The Country Estate
At the turn of the 20th century, people looked to escape the overcrowding and pollution of industrialized cities. Wealthy Americans began looking to Europe in developing “country estates”—mansions situated on idyllic landscapes that emphasized self-sufficiency, outdoor recreation, and healthy living.
Brucemore is a shining example of such an estate. Caroline Soutter Sinclair, a young widow with six children, built the mansion in the 1880s. Sitting on 10 acres of land, the mansion was situated a few miles from downtown Cedar Rapids and allowed a private retreat from the city for her to raise her family. The cement marker located here marked the estate’s property line.
QUIZ: How much did it cost Caroline Sinclair to build her country home?
- $55,000 – Today with inflation, this is equivalent to just under $1,500,000
In 1906, Caroline Sinclair sold the mansion to George and Irene Douglas, who expanded the property from 10 to 33 acres. They raised three daughters here and added many notable outdoor features to the estate, including a tennis court, walking paths, formal garden, and the Lord & Burnham production greenhouse.
What did Brucemore’s neighbors think of the estate?
The estate, which the Douglases renamed “Brucemore,” was the epitome of taste and luxury at its time. Listen to a description of the home from a reading of a newspaper article about the purchase of the property:
“From the house itself there is a fine view of the city and much surrounding country. The sunrise and the sunset, all the joys and delights of nature, are unalloyed by smoke or dust or noise from nearby buildings.”