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Architecture

The Douglas Mansion (800 Second Avenue SE, Cedar Rapids) became the new home of George Bruce Douglas Jr. and his wife, Irene Hazeltine Douglas, in 1897, the same year their first child, Margaret, was born. Construction on home began in 1895, and was completed in early 1897.

 

The design of the home is Colonial Revival, highlighted by a splendid front porch featuring columns with Ionic capitals. Other classic Colonial Revival features include third floor dormer windows and rooftop balustrades. Colonial detailing is evident above the main first floor windows facing Second Avenue SE. Unique exterior details of the original house include the rounded windows on the second floor above the front porch and an ornamental clerestory window originally on the east exterior of the first floor. These windows, along with those surrounding the front entrance, feature special leaded glass.

 

Shortly after the Douglas family moved in, a brick wall was built around the perimeter of the home. A small brick shelter house was incorporated into the brick wall along the 8th Street SE side of the residence.

 

The original interior architectural design features a grand main staircase highlighted by Corinthian capital columns. Elegant sliding pocket doors led to a library and dining room. The house initially featured at least five ornamental fireplaces, four of which still survive.

 

There are two distinctive interior areas. One is the music room, just off the landing of the main staircase. Its entrance was originally highlighted by three arches. The other is the special "round room" on the second floor over the main entrance, featuring curved walls, doors, and windows with leaded pane glass.

 

In addition to the main residence, a large brick carriage house was constructed adjacent to the alley for the family’s carriage and horses. A large second story hayloft was an additional feature of the carriage house.

 

The architect for the Douglas Mansion is believed to be Henry Ives Cobb of Chicago. Cobb designed many large Colonial Revival homes in the late 19th century, including several in the Chicago area. For many years, Cobb's business partner was architect Charles Frost of Chicago. Frost was well known for designing many passenger railroad stations and depots, including the famous Union Station in downtown Cedar Rapids (demolished in 1961). Union Station was opened in January 1897, only a few months before the mansion was completed.

 

The house was originally a part of a neighborhood known as Mansion Hill. From the late 1870s to 1905, over 120 large residences were built up the hill from the bustling downtown business district. They were primarily built between 5th Street and 12th Street East along A Avenue, First Avenue, and Second Avenue East and within the 800 blocks of Third, Fourth, and Fifth Avenues SE.

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