116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
MARION — Last year at this time, the Granger House Victorian Museum was nearing its $30,000 fundraising goal for replacing the roof on the main house and carriage house.
Then the derecho blew through on Aug. 10, 2020, tumbling trees; sending part of the home’s roof sliding onto the front yard; damaging gutters, porches and decorative Victorian Italianate architectural features; and sending the carriage house cupola flying.
“Pretty much every surface took a hit of some sort,” said board president Adam Hyatt, 43, of Marion. “But we didn’t have a single window broken.”
Costs for all the property repairs have spiraled into the neighborhood of $125,000, and maybe a little more, he noted, adding that while insurance will cover a significant portion, the museum still will have some out-of-pocket expenses.
Volunteers and board members sprang into action after the storm, clearing tree debris and patching the roof. Even the Marion High School football team spent a couple of days putting their muscle into pulling limbs.
That kind of community spirit has kept the museum afloat, with donations of time and money, during the 2020 double-punch of the pandemic and derecho.
Fortunately, the home’s interior received little storm damage, Hyatt said.
“The ceiling stood up, and we were very lucky to have some people that quickly were able to get there and put on a temporary roof, which has held up quite well,” he said.
The upstairs floors took on “a little bit of water — not a ton,” he said, and some parts of the floors will need to be refinished.
Address: 970 10th St., Marion
Open Air Market: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 7; vendors on the lawn, $5 self-guided tours inside the house
An Afternoon Tea: 1 to 4 p.m. Aug. 21; presentation on hat pins, raffle for handmade aprons, Butler Paul will discuss the proper tea; space is limited and reservations are required; $20 at grangerhouse.org/events
Fundraisers: Walk of Fame to replace bricks leading to the Carriage House; roof repairs and ongoing maintenance; details at grangerhouse.org/fundraising
“We got over as quick as we could when the storm was over, and (set up) buckets, and got rugs rolled up that did get any water on them. We had ServiceMaster there fairly quickly with driers and dehumidifiers and big fans,” he said.
“With quick action, we were able to save a lot of stuff that could have been damaged.”
Hyatt expects the museum to reopen for tours in the next few weeks. The house itself, which offers a glimpse into middle-class family life in the late 19th century, had closed its doors in March 2020 when life in the 21st century went on more than a yearlong pandemic pause.
“The house is completely structurally safe,” he said. “She doesn’t look as pretty as she will eventually, but she’s still standing strong.”
He knows the public is anxious to come back.
“We’ve had quite a few people reach out wanting to get back in and do tours, and wondering when we’re going to start doing our events again, and I think in the next few weeks, we’ll be ready to go.”
In the meantime, the doors will be open for $5 self-guided tours from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 7, during the annual Granger House Open Air Market.
Outdoors, visitors will find a wide range of vendors, selling everything from crafts and housewares to barbecue and other food options.
Parking will be tricky this year, with roadwork at the intersection of 10th Street and Central Avenue, but alley parking will be available between Ninth and 10th streets, and along the nearby side streets. A few more trees were taken out to accommodate this project, Hyatt noted.
Since the market is always held outdoors, it didn’t miss a beat during the pandemic, and beckoned vendors and shoppers to the lawn on Aug. 8, 2020 — two days before the storm that rocked the metro area and beyond.
Another favorite event, An Afternoon Tea, is slated for 1 to 4 p.m. Aug. 21. Period costumes and hats are encouraged, and Butler Paul will return with proper pinkies-up tea tips. Seating is limited and reservations are required. Tickets are $20, at grangerhouse.org/events
Hyatt is optimistic other popular attractions, like paranormal investigations and the Christmas open house, will return, as well, depending on COVID-19 developments. For now, he said masks are not required at the site.
“I’m leaving that to people’s discretion,” he said. “If they feel better wearing one, then by all means, do that. (It’s) their choice.”
Building on history
The first part of the home was built around 1848, and over the next 20 years, additions nearly tripled its size, to about 3,200 square feet. Earl Granger, a partner in a meat market in town, and his wife, Dora, moved into the Italianate structure in 1873. Their descendants lived there until 1969.
The property was purchased in 1973 for preservation, and was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. It contains many original furnishings, and the board is taking great care to make sure repairs follow the registry’s guidelines.
“One of the things that was kind of a challenge, was getting the right contractor hired to do the work on a historic piece of property,” Hyatt said. “Now we’ve found the right people, it is just them getting time to do it, since they’re already so busy — everybody’s busy.
“Hopefully, progress will be starting here in the next few weeks, where they’ll rebuild the structure part of the roof. Once they get done, then the roofer will come in. We have all the materials for the new cedar shingle roof, so he can come and tear off what’s left, and we’ll have a whole brand-new roof on the house, so that will be nice when that’s done. …
“We have to follow the National Historic Registry, so we can maintain our status with that,” Hyatt said. “That’s basically just going to be putting it back as close as we possibly can to what it was originally. And that’s the reason we’re doing the cedar roof, and some of the fancy corbels were broken and will have to be remanufactured and put back up.”
It’s all part of preserving the past for the present and future.
“The main goal is to have people continue to appreciate the history,” Hyatt said. “Something that’s been there well over 100 years and has had a respected family — the Grangers were definitely a respected family in the area.
“Just keeping it open for the people to appreciate what’s gone on in the past, and as they come in, to take a step back to what it was like to live in the Victorian times.“
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