Douglas Mansion, Cedar Rapids

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Douglas mansion    interior    interior   

The home was constructed in 1896 for George Bruce Douglas, one of Cedar Rapids’ early businessmen.

When George Bruce Douglas and his wife Irene Hazeltine Douglas moved to the mansion in 1906, the estate was renamed Brucemore; combining George’s middle name with an allusion to the moors of Scotland. The property grew from 10 to more than 33 acres. Chicago architect Howard van Doren Shaw, who specialized in North Shore mansions, oversaw the renovation(which exceeded $30,000). Shaw relocated the entrance to the south facade and built a terrace on the north side, which faced the extensive lawn. Inside, butternut paneling and ceiling beams were added to the great hall. In the 1920s, the Douglases enhanced this space with a dramatic mural depicting scenes from Richard Wagner’s opera cycle The Ring of the Nibelung. A Skinner player organ was later installed with its 678 pipes housed on the third floor. A sleeping porch was designed and created in 1925 by Grant Wood, a local artist who later became world renowned for his Regionalist paintings, most notably American Gothic. These are some examples of the Douglases’ interest in supporting local artists. Although Mrs. Douglas had access to the arts in larger cities, she was most interested in promoting regional artists and craftsmen. 

Grant Wood Studio & Douglas Mansion Chronology
1891 George B. Douglas purchases three adjacent Second Avenue lots on which to build a new home. George B. Douglas’ father was one of the founders of Quaker Oats, while he founded the Douglas Starch Works. A few years later, construction begins on the Douglas’ new residence and carriage house. The architect’s identity is not known.

1906 George B. Douglas completes a deal with Caroline Sinclair, owner of Brucemore, to exchange the Douglas mansion for the Brucemore mansion. The Sinclair family eventually moves into 800 Second Avenue. At some point during their tenure here, the Sinclairs have the entire carriage house moved about 40 feet to the east.

1920s After the popularization of the automobile, the 600 and 700 blocks of Second Avenue became known as Auto Alley because of all the car dealerships and service stations located there.

1923 John B. Turner, who established his mortuary business in 1888, and his son David Turner acquire the property from the Sinclairs and being the process of converting it into Turner Mortuary. It opens to the public in
1924 and The Gazette reports Grant Wood “was responsible for the decorating and furnishing of the interior, and the landscaping of the grounds. He not only personally supervised the work, but also did much of it himself.” Wood also designed the iron gates at the front entrance. The brick barn in the rear of the property was converted into a “modern garage, with space for six cars.”

1924 At the suggestion of the Turners, Wood begins to build a studio and residence above the garage. The ability to live rent-free means Wood can eventually give up teaching his job at McKinley High School.
The Community Players produce their first play before a tiny audience in Grant Wood’s studio, starting the theater group that leads today’s Theatre Cedar Rapids.

1932 A fire burns part of the studio, injuring Grant, Nan, and their mother. Grant had to replace the original wooden floor with the one that remains today.

1935 John B. Turner dies at the age of 74. Wood moves out of 5 Turner Alley into a home he purchases in Iowa City. Over the next 65 years, the Studio is rented out as an apartment and even boutique on occasion.

1954 David Turner dies.

1972 John Bu. Turner II (son of David Turner) and his wife Happy donate 84 works by Grant Wood to the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art. They make additional gifts through 1983.

1978 Cedar Memorial Funeral Homes, founded by David Linge, purchases Turner Funeral Homes.

1982 The Douglas Mansion and Grant Wood Studio are placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

1983 John B. Turner II dies.

2000 The last tenant moves out of 5 Turner Alley.

2002 The Grant Wood Studio building and related property are donated to the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art.

2004 Grant Wood Studio & Visitor Center opens to the public.


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Last modified: Friday, 17 May 2024