Hope builds for at-risk Marshalltown mansion
The historic mansion at 607 West Main Street in Marshalltown is at risk of destruction, but a group is rallying to help preserve the beloved structure.
The now abandoned house finished construction in 1901, complete with three floors, 16 rooms, a basement and an attic. Now, the house suffers from structural and settling issues along with exterior damage from the 2018 tornado and the 2020 derecho.
Beth and Nick Sy of vlog channel “Reality Daydream” brought attention to the structure last spring when they documented the house’s state of disrepair in a video tour.
“We both have loved the house for a long time just from driving by it, and I think a lot of people in Marshalltown feel the same way,” Beth said.
Word of the mansion’s state also exploded on various Marshalltown Facebook pages and groups. Reality Daydream’s sizable audience from YouTube and Instagram beyond Marshalltown is also invested in the journey. The house’s architectural flourishes have been featured in many books. and it is a prominent focal point on Marshalltown’s Main Street.
“Some people have lived there. Some people remember walking by. Everybody loves the heart window,” Beth said. “It’s just kind of a staple in the Marshalltown scene. and I think people are really sad about the idea of it being gone forever.”
After reaching out to the owner to offer information on home restoration, they learned the owner wants the house gone. Reality Daydream wants to ensure that the owner, a private party, isn’t seen in a bad light and feel they can’t fault the owner. Several others have tried to restore the house and struggled, with funding also an obstacle.
Currently, the owner wants the house torn down if it cannot be moved off the lot but has made an agreement to sell the house to Reality Daydream if it can be done.
The first step is moving the house off the lot, with Reality Daydream now looking at options for open lots and determining the feasibility of moving the house. The plan is to keep the house in the Main Street area and find a way to fit it in with the others around it. Once a new lot is secured and the house is moved, work will begin on restoring the exterior and eventually, the interior.
Planning for official fundraising efforts, a crucial aspect of making the project possible, is underway. Donations can currently be made to the @RealityDaydream Venmo account.
“We feel like it’s a project for the community,” Nick said. “The community loves the house. We want to see it preserved as much as everybody else does. and it’s going to cost an astronomical amount. There is no way that we would be able to fix it and sell it and not be several times over underwater on it.”
Reality Daydream is working to build a team with experience in historic restoration and partnering with the Historical Society of Marshall County who have agreed to act as a fiscal sponsor. That allows designated funds to be donated to the Historical Society of Marshall County for the restricted purpose of supporting the project. Reality Daydream and the Historical Society of Marshall County are in the process of formalizing that agreement.
“The mission of the historical society is to preserve and share the rich history of this county,” Historical Society of Marshall County Administrator Michelle Roseburrough Halverson said. “That particular structure is nationally recognized for its architecture and locally for its significance here on our historic Main Street, so I’m very excited about it and wish them the best in this endeavor.”
In order to apply for tax credits, a business must operate out of the house. Reality Daydream is considering a bed and breakfast idea, with additional plans for events and weddings
“What I predict is as a bed and breakfast, this should bring about 480 people annually to Marshalltown,” Nick said. “As an event center, I see it bringing in thousands of people.”
Gaynelle Jacobson, owner of the house from 1949 to 2003, was an avid horticulturist. Nick said he would like a garden setting in the house developed to honor the previous generations who lived there.
“I think that’s something that would really help out the Marshalltown community,” Nick said. “To have something like that, an event center with an outdoor garden area. I would love for it to be like a Reiman Gardens on a way scaled down version.”
For those interested in following updates on the mansion, those can follow “Reality Daydream” on YouTube and Instagram.
If everything goes as planned, the hope is to have the house moved in the spring or summer of 2022.
Contact Trevor Babcock at 641-753-6611 or