Rockcliffe Mansion A day in Hannibal

Rockcliffe Mansion was built between 1898 and 1900 was built by lumber tycoon John J. Cruikshank, Jr for his wife and daughters. At 13,500 sq feet it has 30 rooms, 10 fireplaces and many one of a kind architectural inventions far ahead of their time.

But what makes it so unique is not its past ---

Although it's story is amazing!

But what is so fantastic is the fact that it straight out of Dr. Who - a time machine, a moment in time preserved for you to walk through in wonder!

A house designed by architects who also built cathedrals and with the help of Tiffany & Co. it featured both gas and electric light, zone heating, marble and quartz stonework from all over the world. Lived in by the Cruikshank family until John's death in 1924 when it sat vacant for 43 years....

His daughters of course married and moved on. His wife, Anne Louise, in her grief, refused to live in such a house alone and moved into an adjacent home, taking with her only one chair - her favorite. Everything was stored and initially had a caretaker, but with the great depression came hard times and money couldn't be spared for a vacant building. Anne died in the early 1930's and with her any chance the house would see light.

It's glory hidden. The city condemned it to be bulldozed. All the stained glass windows and 3 grand chandeliers were deigned by Cruikshank and Louis Comfort Tiffany himself. A Scotsman, Cruikshank had 18th century Flemish tapestries on the walls, as a castle in Edinburgh might have had. Art from around the world, all stored away, unknown and waiting the bulldozers.

Three neighbors pooled funds in 1967 and saved it from demolition but nobody expected all the treasures they would find. Since then many have owned her, changing hands many times. most recently in 2010.

Multiple sitting rooms, each with an original decor, all with the original furnishings, books, even 1900's bottles of liquor, all waiting for J.J. Cruikshank Jr to come home, for the laughter to come back.

For nearly half a century all of this sat unattended. Local kids broke in, broke windows, did what teenagers do, but all of this remains today. Much of the valuables sat in boxes in the basement. Too scary for even the bravest rebel to explore.

The "Fantasy Room", modeled after the room of the same name in the Waldorf Astoria, later razed to make room for the Empire State Building.

Furnishings and materials imported from Syria, Turkey, India. This was the sitting room for his teenage daughters.

Stand here on the third step, where in 1902 Mark Twain himself stood and spoke to a crowd of 300, packing the sitting rooms, foyer, and upstairs areas, listening to the prodigal son speak. It was a hot day and 300 guests made the house hotter. Imagine the great hall full, elbow to elbow and the buzz of excitement that Twain was back in town and would speak. All of the doors and windows were opened to allow air flow. He has been asked to keep his remarks to 15 minutes or less due to the heat, but that was indeed asking too much. Twain spoke for over an hour in what would be his last visit to Hannibal and the last time he would see his friend John Cruikshank Jr.

Note the photo of John just below the right hand stair, watching you where ever you go in his home.

Attention to detail is evident in every detail of the house, and like a time capsule you can still experience it today.

Mrs. Cruikshank's music room, the Green Room. She and her daughters all accomplished musicians.

The room boasts not only the box grand and harp seen here, but an 1880's Steinway C. One of only a few hundred ever produced.

Take your meals as if you were in Downton Abbey. And yes, you can, because this is a B&B! For as little as $160 a night you own the joint! The current owners bought it for $560,000 a few years back and rent out several of the rooms ranging from $160-270 a night.

But don't upset Mr. Cruikshank - he did die in the house and he isn't far away....

We'll tell you our next tale soon!

Dave and Jeanne

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