Guest Columnist

History Center reborn in the Douglas Mansion

Meticulously repaired and renovated historic property opens Saturday, Oct. 13

Douglas Mansion has been restored and will soon open as the new location of at the History Center. Photographed in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Douglas Mansion has been restored and will soon open as the new location of at the History Center. Photographed in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
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For an organization devoted to preserving and sharing the stories of the past, The History Center spends quite a lot of time thinking about the future. And all of that thinking is about to come to fruition with the opening of the Douglas Mansion as the new home of The History Center.

On Saturday, Oct. 13, we will open the doors of the Douglas Mansion to the public at no charge to mark the rebirth of The History Center. We hope you will join us for the long-in-coming celebration.

Led by a vibrant, engaged board, managed by a staff of exceptional professionals, and supported by an enthusiastic corps of volunteers, The History Center is much more than a museum. In our beautiful new home, two temporary galleries will feature stories of Linn County. There are so very many stories to tell, and we’ll be changing those temporary exhibits every nine months. These will be anchored by a permanent gallery that will tell the Linn County story. Dynamic programming will keep the building lively and filled with visitors. Field trips will bring area schoolchildren to the mansion for engaging, interactive experiences. And History Center members will be able to rent the Douglas Mansion for private and public events. We intend for The History Center to be counted among the most important resources in this community.

As for the Douglas Mansion itself — now the largest and most spectacular artifact in our collection — it has been rehabilitated to its 1920s glory. The History Center raised $3.9 million in 13 months to ensure the building could be rehabbed without taking on debt. In fact, in addition to paying for the entire project, the fundraising campaign adds $1 million to our endowment, which supports operations and future building costs. We are proud to be opening the Douglas Mansion with no debt and with a strong, achievable business plan in place.

The Douglas Mansion is a treasure of the past and a symbol of the future. The History Center has re-imagined itself through an intensive strategic planning process. That process led to clearly articulated commitments.

We are committed to standing as a leader in historic preservation as exemplified by the rehabilitation of the Douglas Mansion. We will be recognized for dynamic and innovative programming like the hugely popular and ongoing “Bite of History” programs. We will continue to be the go-to source for information about this community’s past as demonstrated by the regular quoting of History Center staff in various media outlets, including this very newspaper. The History Center will boast best practice operation and be a model of financial stability, building on two consecutive cash positive years.

We are grateful to everyone who interacted with The History Center during our nomadic period, and we extend the most heartfelt thanks to the many generous supporters of our Landmark & Legacy campaign.

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As we throw open the doors of the Douglas Mansion, it is the perfect moment to redouble your engagement with us. Attend a program, use our research library, tour the exhibits, become a member — each of these (especially the last) allows you to demonstrate your belief that our shared history is essential and worthy of preservation.

And be sure to join us Oct. 13. We can’t wait to welcome you to our new home — and we trust you’ll be inspired to visit often.

• Jason Wright is executive director of The History Center.

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We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

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