Brucemore in Iowa safe from flooding and offering a safe haven

This morning we received an update from Jim Kern, Executive Director of Brucemore, a National Trust Historic Site in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Brucemore is soggy but open to the public as a safe haven and a place for quiet reflection for local residents overwhelmed by the massive flooding in their community.

The flood is the worst ever recorded in Cedar Rapids. The summer of 1993 was a landmark year for flooding in the city—the Cedar River was at 19.3 feet and they had 24 inches of rain in the month of June. This time the river is at 31.9 feet and they have had 27 inches of rain in the first 12 days of the month. And this follows the second worst winter on record. The result is unbelievably catastrophic damage.

Brucemore is the only cultural facility in the city that is untouched by the flooding. Jim reports that the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library, the tallest building in the Czech village, has water up to its roofline. The African American Museum & Cultural Center across the river and the Science Station and IMAX theater are underwater. The historic Paramount Theater and Iowa Theater, both of which are downtown National Register buildings with working historic organs, are underwater. Collections in the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art have been moved to upper levels and appear to be safe, as are the Grant Wood Studio and the history museum.

Jim Kern has been in touch with the Iowa SHPO and he is calling his cultural partners throughout the city to offer help. The National Trust’s substantial experience with flooding in New Orleans and elsewhere will be very helpful in the coming weeks to help property owners understand their options (see the handout, “Saving Your Flood-Damaged Older and Historic Buildings“).

At this point, computer access is generally unavailable and mail delivery has been suspended. All of the city’s bridges except the interstate highway are underwater. Water use is restricted to 25 percent of normal use.

2 thoughts on “Brucemore in Iowa safe from flooding and offering a safe haven

  1. Jill Thomas-Clark at the Corning Museum of Glass graciously offers the advice of her museum through a book, “Museum Under Water” which is based on their experience of a 1972 flood. It’s available free on their Web site at

    “On June 23, 1972, The Corning Museum of Glass was flooded to a level of five feet, four inches above the floor, possibly the greatest single catastrophe borne by an American museum. The Agnes Flood broke hundreds of objects, saturated over half the Library (and all the rare books), ruined equipment, and covered galleries, cases, offices, furniture, and files with a thick layer of slime. Thirty-nine days later, on August first, the Museum was reopened to the public, and four years later, in June of 1976, the Museum completed the task of restoring the glass collection and the Library. This book describes the restoration process and offers suggestions for disaster planning gleaned from experience.”

  2. Pingback: Preservation Today » Blog Archive » Preservation Today Netcast, Aug. 2008

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