Virtual Exhibit of the Infamous 1940s Man Cave

From the Tahitian Room to Your Couch

May 15th, 2020

Brucemore is home to thousands of artifacts that reflect more than 130 years of history. Nestled in the basement is an original 1940s man cave that has surprised guests since it originated. Take an up-close look at the objects that decorate the infamous Tahitian Room through an online exhibit. But first, grab a tiki cocktail or mocktail and bring a little bit of the Tahitian Room to your own home. 

>> Click here to view the exhibit << 


Historic Photo of Tahitian Room at BrucemoreWhat’s the story behind the Tahitian Room and this collection? 

In 1937 when Howard and Margaret Hall inherited Brucemore from Margaret’s mother, America was just beginning a half-century of fascination with South Pacific culture. America’s obsession with “tiki” culture began where many 20thcentury trends start – Hollywood. Tropic-themed rooms became synonymous with exotic luxury in the 1920s.

The Cocoanut Grove nightclub in Hollywood’s Ambassador Hotel was decorated with graceful faux-palm trees and walls painted with tropical scenes. The nightclub inspired countless similarly decorated clubs around the country. Hollywood films featuring South Pacific islands featured romance and adventure that increased the allure of the islands. But it was Ernest Gantt, who renamed himself Donn Beach and truly created the escapist tiki bar when he opened his bar “Don the Beachcomber” in Hollywood. The bar instantly became world famous for its eclectic Polynesian décor and for its newly invented tiki cocktails, like the Zombie. Donn the Beachcomber’s club featured another innovation – a tin ceiling with a sprinkler system above to create the sound of a tropical rainstorm for his guests.

Howard was no stranger to themed barrooms. He created his own speakeasy in the basement of the couple’s first home on the estate at Brucemore. Once they moved into the mansion, Howard started by creating a Western-saloon themed bar in the northwest corner of the basement. The room featured birch-bark lined walls, a player piano, and bar rescued from a closing local tavern.

Photo that was likely inspiration for Howard Hall's Tahitian Room at BrucemoreEver the showman, Howard had grander plans for his basement oasis. Shortly after completing the Grizzly Bar, Howard hired local artisans to create the Tahitian Room, complete with many of the features he had encountered in his trips to Hollywood. The picture shown was likely the inspiration, as the wall in the photo is almost identical to the east wall of the Tahitian Room at Brucemore.

The floor in the Tahitian Room featured a hand-cut linoleum map of the South Pacific. The walls and ceilings were covered in thatch to match the interior of a Tahitian hut. Just like Donn the Beachcomber, Howard had a rain system installed on the east wall of the room to truly transport his guests to Tahiti, or maybe, just to Hollywood.

Howard’s fun-loving personality can be seen throughout the room, as can his business sense. The room was used not just to entertain, but to make a lasting impression on his business associates who came to visit his Cedar Rapids home. The Tahitian Room continues to make an impression on Brucemore visitors today.


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.