1972 Lake Panorama Home Remains in the Family
By Susan Thompson
A small weekend cabin built in the early 1970s on Lake Panorama remains in the same family today. Shawn Briggs has lived full-time in the home the past 12 years, after she and her five children moved from Bondurant.
Her grandparents started looking for a lot at Lake Panorama in 1970, bought one in 1971 and the home was completed a year later. It was one of four homes featured on the Women For Panora’s Future (WFPF) holiday home tour in early December.
The A-frame home is located on the west side of the lake, and around the corner from Sunset Beach. It’s positioned so Boulder Cove can be seen to the east and Burchfield Cove to the west. “The walls of the house were actually built elsewhere, then trucked here,” Briggs says. “A crane was used to lift the walls and rafters into place.”
The two-bedroom, two-bath house includes two common areas, one upstairs and one in the basement. The A-frame design means the second floor bedroom features slanted ceilings. The original building was just 1,400 square feet. An addition added 500 square feet, making it possible to expand the kitchen, master bedroom and main bathroom.
A one-car garage under the house was part of the original design, but Briggs says driving down the long lane and then around the back of the house and into the garage was tricky. That space now is used for storage.
Briggs had a new two-car garage built closer to the road. Her significant other, Steve Gates, has lived in the home for five years. He installed a “man cave” and office space in the upper level of the garage. Knotty pine wood was used for walls and the ceiling, plus sliding doors that conceal corner storage spaces. An upper deck provides sweeping views of Lake Panorama.
Both the upper level of the garage and home were decorated for the WFPF holiday tour. Briggs says she has always enjoyed decorating for Christmas. “I’ve gathered a lot of different Christmas items over the years, but with such a small house, I was running out of room,” she says. “Two years ago I got a small tree for each of the five kids, put some of their ornaments on them, and gave them to them for Christmas.”
Briggs still has plenty of items to display, including wall hangings, a set of holiday-themed children’s books, a dining table filled with holiday place settings, Christmas village scenes, a decorated tree and more.
Briggs is a relatively new WFPF member. When asked to open her home for the holiday tour, she worried it wasn’t large enough to be of interest. She was assured by people on the tour would enjoy seeing how a smaller home can be decorated for Christmas, and she says she enjoyed visiting with those who came through her home. In return, visitors enjoyed the 300 cookies she baked for the occasion.
Briggs has many fond memories visiting her grandparents as a child, then into her teenage years and beyond. “My grandparents lived in a home on Des Moines’ east side, but this house was my grandmother’s favorite place to be. So in the summers, she would spend all her time here, while Grandpa stayed in Des Moines to work,” she says.
“She would have a big garden, and my brother, sister and me were her regular garden helpers,” Briggs says. That annual garden tradition continues, after Briggs purchased two lots across the road from the house where she maintains her own large garden now.
On weekends, her grandfather would join the family. He had both a fishing boat and a Viking deck boat. “Grandpa taught us to ski behind that deck boat. I still have that original set of wooden skis,” she says.
After her grandfather passed away, Briggs’ grandmother would close up her Des Moines home and continued to spend each summer at Lake Panorama. “I was always out here during summers, swimming in the lake, or going to The Lodge to swim or eat,” she says. “Once I was in high school, and later at Cornell College, I’d bring as many friends as possible.”
Briggs’ family was at the house in 1993 when a deluge of rain to the north caused a rapid rise in Lake Panorama. She has photos of her and her brother paddling a small rowboat out to remove the canopy from the boatlift, which was completely submerged. She also remembers a Christmas visit when a big snowstorm had the family stranded longer than planned.
After her grandmother passed away, Briggs’ mother inherited the home. She now lives in Alamo, Texas, and visits each summer for a week or more. Someday, Briggs will inherit the home.
When Briggs decided 12 years ago to move to Lake Panorama from Bondurant, some of her five school-age children weren’t happy about leaving their friends behind. “But they all ended up loving the Panorama schools, and quickly made friends here. And their Bondurant friends loved coming to the lake, too,” she says. “This house has hosted lots of kids over the years.”
Four of her children graduated and moved away, with three still living in central Iowa and one in Arizona. Daughter Lauren Soll is a Panorama freshman.
When Briggs first moved fulltime to Lake Panorama, she worked as a server at Lake Panorama National. Eight years ago she started cleaning homes and businesses. She now cleans four to five properties nearly every day, with the help of one other person. Many of her clients are at Lake Panorama, but she also has some in Panora, Guthrie Center and Jefferson.
“I love living at Lake Panorama,” Briggs says. “I’ve made lots of friends here over the years. Steve and I like to play at the Panorama West golf course, and enjoy the informal Friday Night Couples events there. My favorite thing is to take the pontoon out during the week. It’s so quiet and peaceful.”
She also clearly loves living in the house her grandparents built, where she enjoys many fond memories from the past, and continues to make new memories today.