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Granger House adding Walk of Fame to Marion museum grounds

The Granger House Victorian Museum in Marion will be getting a new roof this summer, thanks to a successful fundraising
The Granger House Victorian Museum in Marion will be getting a new roof this summer, thanks to a successful fundraising campaign. The property, closed at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, has reopened for weekend tours. Specialty events, including the perennially popular paranormal and holiday tours, are expected to resume, as well. (The Gazette)
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A walk back in time will help preserve the future at Marion’s Granger House Victorian Museum.

The path leading to the property’s 1879 carriage house is being updated with laser-etched bricks. Priced at $50, donors can add three lines of text, such as their name or names in honor or in memory of someone, as well as an optional design, ranging from military and religious symbols to a rose and a paw print.

Project leader John Black of Cedar Rapids, the board’s newest member, suggested honoring a 2020 graduate with a brick, since COVID-19 protocols canceled traditional commencement ceremonies. He also noted the bricks can be gifted in honor of other milestones like anniversaries.

Organizers are hoping to sell “as many as possible,” and the path has room for 970 bricks, said Adam Hyatt of Marion, the museum’s board president.

Dubbed the “Walk of Fame,” the funds raised from the project will go toward upkeep of the historic site, which showcases nearly a century of Granger family occupants.

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, 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.

The home, with many original furnishings, household goods, family heirlooms and papers, clothing and tools of the day, gives a glimpse into the lives of a 19th-century middle-class Midwestern family.

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Keeping the site in good working order doesn’t come cheap. For about a year and a half, the museum has been raising funds to replace the home’s roof. Nearly $28,000 of the $30,000 goal has been reached, said Vicki Noah of Marion, the board’s vice president, and work will begin in mid July.

“One of the biggest things that we had to accomplish is staying historically correct,” Hyatt said. “The fact that the house currently has cedar shingles and we didn’t have any proof the (roof) had been any different, so we’ve stuck with cedar shingles, and that explains some of the high cost of roofing the house.”

Tours & Events

Event fees also have been applied toward the roofing project, and even though the museum has been dark during the pandemic, the lights are back on. Volunteers and board members are again leading guided tours on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

“Our staff is taking special precautions by disinfecting surfaces between tours in both the house and carriage house, while also utilizing hand sanitizer/frequent hand washing to minimize the transfer of germs,” Hyatt noted in the museum’s latest newsletter. “We also ask that our visitors continue to exercise caution. Guests are encouraged to wear face masks and maintain social distance when on the property. We are also limiting group sizes to ensure the safety of our volunteers and our guests.”

Two summer outdoor events on the lawn are in the works. At 2 p.m. July 11, board member and author Paul Wood will present and sign copies of his latest children’s book, “Cousin Albert’s Day at the Zoo,” available for purchase on-site at a discount. And from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 8, vendors and food trucks will be on the museum grounds for the annual Granger Open Air Market.

Heading inside, the popular paranormal programming returns to the museum at 6 p.m. July 24, stretching to 1 a.m. The local Believers United Society is hosting Southern Gypsies for a spirited investigation and seance, with personal readings by the Southern Gypsies for an added fee. For details, go to the Events tab at Facebook.com/joinbus/

Hyatt’s wife, Sarah, also leads paranormal investigations at the house.

“We’ve had quite a few” paranormal investigations, Adam Hyatt said. “It’s been a welcome source of income for us.”

Some Granger family members make their presence known, he said.

“On the other hand, they had a lot of travelers,” he noted, adding that Earl Granger referred to them as “transients and tramps.”

“They would come through and work for a while and then move on,” Hyatt said. “So you just never know who you might encounter.”

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Depending on the pandemic safety situation, the ghosts of Christmases past will be present in the annual Granger holiday open house, complete with a visit from Santa. The event drew about 200 people last year, to see the home decked in Victorian style.

“Keeping a piece of history alive” is what keeps Hyatt, 42, an auto mechanic by day, committed to the Granger House. Noah, 57, an accounting specialist, echoed that, adding that she enjoys the variety of people with whom she gets to work.

“It’s fun to keep the historical piece of this alive, because too much history has been deleted from people’s minds,” she said. “They don’t talk it about anymore, things are torn down. It’s nice to see a gem.”

Historic preservation is the big draw for Black, 53, an IT consultant originally from London.

“When I’m in Cedar Rapids, I look around and it’s sad when you see buildings getting torn down,” he said. “So when I came to the Granger House, it was nice to see a historical building still standing. Anything we can do to keep it standing and in good repair” keeps him coming back, brick by brick.

At a Glance

• What: The Granger House Victorian Museum

• Where: 970 10th St., Marion

• Guided tours: 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sunday

• Admission: $10 ages 13 and up; $5 ages 3 to 12; free under age 3 and museum members

• Fundraiser: Walk of Fame, $50 per engraved brick, updating the carriage house driveway; Grangerhouse.org/fundraising

• Book event: 2 p.m. July 11, on the lawn; presentation and signing of “Cousin Albert,” a children’s book by Paul Wood

• Paranormal investigation: 6 p.m. July 24 to 1 a.m.; Believers United Society hosting Southern Gypsies; $80; details at Facebook.com/joinbus/

• Open-air market: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 8, with vendors and food trucks on the lawn; free admission

• Details: Grangerhouse.org

Comments: (319) 368-8508; diana.nollen@thegazette.com

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