S. Chamberlain Mansion. Built in 1904 and on the National Historic Register, the Chamberlain Mansion became WesleyLife’s first home for aging adults in 1949. After 70 years of use, the home was in disrepair and not fulfilling its potential. There were structural issues, no modernized HVAC system, peeling ceilings from humidity, and an inaccessible footprint with a challenging layout for a public space.

The goal of the project was to preserve the mansion’s original integrity and character while elevating its function and community use to fit the campus-wide repositioning effort. The mansion is completely renovated while preserving the original architectural intent and impression of the 1904 home. A new HVAC system was installed in the basement with new ductwork throughout, structural and ceiling beams were straightened or removed where needed, every hinge and piece of hardware was removed, cleaned, and restored, each piece of woodwork was preserved, ADA requirements were fulfilled, and commercial food service was introduced into the space.

The Main Floor Fireside area now features the Chamberlain Mansion Pub designed to transform historic, underutilized rooms into a lively, full-service bar and restaurant. This Fireside area features flexible spaces for events, artist-in-residence installations, live music, and cocktail hours. The bar is designed to connect three of the existing rooms on the main floor. It has a full liquor license, and the bar back has a TurboChef pizza oven, allowing pizzas to be freshly prepared by chefs in the community’s commercial kitchen then baked and served in the pub. An adjacent room hosts weekly performances by world-renowned pianist Dan Knight.

WesleyLife aimed to welcome in the surrounding community and enhance life for residents. Through the renovation and preservation process, the mansion went from a stagnant, stuffy
old historic house that was out of commission, to a community hub that is full of energy and vitality, inviting residents and the public to visit, dine, grab a drink, and make connections. The revitalized Chamberlain Mansion and Fireside create a welcoming destination for the entire Des Moines community.

“I visit a friend here every week, and the pub was such a welcome surprise! Sam and his team could not be friendlier and the lunch I ordered was delicious. The renovations are beautiful. What a great addition to the campus.” – Susan Murphy, local visitor

Design team: Pope Design Group (architect and interior design); WesleyLife (owner and operator); Graham Construction (general contractor); Bishop Engineering (civil engineer and landscape architect); Baker Group (mechanical and electrical engineer); Workspace (furniture)

Cost per square foot: $154