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Do you know about Mamie Doud Eisenhower's connections to Cedar Rapids?

First lady lived in 2 homes, attended Old Jackson School

This 1903 photo shows the kindergarten class at Old Jackson School in Cedar Rapids. Mamie Doud (Eisenhower) is in the middle row, fourth from the left. Robert Armstrong is in the same row, sixth from the left. Margaret Douglas (Hall) is in the front row, third from the left.  (The History Center)
This 1903 photo shows the kindergarten class at Old Jackson School in Cedar Rapids. Mamie Doud (Eisenhower) is in the middle row, fourth from the left. Robert Armstrong is in the same row, sixth from the left. Margaret Douglas (Hall) is in the front row, third from the left. (The History Center)
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The Feb. 3 and the Feb. 10 Time Machine columns by Diane Fannon-Langton provided a wonderful look at the history of the newest Cedar Rapids property designated as a local historic landmark: the Charles Perkins house at 1228 Third Ave. SE.

There have been other notable historic houses within the 1200 block of Third Avenue SE, three of which are still standing.

During the time (and later) that the Perkins and Stark families lived at 1228, the house next door at 1232 Third Ave. SE was home for the John G. Cherry family. In 1880, Cherry founded a dairy packaging company centered on 10th Avenue SE within what is now the New Bohemia area of Cedar Rapids. The company was later known as Cherry-Burrell and renamed Evergreen nearly 40 years after moving to the corner of Sixth Street and Wilson Avenue SW.

An old residential structure on the corner at 1200 Third Ave. SE, now used as apartments, was originally the single-family home of well-known real estate businessman and Cedar Rapids community leader George T. Hedges.

MAMIE DOUD HOME

Another older home still standing near the former Hedges, Perkins and Cherry houses is a square-set residential structure at 1245 Third Ave. SE, which happens to be the second and only surviving Cedar Rapids childhood home for former first lady Mamie Doud Eisenhower.

It is well-known in Iowa history that Mamie Doud was born in 1896 in Boone, Iowa, the hometown of her mother, Elivera.

Mamie’s father was John Sheldon Doud, whose own father had started a livestock commission business in the mid-1800s. With his meatpacking executive experience, John Doud accepted a high-ranking position as a buyer for the Sinclair Meatpacking Company in Cedar Rapids. Before Mamie was a year old, she moved with her parents and an older sister from Boone to Cedar Rapids and stayed here for nearly 10 years.

The first Cedar Rapids home of the Doud family stood at 1049 Fourth Ave. SE. It was situated near the old Church of the Brethren and across Fourth Avenue SE from Old Jackson elementary School. As Mamie grew up in the Fourth Avenue house, she would point her finger across the street, excitedly telling those around her that she would soon start kindergarten at Jackson School.

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By the end of 1902, the Douds, including Mamie, moved into a new house at 1245 Third Ave. SE, around the corner from Old Jackson School. A few years later, due to her older sister’s health issues, Mamie and her family left Cedar Rapids and moved to Colorado by 1907.

Mamie later met Dwight Eisenhower in October 1915 in San Antonio, Texas, and married him a year later, at the age of 19.

VISITING CEDAR RAPIDS

On Oct. 17, 1958, President and Mrs. Eisenhower arrived at the Cedar Rapids airport. “Ike” was here to attend the National Corn Picking Contest out at the Dostal farm northeast of Marion along with other dignitaries, including Sen. and future President John F. Kennedy. (This significant Linn County event was detailed in the Oct. 21, 2018, Time Machine installment).

While her husband was at the corn picking event, the first lady arranged an official visit to see Old Jackson School at 1052 Fourth Ave. SE in her childhood neighborhood. Built and opened in 1883, Jackson was a relatively new structure when Mamie attended classes there. By 1958, Jackson had become the oldest operating school building in the Cedar Rapids Community School District.

There are many documented, firsthand accounts by students who were at Jackson School for her visit.

Elementary student Dougie Barr gave the first lady a corsage. That little boy grew up to be actor and director Doug Barr, who was known for being part of the cast of the 1981-86 television series “The Fall Guy.”

The first lady gave a short speech saying she was thrilled to be back at Jackson and revisiting her old Cedar Rapids neighborhood. She talked about living on both Fourth and Third avenues SE. She recollected old neighbors on Third Avenue SE such as the Cherry and Hedges families.

MAMIE SURPRISES

Mamie Eisenhower had two surprises for the audience at Jackson School that day.

The first lady mentioned during her remarks that the last time she had visited Cedar Rapids was in 1919, presumably while with her husband on a famous Transcontinental Military Convoy stop in the city. She said she’d visited Jackson School at a time when it was briefly a junior high school. She talked about meeting a new art teacher at Jackson named Grant Wood and the principal, Frances Prescott. Wood and Prescott would later transfer to the new McKinley Junior High School nearby as art teacher and principal when McKinley opened in 1922.

The second surprise was when Mamie presented the Jackson School staff with an old photograph from 1903 of her kindergarten class at Jackson. Two of her classmates in the photograph were very familiar to Cedar Rapids residents. One was a little boy named Robert Armstrong, who in 1958 was the longtime owner of the Armstrong Department store started by his father in downtown Cedar Rapids. The other was a little girl named Margaret Douglas, who was Mrs. Howard Hall at the time of Mamie’s 1958 visit and living at the Brucemore mansion with her industrialist husband.

LEGACY

First lady Mamie Doud Eisenhower passed away in 1979. Her first Cedar Rapids home at 1049 Fourth Ave. SE was unfortunately demolished in the mid-1970s to build a parking lot. in Old Jackson School was closed in 1970 and demolished a short time later, despite an attempt by the Linn County Historical Society to save it.

Mamie’s 1903 kindergarten photograph was eventually donated to The History Center by the Cedar Rapids Community School District.

Mamie’s second Cedar Rapids home at 1245 Third Ave. SE still stands.

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l Mark Stoffer Hunter is the historian at The History Center in Cedar Rapids. Comments: mark@historycenter.org

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