By Sarah Stortz
After 13 months of campaigning, the History Center is planning to bring a piece of Iowa history back to life.
The Douglas Mansion, a house of rich history dating back to the 19th century, will have a wall-breaking ceremony on Dec. 19. The event is set to begin the mansion’s preservation, which will allow it to be turned into a museum.
According to the the History Center’s website, the building opened in 1897. The home was built for George Bruce Douglas and wife Irene. Douglas’ father, George Douglas Sr., was responsible for founding the Stuart and Douglas Mill, eventually becoming the Quaker Oats factory.
Later, the Douglas family swapped houses with the Sinclair family. In 1924, John B. Turner bought the home and revamped it into the Turner Funeral Home.
Notably, the Turner family provided famous artist Grant Wood a place to work on his art. In turn, Wood incorporated interior design into the mansion.
The project was driven by the Landmark & Legacy campaign, which is providing $1 million in endowment to help provide a consistent funding to take care of the operation.
History Center Executive Director Jason Wright was responsible for coordinating the campaign, ultimately wanting to bring the mansion back to its glory days.
During their time together, Wright praised all of individuals who contributed during the process.
“Each and everyone of them is making this happen,” Wright said. “This dynamic board has really driven it to its success.”
When the event approaches, a few of the board members will wear hard hats and take a sledgehammer to a wall, kicking off the rehabilitation of the Douglas Mansion. Afterward, self-guided tours of the mansion will be offered.
Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett, one of the board members, called the Douglas Mansion a prime example of historic preservation. In Corbett’s accord, there was large discussion whether to demolish or preserve old buildings after the 2008 flood.
“The Douglas Mansion has great historical value to the community,” Corbett wrote in an email to The Daily Iowan. “Having the building as a home to The History Center is a fantastic way for The History Center to practice what it preaches.”
History Center President Adam Ebert, another member of the board, said he was glad the group was able to carry through such a large, long-term goal.
“We have all seen projects fizzle when an organization’s ambitious goal was not carried through to the end, so it is special to witness the solidarity built around the irreplaceable history of the Douglas Mansion and the future role it can play in delivering the History Center’s mission,” Ebert said. “We are sustaining that momentum with a continued endowment drive in coming months.”
Ebert also sees the wall-breaking as symbolic.
“The wall-breaking essentially honors the preservation of local history, recognizes the present contributions that have empowered the rehabilitation, and celebrates their joint place in the future at the History Center,” Ebert said. “I sincerely believe that those elements make the event worth recognizing and witnessing firsthand.”
Officials plan to open the Douglas Mansion during the fall of 2018.