|The home was constructed in 1896 for George Bruce
Douglas, one of Cedar Rapids’ early businessmen.
When George Bruce Douglas and his
wife Irene Hazeltine Douglas moved to the mansion in 1906, the estate
was renamed Brucemore; combining George’s middle name with an allusion
to the moors of Scotland. The property grew from 10 to more than 33
acres. Chicago architect Howard van Doren Shaw, who specialized in North
Shore mansions, oversaw the renovation(which exceeded $30,000). Shaw
relocated the entrance to the south facade and built a terrace on the
north side, which faced the extensive lawn. Inside, butternut paneling
and ceiling beams were added to the great hall. In the 1920s, the
Douglases enhanced this space with a dramatic mural depicting scenes
from Richard Wagner’s opera cycle The Ring of the Nibelung. A Skinner
player organ was later installed with its 678 pipes housed on the third
floor. A sleeping porch was designed and created in 1925 by Grant Wood,
a local artist who later became world renowned for his Regionalist
paintings, most notably American Gothic. These are some examples of the
Douglases’ interest in supporting local artists. Although Mrs. Douglas
had access to the arts in larger cities, she was most interested in
promoting regional artists and craftsmen.
Grant Wood Studio & Douglas Mansion Chronology
1891 George B. Douglas
purchases three adjacent Second Avenue lots on which to build a new
home. George B. Douglas’ father was one of the founders of Quaker Oats,
while he founded the Douglas Starch Works. A few years later,
construction begins on the Douglas’ new residence and carriage house.
The architect’s identity is not known.
1906 George B. Douglas
completes a deal with Caroline Sinclair, owner of Brucemore, to exchange
the Douglas mansion for the Brucemore mansion. The Sinclair family
eventually moves into 800 Second Avenue. At some point during their
tenure here, the Sinclairs have the entire carriage house moved about 40
feet to the east.
1920s After the popularization of the
automobile, the 600 and 700 blocks of Second Avenue became known as Auto
Alley because of all the car dealerships and service stations located
1923 John B. Turner, who established his mortuary
business in 1888, and his son David Turner acquire the property from the
Sinclairs and being the process of converting it into Turner Mortuary.
It opens to the public in
1924 and The Gazette reports Grant Wood
“was responsible for the decorating and furnishing of the interior, and
the landscaping of the grounds. He not only personally supervised the
work, but also did much of it himself.” Wood also designed the iron
gates at the front entrance. The brick barn in the rear of the property
was converted into a “modern garage, with space for six cars.”
1924 At the suggestion of the Turners, Wood begins to build a studio and
residence above the garage. The ability to live rent-free means Wood can
eventually give up teaching his job at McKinley High School.
Community Players produce their first play before a tiny audience in
Grant Wood’s studio, starting the theater group that leads today’s
Theatre Cedar Rapids.
1932 A fire burns part of the studio,
injuring Grant, Nan, and their mother. Grant had to replace the original
wooden floor with the one that remains today.
1935 John B.
Turner dies at the age of 74. Wood moves out of 5 Turner Alley into a
home he purchases in Iowa City. Over the next 65 years, the Studio is
rented out as an apartment and even boutique on occasion.
David Turner dies.
1972 John Bu. Turner II (son of David Turner)
and his wife Happy donate 84 works by Grant Wood to the Cedar Rapids
Museum of Art. They make additional gifts through 1983.
Cedar Memorial Funeral Homes, founded by David Linge, purchases Turner
1982 The Douglas Mansion and Grant Wood Studio
are placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
John B. Turner II dies.
2000 The last tenant moves out of 5
2002 The Grant Wood Studio building and related
property are donated to the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art.
Grant Wood Studio & Visitor Center opens to the public.