MASON CITY | Andy and Cheryl Hubbard never dreamed they’d be living on the former property of the late Gen. Hanford MacNider and his wife, Margaret.
But seven years after purchasing the stable and the caretaker’s house northwest of the MacNider’s 40-room mansion built in 1929, they are.
“We just loved it,” Cheryl said. “We loved the story, the property.”
At the time, the Hubbards, avid woodworkers, lived in “a nice house with a big garage” in Mason City, but they wanted a dedicated space to work on their projects, so they started looking.
Cheryl, a project manager at Henkel Construction Company, came across the 10-acre property while she was commuting to and from Charles City for a year-long project. Seated one-quarter mile off Fourth Street Southeast, surrounded by corn fields and hidden by overgrown vegetation, the Hubbards bought the property for the 8,000-square-foot stable and the history.
“We really had no initial plan of ever living out here,” Cheryl said. “We kind of thought it’d be a fun getaway. We’d re-do the old house and kind of hang out here, but we really just wanted the shop.”
But the more time the couple, who have a 12-year-old son, Thomas, spent on the property, the more they thought about the possibilities it offered: quiet and beautiful views while retaining access to Mason City.
In 2015, the Hubbards began construction on their house that’d be attached to the 650-square-foot caretaker’s house and the stable-turned-shop — one of many ways the couple combined the old and the new.
Cheryl and Andy, who is a continuous improvement specialist at Mercy Medical Center – North Iowa, did all the stuff the general contractor and carpenter would do.
“We did everything but the concrete, electrical, plumbing and heating and timber-frame construction,” he said. “That’s why it took us about two years to build it.”
The 3,200-square-foot timber-framed house was built with large Douglas fir posts and beams fit together and secured with oak pins creating a “barn-like structure.”
“As a kid, I always loved barns, and when we decided to build out here, I was more excited about building a barn than a house, so we kind of combined the ideas,” Cheryl said.
The result is a large open space with “lots of windows” and natural light.
In 2016, the Hubbards moved into their new house.
The house, combined with the old caretaker’s house, features three bedrooms, three bathrooms and a three-stall garage.
On the open-concept main level, the kitchen features a custom-made hammered copper island and 18-foot ladder with hanging rustic lights overhead in front of tall windows. The dining room is accented with a handmade table created using old floor joists from Cheryl’s grandfather’s house, and the living room features a fireplace with a view toward the stone-exterior-now-interior from the old house.
The entry to the bedroom suites on the main level contains material from the old stable’s four horse stalls, including the wood and stall doors. Behind the repurposed stall doors is space for a pantry and lit displays for Cheryl’s Lego creations.
“We had to clean and sand every bit of these boards because they had been in the stable for 90 years,” Andy said. “They look like new, but they’re old.”
A spiral staircase from the main level leads to a loft, where the Hubbards play games. The house also features a basement that could someday accommodate two additional bedrooms.
The main level is connected to the old caretaker’s house, a one-stall garage and the stable.
“Pretty much everything in here is original,” Andy said. “We didn’t do much other than clean, fix, scrape every surface.
In the center of the wood shop sits a counter from Cheryl’s relatives’ Kiron hardware store that her father had been storing for 50 years. It also features in-floor heat, a new stained concrete floor and industrial lights from the former Thomas Electric building that flooded.
“That’s what is such a big deal for us,” she said. “You can build a house, but we wanted the story. We wanted to look at things and go this is where this came from ... I want it to have a story, I want there to be a meaning to it.”