A Long Four Years

This is 50. Stronger than ever, and learning so many new things.

It has been a long four years.

When I started Hat Trick Renovation, I wanted to use my skills to help rebuild the architectural and social fabric of the neighborhoods I love. I was so excited to be creating homes out of abandoned decay. I loved my brand, named for my trio of children, and my branding, a shadow print of the peaks of our home that made me fall in love with historic preservation. I picked up my brand new business cards, drove three blocks towards picking up my daughter from preschool, and everything changed in an instant.

I was rear ended in a car accident that caused a concussion that developed into Post Concussive Syndrome. Within a few weeks, my symptoms had gotten so bad I could barely tolerate light, sound, or movement. I couldn’t balance on solid ground, let alone on the top of a ladder while swinging a hammer.

Fortunately, I had a good friend recognize my symptoms and she connected me to someone who brought me to On With Life Brain Injury Rehabilitation. I spend months in Outpatient rehab, using neuroplasticity to rewire my brain back to the function that once allowed me two work on multiple houses at the same time. It took over a year before I felt like I could start working again, and then another before I felt comfortable doing my work.

The road back took some terrible turns. Ironically, the City of Des Moines mixed up my address (1161) with another house (1611) which resulted in them taking thousands of dollars of architectural salvage without notice and throwing it in the landfill. As if my own confusion with details was not enough! Then there was the pandemic…adding Kindergarten teaching aide to my responsibilities. More challenges with the City of Des Moines, the Derecho causing materials shortages. It has been a wild ride.

But here’s what I have learned: I am unstoppable and resilient. I have gotten my life back. I am so excited for what is next. I have done so many interesting things in the past four years, and I hope to start sharing what I have learned with you over the next months and years. For now, I’ll share this: we are stronger than we think. We have more potential than we know. And there are big things ahead for our corner of the world.

Save the Iowa State Historic Tax Credit!

Just one neighborhood dramatically impacted by State Historic Tax Credits. This is on 7th Street in the River Bend Neighborhood of Des Moines, and six years ago, 60% of the houses here were abandoned. From left to right, there is an owner occupied current SHTC ongoing renovation, an eligible structure, a new restoration project that Hat Trick Renovation started in 2017 made possible by SHTC, and a completed project by Barnum Construction that would not have been possible without SHTC. These SHTC projects create jobs, increase home values, and turn abandoned buildings into tax generating, gorgeous homes.


The Iowa Senate Ways and Means Committee is meeting today, February 22, on a tax bill that will reduce and then eliminate the Iowa State Historic Tax Credit (SHTC). This would be a huge loss for neighborhoods and main streets in Iowa. Many of our projects at Hat Trick Renovation are only viable because of SHTC. They are a vital part of our work in saving historic buildings in Des Moines, but these tax credits are also good for the financial health of our state.

  • Job creation: 6000 construction jobs and 4600 permanent full time positions created by SHTC investments
  • 284% increase in assessed value of impacted buildings
  • Anticipated to yield a 5.04:1 return on investment by year 3, ramping upward to 19.7:1 in year 10, and to 32.1:1 by year 15, based on direct economic outputs alone.

In other words, SHTC are a budget positive impact on the Iowa Budget. This is a program we should be expanding in our tight state economy, not cutting and eliminating. Please contact your State Senator and the Senators on the Ways and Means Committee (linked). They need to hear from you immediately to save this vital program.

Below you will find files that will help you learn more about the SHTC program.

IA HTC_2page_v7

IA HTC_Full Report_direct pages

Delightful Discoveries

Most days in renovation of old houses are dirty, dusty, and drudgery. Every once in a while, we get a bright spark of something fun. At the 22nd Street house, we discovered a roof inside the walls, evidence of a sleeping porch that had been converted to interior space. My favorite architectural discovery was the historic porch ceiling on the front porch. This house was so big, we felt the highest use of the front rooms was to convert them to porch, which we suspected was there in the beginning. Imagine my delight when we started to pull down the ceiling and….


PORCH BEADBOARD!!! Vindication is mine! I spent the whole day muttering “I knew that used to be a porch!”


It’s gorgeous. Really. I’m going to do my best to preserve it.

1161 Numbers

A close second was the old (original?) house numbers found attached to some boards underneath the siding. We think it was part of the remodel that enclosed the porch. Luckily, they were too lazy to take the numbers off the boards they were reusing.

And then there are the strange and weird findings in renovation. One of our day labor guys found a couple bottles in one of the ceilings we were tearing out.

We tried to track down some information on Hazelwood Whiskey, but we didn’t get very far. We encourage all history buffs to share information on these bottles with us. Hope you enjoyed this peek into the archaeological adventures of 1161 22nd Street!

House 1: The 22nd Street House

Year 1 side by side

The Drake House came to us at the end of several rounds of hot potato. The house had been cut into 8 or 9 apartments and had suffered a fire in the back corner. It had been passed through a few different owners before it found us finally willing to dive into the restoration. This house has been our project since July 2016. This photo shows some of the exterior progress we’ve made in the past year.


Meet Hat Trick Renovation

Meet Hat Trick Renovation…a family of old house lovers living in Des Moines, Iowa. It all started when an Iowa boy asked a Jersey girl to dance at a fraternity party in 1991. They fell in love and settled in Iowa. It wasn’t long before his construction and engineering education and experience met her degree in Interior Design and started to create projects. Their first home was a 1988 built home to which they added a 2.5 car garage and master bedroom suite. That went well, but the inner city beckoned and in 2011, they moved to the River Bend Neighborhood of Des Moines into a 4000 sf Victorian on the National Registry. The Hatton House projects are chronicled in this blog.

The longer they lived in the Hatton House, the more thankful they became to the people who had worked to save the house from demolition. After assisting in a few neighborhood projects, they decided to pay it forward and Hat Trick Renovation was born!

As for the Hat Trick name, it’s a nod to the family obsession with soccer and the trio of apprentices….or kids…in the family business. The third kid was a long awaited, nearly impossible to score “hat trick” baby. In this family, Hat Tricks are long-sought-after, beloved, things of beauty that bring great joy, just like we hope our restoration projects are for their future owners.