Taylor Hill Tidbits

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There are so many stories to share. Take a look around our lodge.

Rooted in the rolling hills of Audubon County and steeped in family farming history, Taylor Hill Lodge has served as a welcoming gathering space, peaceful hideaway, and private retreat for the Manatt family since 2002.

Bound to Audubon

Charles Taylor (Chuck) Manatt grew up in a white wooden house on Taylor Hill Farm (see photo), four miles north of town — now lovingly called the Homeplace – where Taylor Hill Lodge sits. Chuck was solidly a “farm kid” — an Eagle Scout, 4-H member, and Future Farmers of America (FFA) leader. There were several structures on the farm while Chuck grew up, but what stood out most was the classic red turn-of-the-century English barn. It served three generations, beginning with Chuck’s Grandpa Charlie Taylor.

Chuck’s father, William “Price” Manatt, farmed and managed the Homeplace, raising some dairy cows and cultivated crops in view of the barn where hogs rooted in lots around it. The dairy business was shuttered long ago, but the commanding barn was built to last.

Chuck’s future wife Kathleen Klinkefus grew up in town. Her father, John Klinkefus, worked as a County Assessor and later as owner of the livestock auction company. After graduating in the Audubon High School class of 1954, Chuck and Kathy both left Audubon to attend Iowa State College (now University), marrying in late 1957 and graduating in 1958. They went on to live in Virginia during Chuck’s military service, then to Washington, DC while Chuck studied law and Kathy taught grade school, and on again to build a career that took him to Los Angeles and then back to Washington.

But from wherever they lived, Chuck and Kathy, along with their children, returned to visit the homeplace and their many friends in the community almost every summer. In harvest season they brought friends back with them to enjoy beautiful western Iowa and to hunt; they pondered building a lodge on the century farm where all could enjoy both serenity and hospitality.

A barn transformed

With a strong desire to save Grandpa Taylor’s barn, the Manatts, their farming partners Donna and Ted Bauer, along with family friend and local contractor Tom Testroet, began renovating the classic red English barn into a modern bed and breakfast, maintaining its classic Midwestern charm. Within a year, the barn was transformed into Taylor Hill Lodge – appropriately named after Chuck’s Grandpa Taylor and for its location on the first big hill north of Audubon. The hill provides a marvelous spot for stargazing at the pitch-black night sky.

Local artist Clint Hansen designed and fabricated its stained glass window depicting corn fields, a pheasant, and a golden labrador retriever owned by good family friend Louie Lauritsen. Fittingly, the Lodge became an annual gathering place for the Manatt family’s friends for hunts each October.

Your Western Iowa destination

Completed in the spring of 2002 (see photo), Taylor Hill Lodge stands looking much the same on the outside. The inside would be quite a surprise to Charlie Taylor, however. Where once pigs rooted in the straw, the guests now relax on leather sofas in front of a cozy fireplace. “Homey and comfortable” is how guests describe the lodge with its earthy colors, mission-style furniture and original pitched ceiling visible from the spacious great room below.

Open year-round, Taylor Hill Lodge offers six bedrooms, four full baths and a family-sized dining and sitting area, complete with an extra-long wooden kitchen table that’s a natural gathering place. Outside to the east is a patio where guests can sip their morning coffee while viewing the sunrise and surrounding fields, or stargaze with a cold beer in hand. Management of the lodge was spearheaded by Donna Bauer from 2002-2018, and has been expanded since 2019 by Ann Brinkman.

The Lodge has grown along with Audubon’s community-led redevelopment in recent years. Over the years, the Manatts have been honored to host dozens of weddings of local couples, Wheeler reunions, quilting groups from across Iowa, and family Christmas gatherings on the Homeplace.

Land acknowledgement 

The Manatt family farm sits upon native land of the Sioux, Iowa and Kaw (Kansa) tribes. To learn more about native lands of Iowa and the U.S., one useful resource is http://native-land.ca.

Taylor Hill Lodge in the news!

Read: Taylor Hill Lodge: Celebrating 20 YearsAudubon County Advocate Journal, June 3 2022