Home is Where Your Books Are: A Virtual Exhibit

October 14th, 2021

The Library is one of Brucemore’s most recognizable rooms. Located across the Great Hall from the Study, the room served as a formal family room during the Douglas era. The room featured many of the family’s favorite items, most notably their collection of artwork and books. Many people are surprised to discover the Library is also one of the home’s most altered rooms.

When construction was completed on the house for Caroline Sinclair in 1886, the home featured a library. Newspaper articles described the room as being in the southwest corner of the Great Hall, roughly the area where the Study is today. No known photographs of the Sinclair Library exist.

When the Douglas family purchased the home in 1906, they made changes to the layout of the Great Hall and moved the Library to the northwest corner. The room remains in the same location today. The current layout and decoration of the Library is based on the Douglas’ original plan for the room. Photographic and archival records show the decorative plaster ceiling, half-room height bookshelves, and green linen damask wall coverings. By 1934, however, Irene Douglas installed additional shelving that went from floor to ceiling.

When Margaret and Howard Hall inherited the house from Margaret’s mother in 1934, they did not make any changes to the structure or décor. By the mid-1950s to 1960s, lighter woods became the trend. The Halls had the wood “antiqued” with a light gray finish, giving the room a much brighter and open feel. The Halls also replaced the darker furniture of the earlier Douglas era with lighter furnishings with cream and tan upholstery. When Margaret died in 1981, the Library remained decorated in the Hall era style.

As Brucemore transitioned from a private residence to a historic site, staff developed an interpretation plan to share the mansion’s history. Staff identified1915 to 1925 as the period of significance to interpret the site as a bustling country estate at its largest size and function. Interior restoration efforts began with the Great Hall, Dining Room, and Study. The Library was completed in 1997.

The restoration of the Library required significant research and difficult decisions. The shelving Irene Douglas added was carefully removed, numbered, and stored. The restoration also included removing the Hall era carpeting to allow the underlying floor to be refinished. Staff carefully chose wall coverings and draperies based on photographs and historic evidence. Furniture from the stored collection was returned to the room and reproductions were made of nonextant pieces, like the green velvet sofa and the rocking chair. The process ensured any restoration performed would be reversable, should future evidence change the interpretation of the room. A small section of the Hall era antique finish was left on the pocket doors, demonstrating to guests changes to the room over time.

The décor chosen by the Sinclairs, Douglases, and Halls reflected their personalities and the times in which they lived. From the dark, formal Library of the Douglas era to the light, airy Library of the Hall era, the room remained a showpiece within the home. Even though some objects were removed from display following the restoration of the space, they remain part of the Brucemore collection and continue to provide opportunities to teach visitors about the lives of the Halls today.

View a selection of objects from the Library collection that have not been on display since 1997.



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.