After visiting Craidarroch Castle
in Victoria B.C. and learning it's history earlier this month, it got me thinking about some houses closer to home. I set out early in the evening on Sunday and snapped some pictures of a few locally historic homes in my hometown, Cedar Rapids, Iowa. After all it was a beautiful evening and perfect weather for a drive in the convertible.
My first stop was in front of Brucemore
. This home was built in 1884 by the Sinclair family as a summer home. In 1906, the Sinclaires negotiated a house trade with the Douglas family of Cedar Rapids. In 1924, the eldest Douglas daughter married Howard Hall, a local wealthy owner of two large businesses. During their ownership, Margaret and Howard Hall entertained several famous guests such as Presidents Herbert Hoover and Harry Truman. Howard actually kept a couple of pet lions that roamed the 26 acre property until 1971 when he died. I've actually spoken to residents of the neighborhood who grew up hearing the lion's roars daily. Howard died in 1971 and Margaret continued living at Brucemore until her death in 1981. At the time of her death Margaret bequeathed Brucemore to the National Trust For Historic Preservation for use as a historic site and community cultural center.
My second stop was at the Armstong mansion, named for the original owners. I wasn't able to find much historic information on this home except that in was built sometime in the late 1800's and several years later was divided in half, right down the center and moved by horse and wagon about 2 miles to it's current location. I've been inside this house and there is absolutely no visible evidence that it was ever in two pieces except for the peak of the 3rd floor ballroom ceiling that has a small crack running the entire length. What an amazing feat that must have been to successfully move this enormous home without the use of modern motorized trucks and equipment! This is the only house out of the four I've featured here that still remains a private home.
My third stop was Averill House. I have to admit, I know absolutely nothing about this house except it was built in the late 1800's and was placed on the National Historic Register in 1978. It is now used as offices for a local law firm.
My last stop was just down the street from Averill House at what is now Turner Mortuary. This is the home that the Douglas family and the Sinclair family swapped for Brucemore. What I find most intriguing about this home is that famous artist, Grant Wood
spent a good part of his life living in and around Cedar Rapids and lived in the second floor of the carriage house behind this home. He actually painted many of his famous pieces while living here.
Cedar Rapids once had many, many more beautiful, large mansions that were torn down in the 1950's and 60's in the name of "progress". Many of these were in areas that became undesirable to live in, were divided up into apartments, then eventually torn down. Cedar Rapids, Iowa may be a rather small Midwestern city of roughly 150,000, but it is certainly not without it's interesting history and notable places. I think I'll do a few more posts about Cedar Rapids in the near future.