Events & Exhibits

Good Roads: Bicycles, Motorcycles & Automobiles on the Transcontinental Highway

Exhibit runs through April 29, 2018

Long before it became part of the famous Lincoln Highway, the roadway through downtown Marion hosted automobile races, bicyclists and famous tourists. Marion helped put our nation’s first transcontinental road on the map. This exhibition tells the story of the travelers who came through Marion by foot, bicycle, motorcycle, automobile and truck from 1878 to 1919. Learn about their mishaps, adventures, discoveries and endurance. See vintage bicycles, motorcycles and even Linn County’s second automobile. The exhibition features vehicles on loan from Marion friends and neighbors, Hall Bicycle Co. of Cedar Rapids and the State Historical Society of Iowa, including the first modern automobile west of the Mississippi River.

Admission to the exhibit is free courtesy of the McIntyre Foundation of Cedar Rapids.


Frank Lloyd Wright’s Marion Ties

Through December 31, 2017

Mary C. Rogers, a local relative of the Wright family, has donated a photo of Frank Lloyd Wright’s father to The Marion Heritage Center & Museum.  The studio card is stamped “Hawkeye Studio, Marion, Iowa, ca. 1890”. Wright’s father, William Carey Wright (1825-1904), was an itinerant Methodist minister who preached at various locations in eastern Iowa between Belle Plaine, McGregor and Washington in the 19th century.  Pastor Wright was also a self-taught composer and music teacher. In addition to the photo, Rogers has also donated a CD of William Wright’s musical compositions, which was recently recorded and produced by David Patterson, a 19th century music expert.

We’ll be playing the CD and have the photo on display in the lobby the rest of the year.

Many museums around the country have had exhibits this year to recognize the sesquicentennial anniversary of Frank Lloyd Wright’s birth on June 8, 1867. The Douglas and Charlotte Grant House is a privately owned home in Marion that was designed by Wright. Several other works by the famous architect are located in Iowa including the Lowell and Agnes Walter home which is part of Cedar Rock State Park and is open for tours.

Admission is free courtesy of a grant from the McIntyre Foundation of Cedar Rapids.


Christmas in the Park – Big Band Concert

Friday, December 1, 2017 – 5:30 p.m.

The Marion Heritage Center & Museum will host the Marion Big Band during Christmas in the Park & Peppermint Walk. The 17-piece band will play some big band favorites as well as several swing-style Christmas tunes. This is the band’s second year to play in the warmth of the Heritage Center. The band has previously performed outside for the Christmas in the Park event for many years. The Marion Heritage Center is a great place for families to warm up while attending activities in the park, enjoy a refreshments and see the current exhibit “Good Roads” exhibit.
Admission is free courtesy of a grant from the McIntyre Foundation of Cedar Rapids.


Pedestrianism, a Popular 19th Century Sport

Sunday, December 3, 2017 – 2:00 p.m.

This is the second in a series of programs about the current exhibit Good Roads: Bicycles, Motorcycles & Automobiles on the Transcontinental Routes 1878- 1919, which runs through April 29, 2018. Reception and refreshments will be offered after the program.

David Brenzel, co-writer and designer of the current “Good Roads” exhibit, will present a history of the popular 19th century sport of pedestrianism or extreme walking, with a focus on local figures and events. The program will include a special pedestrienne demonstration on a track laid out in the Center.  The race will feature Hilda von Flamme, reigning champion of East Pfaffenhofen (who is rumored to be Deb Krebill, Chief of the Marion Fire Department) and Madame Madeline de LaTour, who claims the French title (but may really be the director of a certain local heritage center.)

Walking became a popular spectator sport in the mid-1870’s, which coincided with the availability of large lighted indoor venues and newspapers for promotion and attracting paying customers. Men took up extreme walking first, but women soon followed, often adopting pseudonyms to protect themselves and their families from the criticism that came from some social and religious leaders.  In 1875 German Bertha von Hillern came to the U.S. and over the next 3 years walked in many eastern cities, staging one- to six-day events.  Thousands paid to watch. More than 100 women took up walking.  Elnora Newman, from La Crosse WI, a.k.a. Madame Dupree, was among the first, getting her start here in Iowa in 1878.  In October, in Cedar Rapids, Dupree walked an incredible 110 miles in just over 24 hours, inspiring several Iowa walkists, including Thomas Croghan, a Cedar Rapids fireman and policeman. Some walkers pursued lonelier paths, seeking fame and fortune outdoors, crossing wide expanses of the country on wagers (often fictitious) to attract attention or to collect material for a future book. Many came through Iowa. Learn about these fascinating early sports-figures and pioneers in women’s rights, and if you want, walk a few laps with our champs.

Admission is free courtesy of a grant from the McIntyre Foundation of Cedar Rapids.


Walking Tour & Dinner at the Museum

2018 Date TBD

In October, the Marion Heritage Center sponsored a Walking Tour & Dinner featuring local historian Mark Stoffer Hunter of the Linn County Historical Society. The event sold out quickly, so another tour/dinner is being planned for 2018.

If you would like to be placed on the waiting list for the 2018 event, please call (319) 447-6376 or email

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