Townsend had a prominent career in Cedar Falls as a banker,
lumber company owner, mayor, school board member, county
supervisor, state senator and Iowa State Normal School trustee.
He built this house during the 1878-1884 period, after the
death of his wife. They had previously lived in the Knapp-Townsend
House at 224 West Third Street.
The house was
built in the Italianate, or bracketed, style, but it has
a number of characteristics that reflect middle European
designs. A Gothic spire rises above a Tuscan roof, for example.
There are open cross beams on the gable below the spire,
and the window moldings are carved in an unusual manner.
The ironwork that once graced the gables has been removed.
Inside, the house
features 11-foot ceilings, parquet floors, fireplaces in
nearly every room, a walnut staircase, and elaborate doorknobs
and hinges. A stained glass window overlooks the staircase,
and hand- blown glass is found in windows throughout the
house. The interior shutters are original, as is the intercom
system from the maid's quarters to the master bedroom. The
house had been remodeled to include an upstairs apartment
and has served as a bed and breakfast. It is currently a
This is one of Cedar Falls' most distinctive houses. "The
genteel old lady," as described by the Waterloo Courier
in a 1976 article, "is tall but dainty with many small
decorative touches in unexpected places." The gingerbread
beneath the eaves suggested "petticoat lace under a
Victorian lady's skirts," and the steeple seemed like
"a folded parasol."