For well over a century, the Brucemore Mansion has stood as a testament to the rich history of Cedar Rapids and the unique contributions of its residents. Built in 1885, the Brucemore Mansion reigns as Iowa’s only National Trust Historic Site and is spotlighted in the National Register of Historic Places.
Three prominent families called Brucemore Mansion home from 1886 to 1981, and each played a role in the legacy of the estate.
Caroline Soutter Sinclair built Brucemore Mansion as her family home from 1885 to 1906. The Sinclairs were owners of a meat packing company, which was once Cedar Rapids’ largest business. Next, the Douglases, George Bruce Douglas and wife Irene,
lived within its walls from 1906 to 1937. The Douglases were well-known members of the community given their fortune in Douglas Starch Works and development of Cedar Rapids Quaker Oats. George’s brother Walter Donald Douglas was a passenger who passed away was on the ill-fated Titanic.
Finally, from 1937 to 1981, the Hall family provided a satisfying final chapter to the Brucemore Mansion’s legacy as a family home. Although a variety of animals roamed the estate over the years- cows, horses and pigs- none compared to the Halls’ exotic additions. Three lions paraded around the estate, including Leo III, who earned notoriety with a roar that “frequently echoed throughout the east side of Cedar Rapids.”
The eldest daughter in the family, Margaret, ultimately married Howard Hall, president of Iowa Steel and Iron Works. In 1981, as its last resident, Margaret Douglas Hall bequeathed the home to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, to serve as a community cultural center.
That same year, Michael Ainslie, President of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, highlighted the transition as an opportunity to uphold the community’s legacy. “Our country, with its exuberance for youth and for change, has in the past been negligent in preservation of our heritage,” he said. “You have a great wealth of heritage here to preserve.”
The National Trust has since set out to protect and celebrate this heritage, ultimately fulfilling the vision of Margaret Douglas Hall by engaging the public and enriching the community with its own history.
Today, Brucemore serves as a cultural center, hosting tours, concerts, community events and programs for the 43,000 visitors that pass through its halls each year, including local students.