Linn County History Center closes in on goal for Douglas Mansion

The future site of The History Center at the Douglas Mansion in Cedar Rapids, shown on Friday, Jun. 23, 2017. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Jason Wright, executive director of The History Center. (Submitted photo)

CEDAR RAPIDS — The History Center received a grant this month from a statewide tourism fund for the restoration of Douglas Mansion, bringing the organization closer to completing its ongoing capital campaign.


The Linn County Historical Society — which does business as The History Center — purchased the late 1800s mansion at 800 Second Ave. SE, in Cedar Rapids in fall 2014.

Officials began a $3.9 million fundraising effort for a project to restore the mansion and install permanent exhibits.

The goal includes the roughly $2.2 million renovation costs and a $1 million endowment fund for ongoing maintenance. Another $500,000 of the total campaign will help build exhibits.


Last Wednesday, the Enhance Iowa Board awarded a $425,000 Community Attraction and Tourism grant toward the restoration project.

“It’s extremely exciting,” Jason Wright, executive director of The History Center. “Receiving this kind of support from the state, it really demonstrates how important our project is.”

The Enhance Iowa Program provides funding to Iowa communities for construction of multiple purpose attraction or tourism facilities. So far, 23 CAT grants have been awarded, according to a news release.

Wright said the grant is “brick and mortar money” for the project.

With this grant from Enhance Iowa, as well as others, Wright said officials expect to be able to close out the fundraising campaign next month.

“We are so very close to closing this,” he said.

Wright said The History Center will hold off restoring Douglas Mansion “to its former 1920s glory” until it reaches the $3.9 million goal.

Once the project is complete, The History Center will locate its offices to the location.

The historic mansion, which is adorned with Grant Wood’s work, opened in 1897. It served as a home for the family of George Bruce Douglas, whose father started the Stuart and Douglas Mill in 1873 — later known as the Quaker Oats factory, according to The History Center.

The mansion later housed other prominent Cedar Rapids’ families, including the Sinclairs and the Turners.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony at the renovated building is planned for next year.

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