History Center begins restoration of Douglas Mansion

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- The Douglas Mansion will become the new, permanent home of the History Center next year.

Before the official move in, the History Center wants to restore the Douglas Mansion to its former glory of the 1920s.

On Tuesday, History Center staff and guest speakers will host a wall-breaking ceremony to start the restoration project.

The restoration will include a research library, a permanent gallery and two temporary galleries which they'll change out every six to eight months so visitors will learn something new about Linn County History each time they visit.

The history center said they knew the original building on 1st Avenue wasn't drawing in people, as attendance was declining throughout the years.

In 2014, they saw their chance to start fresh when the Douglas mansion was up for sale.

"When the Douglas mansion became available for sale, the board could not turn it down, they realized this was going to be the symbol of our entire changing of everything we do every way we do business," Jason Wright, the Executive Dir. of the History Center said.

Mark Stoffer Hunter, a historian with the History Center told TV9 the original owner of the mansion was George Douglas, Jr.

His father, George Douglas Sr. was one of the businessmen who started what is now known as Quaker Oats in Cedar Rapids in 1873. A little over 20 years later, in 1897 George and his wife Irene Douglas moved into the mansion.

The Douglas Mansion was also home to Caroline Sinclair who traded homes with Irene and George Douglas around 1907.

George and Irene then became the second family to live in Brucemore.

And this mansion was also used a funeral home for decades after the Turner family purchased it from the Sinclairs in 1924.

Funerals were held at the mansion until 2004.

The History Center was able to buy the mansion through the sale of their old building, grants, and support from individuals and companies to reach their $3.9 million goal.

The History Center will officially kick off their wall-breaking ceremony on Tuesday at 10 a.m.