Douglas Family Hired Help

History_People_Douglas-Family_Servants_Gardeners-by-greenhouse.jpgDomestic servants were integral to every part of the Brucemore estate. During the years the Douglas family made Brucemore their home, at least ten servants were employed at any given time to clean the house, care for the children, cook the meals, maintain the grounds, greet visitors, wash and iron clothing, and a variety of other duties.

The hired help supported the family's lifestyle and allowed the Douglases to pursue recreational hobbies, artistic work, and community service. In the nineteenth- and early-twentieth-centuries, many live-in domestic servants worked for wealthy and middle-class families.

With the lady of the house freed of house work, she was able pursue cultural activities and become involved in her community. Most families employed one servant known as a "maid-of-all-work." In Cedar Rapids, a small number had two servants, and an exclusive group hired three or more servants.

The Douglases, a family of five, employed one or two maids, a butler, a cook, a nanny, a coachman or chauffeur, and a head gardener who supervised five to eight men on the grounds. Although the Brucemore staff was quite sophisticated for Cedar Rapids, it was small compared to those of their peers in other areas of the nation.

Like other large homes built in the 1880s, the Brucemore mansion had clearly defined areas for family and staff, including separate entrances, dining areas, bathrooms, and staircases. Concealed workspaces and living quarters made the servants virtually invisible to the family and their guests. Designed to be simple and functional, the servants' side allowed for the most efficient use of an employee's time.

Servants working for the Douglases and other families across the country were expected to follow a strictly defined behavioral code and standard of work. They were required to be neatly dressed, polite, and maintain a calm disposition at all times.

Workdays were long as hired help would wake up before the family to clean the main rooms of the home, prepare breakfast, and serve family members as soon as they awoke. A servant's day would continue until the family retired for the night.

Due to the long hours, housing was provided for essential staff. Servants working inside the house (maids, butler, and cook) generally lived on the third floor of the Mansion.

The head gardener and house staff with families lived onsite in the Servants' Duplex. The Duplex was part of a small "village" that consisted of support and recreation buildings, including a greenhouse, barn, chicken coop, and squash court that later served as a bookbindery.

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