A Storied Structure
When The History Center invites the community to the Douglas Mansion in 2018, the organization will be opening the doors to more than a building. It will be opening the doors to an opportunity unlike any in the organization's own history.
The Douglas Mansion is the perfect location for The History Center. Ideally located near many iconic LinnCounty structures and institutions, the mansion provides excellent space for both exhibits and programming in addition to being a historically significant treasure in and of itself. This new location offers The History Center many advantages, including:
An easily accessible building one block from First Avenue and three blocks from I-380 with free parking
Opportunities to partner with the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art through the adjacent Five Turner Alley, Grant Wood's studio in the Douglas Mansion carriage house
Potential to collaborate with the Iowa Masonic Library across the alley, which houses over 150,000 volumes as well as fascinating artifacts
Keep reading below to learn more about the history of the Douglas Mansion:
Planned and constructed in 1895-96, the Douglas Mansion at 800 Second Avenue SE Cedar Rapids was opened in 1897. It was built as a new home for George Bruce Douglas and his wife Irene in the “Mansion Hill’ district of late 19th Century Cedar Rapids.
Mr. Douglas’ father, George Sr., started the Stuart and Douglas Mill in 1873 in Cedar Rapids, later known as the Quaker Oats factory. George B. and his brother Walter began the Douglas Starch Works in 1903, now known as Penford Products. In 1906, the growing Douglas family moved to the Sinclair mansion out “in the country” on First Avenue East and renamed that residence “Brucemore”.
In what amounted to something of a “house swap”, Mrs. Caroline Sinclair moved to the Douglas mansion on Second Avenue SE. She lived here until her death in 1917. Other members of the Sinclair family occupied the 1897 Douglas home until 1923.
Photo courtesy of Brucemore
In 1924, the mansion was sold to the John B. Turner family, who then converted the big house into The Turner Funeral Home. A two story addition was built to the east at this time as well. The old hayloft in the former carriage house at the rear of the Turner property was converted into a residence and art studio for famed artist Grant Wood, childhood friend of John Turner’s son, David.
The Linge family of Cedar Rapids began operating the Turner Funeral Home in the early 1980s, renaming the facility the Grant Wood Chapel of Cedar Memorial. Following the Flood of 2008, the Douglas Mansion was temporarily home to a few entities impacted by the flood including Theatre Cedar Rapids, which used the mansion for offices. The Douglas Mansion was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.
The Linge family donated the Douglas Mansion to the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation. This presented an exciting opportunity. After careful consideration, the board of The History Center decides to acquire the Douglas Mansion, envisioning a revitalized museum contained within the most valuable artifact in the organization's collection.
This new location will provide ample space for exhibits and programs, including:
- Exhibit cases in the main floor parlor
- An exhibit in the upstairs Round Room telling the history of the Douglas Mansion
- Three galleries, including one 1,260 square foot gallery housing a permanent exhibit about Linn County history
- Smaller galleries offering new rotating exhibits every six to nine months
- A first floor programming space with sophisticated audio and visual equipment
- Cozy library perfect for book clubs and providing resources for scholars
- The enclosed drive converted into a classroom for school group visits and other special programs