Rockclilffe Mansion

I was looking at some pics from a couple years ago back when Harland and I were dating, and I ran across some of a mansion we toured in Hannibal in October 2007. For those of you new to my site, Harland is the man of the house- my husband of two years, love of my life, and keeper of my heart. Swoon….sorry, ahem. Anyway, having grown up in Missouri, I had visited this mansion a couple times before , but Harland, a Kansas man, had never been to Hannibal. This trip was also special because we had become engaged only a few days before and were floating on a blissful cloud. Also on this trip, our paths crossed with a stray calico cat on the edge of a corn field who we took pity on and adopted. I wish I could say that life with Kitty was wonderful from the start, but it wasn’t. There were some rough days at first, and we almost didn’t keep her, but that’s a story for tomorrow. On with the tour of Rockcliffe Mansion.

In 1898, John Cruikshank, a wealthy lumber baron, had a house built atop a high bluff in Hannibal overlooking the Mississippi River. Two years later, in 1900, the 13,500 square foot 30 room home was completed.

It had 9 bedrooms,

7 bathrooms,

and 10 carved marble and tile fireplaces.

As a dealer in lumber, Mr. Cruikshank supplied the finest quality mahogany, walnut, and oak for the construction. Louis Comfort Tiffany was hired to craft stain glass windows,

and lighting fixtures. The home was fitted with both gas and electric lights. Mr. Cruikshank thought the new electric lights might only be a passing fad, and wanted the option of having gaslight as a backup. The home included a formal dining room, music room, library, 2 parlors,

a ballroom, servants rooms, sewing room, and a classroom. The total cost was $250,000, and upon its completion, Mr. and Mrs. Cruikshank , along with their 4 daughters, moved into their spacious new home. The grounds surrounding the home were landscaped with terraced gardens, fountains, and stone walls. Seven hundred guests attended the opening of the house in June 1901, where an orchestra played for their entertainment. The family lived here for the next 23 years. One by one, the daughters married, and moved away. One of the daughters moved only as far as the house next door.

In 1924, Mr. Cruikshank passed away, and for reasons unknown, Mrs. Cruikshank, left all the furnishings, even the library books and clothing in the closets untouched, closed and locked the door. She moved next door and lived with her daughter for the rest of her life. The house remain untouched for the next 43 years except for occassional visits by Hannibal’s children who would dare each other to enter the home. In time, some of the windows were broken, the 2nd floor balcony began to rot away, and in the early 1960s, the city advised the one surviving daughter that if she did not repair the home, the city would tear it down. The daughter’s curt reply was, “Bulldoze it to the cellar.” Two weeks before the house was to be razed, 3 neighboring families bought the home, and began the painstaking task of cleaning and repairing it. There was some water damage, but structurally, the house was fine, and eventually, it was opened to the public for tours. In 2005, the house was sold again, but within a few years that owner filed bankruptcy, and at one point some of home’s furnishings were nearly auctioned off. Finally, just a few months ago, the house was purchased again, and the new owners vow to restore the home and gardens back to their original state.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Tomorrow, Kitty’s Story: How we found her beside a cornfield in Illinois, adopted her, almost gave her away, and how our life with her has been since then. It’s us against her, and so far, she’s winning.

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31 comments to Rockcliffe Mansion

  • What a house! What a story. I’m guessing there an interesting tale in there about why the wife and daughter reacted as they did. Probably don’t want to know. The artistry to make that house. So glad it is preserved.

    • Suzanne

      Hi Gardener,
      Yeah…there are rumors. And then when you visit the house you can’t help but notice that the husband and wife had separate bedrooms (not unusual for that time period), but on opposite ends of the house(strange). Makes you wonder.

  • Julie

    OMG!!! This place is amazing. So breathtaking. Can’t
    even imagine living in something like that. So cool someone
    else saw its worth and restored it. Man what a place. Love the story and history again. Cant wait to hear about Kitty. I noticed her in your pics when you put the corn away. She is adorable. I was behind on my reading of your blog. The okra was so yummy looking, cant wait to make the pie, and the horse pics, make me want to walk to my barn and sniff my horses noses. What an animal.

  • How could anyone even think about bulldozing this magnificent house! Glad someone saved it, so many treasures!

    Another stop I will have to make one day!

    Stop by my blog and help me pick which illustration to pick and frame. I am having a tough time choosing!

    as always, great posts,

    -kristina-

  • I forgot… can’t wait to hear about the kitty!

  • It’s hard to imagine someone just walking away from such a beautiful home. I”m glad they saved it. I must say, I just love Hannibal. It was a favorite weekend camping place for me, my son and my nephews. Can’t wait to hear the story about kitty.

  • You are fortunate to be able to take photographs in the historic homes you visit! For some reason, they seem to frown upon that in NC and VA (the places I’ve visited)unless you are out of doors. Thanks so much for sharing! I’m currently reading Shelby Foote’s Narrative History of the Civil War err, (Waa of Nawtharn Aggression);) and I’m sooo “into” imagining life “back then”! Thank you for sharing!

    • Suzanne

      Hi Quack,
      I hear you. Here in the midwest, we can take pics just about anywhere we want. On more than one occasion, we’ve had a place all to ourselves and did a self guided tour. Then we went to Virginia and Washington DC a couple years ago and it was a different story. Couldn’t take pics anywhere- what a disappointment.

  • Interesting story. Big mansions are always amazing in built and things they have for the interior. This one is no exception. How they designed those bathroom sanitary wares at that time is do different and look so pretty 😀

  • Shailaja

    Intriguing story of a magnificent mansion interestingly told. Thank you! Now, I’m waiting to hear the winsome Kitty’s tale.

  • Doe of Mi.

    WOW sure would hate to be one of those that had to clean this place,
    even if it is beautiful.

  • Interesting! Looking forward to the kitty story. 🙂

  • Wow, that’s a huge home! My favorite room was the one with the yellow fireplace and the oval mirror…and that toilet bowl…how interesting is that?! Pretty fancy!

  • Glenda

    Suzanne, I was checking out the website for the mansion and they are doing a B&B there now.
    You and Harland should go back and stay there in October to celebrate your engagement!
    Thanks for the pics!

  • Jen

    Yikes — sounds like a rather dysfunctional family story there, but what a house they left behind! I wonder if we’ll ever get back to the days of true craftsmanship in home building rather than the churning out of beige cookie-cutter houses? Great pictures, and intriguing story. Thanks!

  • hilly jacklin

    HI–I work at Rockcliffe as a tour guide,gardener and B&B hostess. The mansion has new owners as of 9 months ago and are busy restoring the mansion and gardens. The leaded glass windows have all been restored, repaired or recreated and this last summer I started working on the gardens. Please come back for a visit, perhaps you and your husband would be interested in spending the night with us.

  • Kathy

    We just took a visit to Hannibal and I had to see the Rockcliffe Mansion. In our tour we were told that ‘Rich’ people had seperate bedrooms. But yes, I would sure like to hear the back of that story of the wife just leaving and locking the door…and the daughter wanting the beautiful house just bulldozed!! Story??

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