Frequently Asked Questions
Find answers to questions you didn't even know you had
Can I have my wedding/wedding reception/wedding photos at Brucemore?
When Margaret Douglas Hall bequeathed Brucemore to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, she provided a few limitations - no partisan political events and no private events.
Although visitors to Brucemore are welcome to take candid photographs of the grounds and buildings for their souvenir purposes, professional photography is not permitted on the estate.
Can I have a private party?
Corporate members and non-profit organizations may use the estate for exempt purposes. Private individual use of the property is not permitted under Margaret Douglas Hall’s agreement with the National Trust.
Do I have to make an appointment to tour the mansion?
Individuals and groups may tour the mansion during regular hours (see below for link). Larger groups (16 people or more) are better accommodated by reservations made at least three weeks in advance.
The mansion is closed to the public in January and February for thorough cleaning and specific restoration projects and on Mondays and Tuesdays year round.
How do I make reservations for group tours?
Make a reservation for groups of more than 16 people online or by calling Brucemore at 319-362-7375 during business hours.
Is Brucemore accessible to people with disabilities?
Yes. A wheelchair lift provides access to the first floor of the mansion. A main floor pantry was adapted to a fully accessible restroom in 1996. For those visitors unable to navigate the mansion's stairs, a video tour (with captions) explains the site's history and incorporates images of the mansion and grounds. The Visitor Center, including the gift shop and permanent exhibition, is fully accessible.
People with disabilities requiring special assistance are encouraged to call prior to their visit.
May I take photos of the mansion/exhibits/grounds?
Photographs are not allowed in the mansion. Bright light, such as a flash from a camera, can change the color and appearance of objects. Although visitors to Brucemore are welcome to take candid photographs of the grounds and buildings for their souvenir purposes, professional or posed photography is not permitted on the estate.
Is Brucemore haunted?
There have been many tall tales over the years, however, Brucemore and its staff do not take stock in these stories despite what you may find in a web search. We interpret the history of Brucemore, and leave the rest to speculation.
How many people work at Brucemore?
Visit our staff list to see how many people work at Brucemore. This includes executive, administrative, buildings and grounds maintenance, gardening, and housekeeping staff.
Brucemore depends heavily upon volunteers (approximately 240 individuals) to assist in many areas of Brucemore's operations: giving tours and providing help with special events.
Who owns Brucemore?
Brucemore is a property of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Brucemore is operated in co-stewardship by the National Trust and Brucemore, Inc., which is a non-profit organization composed of local, community leaders.
What is the National Trust for Historic Preservation?
Chartered in 1949, the National Trust's mission is to "provide leadership, education, advocacy, and resources to save America's diverse historic places and revitalize our communities."
In addition to its 27 historic properties, the National Trust works to save historic buildings and neighborhoods and to educate citizens about ways to preserve their heritage. The National Trust is a non-profit organization and not part of any governmental entity.
How is Brucemore funded?
Brucemore's operating budget is funded by endowment income, tour and usage fees, membership contributions, grants, and donations. Brucemore is not owned by the city, nor does it receive any direct local or federal tax monies.
How can I receive information about Brucemore?
Sign up to receive Brucemore's electronic news updates periodically about news, events, and specials - just enter and submit your email address in the Email List Signup box at left.
How can I become a Brucemore volunteer?
Please visit the Volunteer section on Brucemore’s website or call (319) 362-7375.
How can I become a Brucemore member?
For information about supporting Brucemore, please visit our Support pages or call 319-362-7375.
How many fireplaces, rooms, and floors does Brucemore have?
There are 14 fireplaces, 21 “main” rooms, and four floors.
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.
How large is the mansion?
Brucemore is approximately 15,000 square feet.
Can I have my wedding/wedding reception/wedding photos at Brucemore?
No. When Margaret Douglas Hall bequeathed Brucemore to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, she provided few limitations - no partisan political events and no private events, including weddings.
Can I have a private party?
No. Only corporate members and non-profit organizations are eligible to rent Brucemore.
May I serve alcoholic beverages?
Yes. Arrangements must be made with one of the approved caterers who must provide the bar service. Cash bars are not recommended because of liability concerns.
May I have amplified music and entertainers?
Yes. Entertainment at outdoor events must conclude by 10:00 p.m. and comply with city sound-level ordinances. Dancing is not permitted inside the mansion.
Am I required to use only preferred vendors?
Yes. Brucemore has approved caterers who have been trained to work within the guidelines of preserving the historic integrity of the space. Please visit our preferred caterers list.
Is parking available on the estate?
Yes. Depending on the location of the event, guests may park in the Visitor Center parking lot, in spaces along the First Avenue drive, or along the driveway on the estate. Parking attendants can be provided for an additional fee.
May tours of the mansion be included in my rental?
Yes. Depending on the size of the event, stationary guides are available for a small fee to assist guests who wish to browse the public rooms. Fully-guided interpretive tours can also be arranged for an additional fee.
Is a reservation needed to visit Brucemore?
If your group has 16 people or fewer, you can buy tickets for a standard tour. If your group has more than 16 people, you must make reservations. We recommend making reservations at least three weeks in advance of your preferred date.
Is there a minimum or maximum number of people that I can bring for a tour?
Reservations are required for groups of 16 or more people. Because of the size of our facility, we cannot accept reservations for groups larger than 60 people. If your group is larger than 60, please contact us to discuss possible arrangements.
Is there an age requirement for students visiting Brucemore?
There is no age requirement for visiting; however, the tour is most appropriate for elementary age children and older. Guides can often tailor the tour to engage various age groups. We offer educational programs for third grade and up.
Where do we park?
Parking is available near the Visitor Center and mansion. Buses must follow special instructions. Upon arrival, group leaders or teachers should check in at the Visitor Center. The group will be directed to the start of the tour.
Is bus parking available?
Yes. Bus parking is available near the Visitor Center. Buses must arrive via special directions as they are unable to fit under our gates.
Is there a lunch designated area at Brucemore?
There is not a designated area inside the museum for eating; however, if your group would like to have a picnic lunch outside on the grounds, please let us know while scheduling you tour and trash cans can be provided. Picnic tables are not available, but you are welcome to bring your own blankets or chairs to sit on.
Does my group have to arrive together?
Your group does not have to arrive at the same time; however, only the contact who made the reservation can add to the reservation. We require groups to pay with one payment. Please let chaperones know a location where they can meet your group.
What is your payment policy?
Brucemore admission is to be paid upon arrival. For a speedier process, please have the number of children and adult chaperones ready. Payment can be made by cash, check, or credit card and should be paid in one sum.
Why did Caroline Sinclair build her new home so far from the city? Had she and T. M. Sinclair discussed the new residence?
We do not know the reasons behind Caroline’s retreat to the country outside of the Cedar Rapids city limits. We do know that the property was purchased by Caroline herself in 1884 and that her property was next to the home of her brother Robert Soutter, who assumed management of the meatpacking plant following T. M.’s death.
A picture of Caroline's brother’s home is on the Sinclair family panel of the permanent exhibition in the Visitor Center.
How did Brucemore get its name?
It is a combination of the middle name of the second owner of the estate, George Bruce Douglas, and an allusion to the moors of Scotland. There were no "Brucemores." Under the original owner, Caroline Sinclair, the estate was called the "Sinclair Mansion" and "Fairhome."
What did Ellen and Barbara get after Irene Douglas died? Were they upset that Margaret got Brucemore?
Ellen received Irene’s membership in the Chicago Club at Charlevoix, Michigan. This included her mother’s home on the club grounds and all its furnishings. Barbara received other property on Lake Michigan near Charlevoix. This included five cabins and furnishings.
When Irene died, Margaret was the only one of the three daughters still living in Cedar Rapids. Ellen lived in Chicago and Barbara lived in California. It is likely that family members long expected Margaret to inherit the property; after all, she was the oldest. In a letter to Margaret written shortly after Irene’s death, Ella McDannel commented, “will you be moving over to the big house – Of course I knew it was to be yours.”
When were there lions living at Brucemore?
Roughly 1936 to 1951. There is no documented arrival date for the first Leo, but the Halls were living in the Garden House when the first lion arrived. Margaret told a story in the Mercy Hospital documentary about Howard “The Man Who Loved Lions” about Leo being in the basement of the Garden House and scaring the meter reader.
There is better documentation of what we believe to have been the last lion at Brucemore. A page from one of Margaret’s scrapbooks is dedicated to “Leo III” in which she notes that Leo III arrived in Cedar Rapids on May 9, 1951 (age 7 weeks), and died August 1951.
Dr. Anthony, the Halls’ veterinarian, claimed he never worked on a Brucemore lion after he started his practice in 1954. So we can be reasonably sure that there were no lions at Brucemore by 1954.
How many lions were there and when did they live?
Based on the information we have in letters and photographs, there appear to have been three lions, all named Leo. The fact that they share the same name makes things a little confusing, and since some letters are not dated and have to be given rough dates by examining context, some details are left to our best interpretation.
- Leo I (circa 1936): The Halls did have a lion at some point before moving into the mansion. A letter written by Howard to Margaret while she was at Charlevoix with her mother mentions that “Leo – Pepper (pet monkey) + Max put on a continuous show whenever I am home.” The cause of Leo I’s death is not known, although there has been some speculation about one of the lions having a problem with its hip.
- Leo II (1937-1950): The Leo buried in the pet cemetery has the birth and death dates of 1937 and 1950, respectively. Since this lion did live to adulthood, we assume he is the one in most of the Halls’ photos and home movies.
- Leo III (1951): In addition to the page of photos Margaret saved of Leo III, a letter to Howard from Billy Richards, Vice-President of the World Jungle Compound dated April 13, 1951, mentions arranging the shipment of a cub.
I remember hearing lions roaring in this part of Cedar Rapids after 1954 - are you sure the Halls didn’t have any after that?
A letter written by one of Howard’s friends in 1954 mentions that “Leo is no longer at Brucemore.” Reportedly Howard played some role in helping Bever Park acquire a lion. Margaret made several entries in her 1969 diary that refer to this lion, named “Lou”. Given the proximity of Bever Park to Brucemore, people who heard roars at this time most likely heard “Lou.”
Where did the lions live?
The first lion cub seems to have lived for at least some time in the Garden House basement, according to Margaret’s story about him scaring the meter reader.
Leo II lived behind the carriage house in a special run. The lean-to area behind the Visitor Center was part of Leo’s quarters, and there was a cage built in front of the chicken coop. He may have spent the winters in the Carriage House basement.
We do not know if Leo spent any time living in the mansion. If he did, he most likely stayed in the basement. To the best of our knowledge, none of the lions ran loose on the grounds without supervision.
How did the lions die?
The cause of death of the two cubs (Leos I and III) is unknown. A variety of rumors exist that explain their deaths, including a broken hip or an ingested object.
Another common story most likely refers to Leo II, in which a child had either poked him with a stick or shot him with a b-b gun, and the Halls had to call the police to come out and shoot the lion to put him out of his misery. This story has been told with variation by several sources, both reliable and unreliable.