Remembering Peggy Boyle Whitworth

Brucemore’s Founding Director Dies at 71

October 25th, 2013


This morning we received word that Peggy Boyle Whitworth, Brucemore’s founding Executive Director, died at Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids.  Peggy had been battling lung cancer for the last year.  She was surrounded by friends and family in her final hours.

Peggy worked for Senator John Culver until 1981, when she was hired by the founding Board of Trustees of Brucemore, Inc., the private non-profit established to preserve and operate the site.  Peggy provided visionary but pragmatic leadership for over a quarter century.  Under her aegis, major restoration, preservation, and rehabilitation projects established a pattern of stewardship the organization continues today.  Significant accomplishments in her first two decades included the restoration of the chimney caps and slate roof, foundation improvements, and the adapted use of the 1912 carriage house as a visitor center and staff office space.

Peggy’s most significant legacy at Brucemore, however, is the infusion of culture and performing arts into the identity of the site.  When Margaret Douglas Hall left her home to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, she envisioned a resource for the community that was not constrained by widely held assumptions about appropriate historic house museums’ use at the time.  With the direction of Margaret Hall’s wishes, the blessing of the National Trust, and the support of the Brucemore, Inc. Board of Trustees, Peggy established the historic site as a community cultural center with annual events like the Freedom Festival Balloon Glow, theatrical productions like the Classics at Brucemore, and special performances like the Joffrey Ballet.  The innovative use of a historic estate as a hub of cultural activity cemented the estate’s connection with the community and established Brucemore as an example of best practice in the field of historic preservation.  Peggy established a model of sustainability that still guides the organization.

Throughout her career, Peggy demonstrated her personal commitment to cultivate and celebrate arts and culture; to safeguard the importance of history; to collaborate with cultural, social, and political organizations; and to play a significant role in shaping the future of her community.  From national affiliations with museum associations, the National Trust, and the APTS Leadership Council, to numerous state-level appointments, including the State Historical Society of Iowa, Iowa Public Television Foundation, Iowa Historical Foundation, Orchestra Iowa, Legion Arts, SPT Theatre, John C. Culver Public Policy Center,  and the Iowa Board of Pharmacy, Peggy’s leadership skills are legendary.  In Cedar Rapids, more than forty groups, including nearly every cultural entity, many service organizations, and numerous civic and commercial boards, benefited from her effective and creative involvement.  After her retirement in 2007, Peggy maintained her leadership role in the community, serving on a number of cultural boards of directors.  She also served as a consultant for non-profits, colleagues, and cultural institutions both formally and informally.

In many ways, the history of Brucemore is defined by the women who oversaw the site.  Caroline Sinclair built the mansion as a widow in 1886.  Irene Douglas transformed the home into a country estate, actively shaping the gardens and grounds and making significant changes to the mansion.  Her eldest daughter, Margaret, bequeathed the site to the National Trust ensuring its permanence.  Peggy Boyle Whitworth is an extension of the legacy of these strong, visionary women.  Her relentless drive to preserve and share this resource for the betterment of her community is but one of the many ways she has impacted Cedar Rapids, eastern Iowa, and the United States.

More information, including an obituary, memorial service information, and online guestbook, are available online. 


Do I need to pay to enter the estate and walk on the grounds?

No. Visiting the Brucemore estate during grounds hours is free. Tickets are only required for scheduled tours and events, and they can be purchased in advance online.

Is a reservation needed to visit Brucemore?

You do not need a reservation to visit the grounds on your own. You do need a ticket to go inside the mansion. We recommend advance reservations for any of our mansion tours or other scheduled special themed tours due to limited capacity. Please visit our calendar to see upcoming opportunities and to purchase your tickets.

Touring the Mansion

Can I take pictures inside the mansion?

Yes. Photography is allowed during tours for personal, non-professional use. Tripods, selfie-sticks, or other photography equipment will not be permitted. Photographs should not distract from others’ enjoyment.

How large is the mansion?

Brucemore is approximately 15,000 square feet.

How many fireplaces, rooms, and floors does Brucemore have?

There are 21 “main” rooms, 14 fireplaces and four floors plus an attic.

Is all of the furniture original to the house and families?

Much of the furniture you will see on display belonged to the second or third families to live at Brucemore; however, some pieces had to be replaced with replicas or similar antiques.

Is the mansion handicap accessible?

The Brucemore mansion includes multiple floors and several staircases. Because of the historic architecture, some spaces are not accessible. Due to preservation work, the wheelchair lift that offers accessibility to the first floor is not available at this time. An elevator is not available from the first floor to the other floors at any time. Learn more about accessibility at Brucemore.

Group and School Tours

Is there an age requirement for students visiting Brucemore?

You do not have to be a certain age to visit or attend a program at Brucemore. Different programs are best suited for different ages. Tours of the mansion are recommended for 4th grade and older due to the concepts and historic collection.

Where do we park?

Parking is available on site a short walk from the mansion or carriage house. Buses must follow special instructions. Large events may not be able to accommodate on-site parking; please see the event calendar information for exceptions.

Is bus parking available?

Yes. Bus parking is available near the carriage house. Buses must arrive via special directions as they are unable to fit in our historic gates.

Is there a lunch area at Brucemore?

There is not a designated area indoors or outdoors to eat; however, you are welcome to bring your own blanket or chair to picnic on the grounds. Please carry out any trash to help our small staff keep the grounds beautiful.

Does my group have to arrive together?

Please let group members or chaperones know where they can meet the group.

What is your payment policy?

Brucemore admission is to be paid prior to the visit and a deposit may be required. Payment can be made by cash, check, or credit card and should be paid in one sum.

Do I need to make an appointment to tour the mansion?

You must have a ticket to a tour or program inside the mansion. Many tours do sell out in advance; purchase online or by calling 319-362-7375 in advance of your visit to guarantee your spot. See the schedule here.

Is the mansion wheelchair accessible?

The mansion is not currently accessible to wheelchairs due to preservation work. The mansion includes multiple flights of stairs. Most of the outdoor areas of the site are accessible. See our full accessibility information and contact us with additional questions regarding your visit.

Can I walk on the property?

Yes, the grounds and gardens are open daily most of the year. Several self-guided interpretive panels and tours via QR codes are available. See hours here.

What is Brucemore’s ticket policy?

Tickets are non-refundable, but may be rescheduled for comparable programs as space allows. Learn more.

I’m attending a large event at Brucemore. Where do I park?

Large events may require you to park offsite. Please read the event details on the calendar for specific information for each event.

Are weapons allowed at Brucemore?

We prohibit weapons on the property and at programs to ensure the safety and security of all employees and people visiting Brucemore.